October 21, 2011 by Tim

Arkham City has worn out my patience.

My largest gripes are technical, and may only be prevalent in hard mode (I haven’t played on normal to compare). At first I just thought I’d forgotten all of the combat timing I’d learned in Akrham Asylum, and just needed some practice to get the hang of it again. At this point though, after a few hours spent just on combat sequences, fights aren’t getting much easier, and I’m starting to recognize the differences between what is my fault (miscalculating an enemy’s movements, not timing the counter right), and what is the game just fucking me over with some sloppy mechanics.

To get into specifics, Arkham City will regularly send two attackers rushing in at the same time, and show you the lightning bolts over their head simultaneously. This is the queue for you to perform a cool “double” counter attack. When it works, it’s awesome to watch, and it takes down two baddies. However I’m noticing it not work just as often, and it’s a result of animation problems. If both enemies come in at the same time, but for some reason (shifting or sliding due to coming in contact with another enemy, or a change in the location of Batman/Catwoman in relation to the bad guy) one of the enemy’s attack animation gets delayed, then your double counter turns into a single counter. Except the second enemy still continues his attack, a split second later.

So you’ll be locked in a counter animation taking one enemy down, completely helpless to avoid or block the second enemy. The second enemy makes contact, which breaks you out of the counter with the first enemy, who then turns and punches you himself. You get hit twice even though you successfully countered.

And of course, there’s the issue that some of the attack animations (for Catwoman especially with her flips and whatnot) are so lengthy that an enemy will charge at you in the middle of one, and you can’t break out of it execute the counter and thus get hit.

It certainly doesn’t happen every time, and on easy or normal mode, it’s probably not even a big deal…it breaks your streak, whatever. You just go on pounding bad guys. But in hard mode you take so much damage from enemy attacks, and the enemies take such a beating that you really can’t afford to just be giving up free hits. Tack on the fact that Arkham City’s checkpoints are so spaced out, sometimes with 2-3 consecutive brawls inbetween them, and you could be facing a lot of replaying fights if you have a string of bad luck in regards to animation glitches. And after the sixth time its the cause of having to start over at a checkpoint, what might otherwise be an “oh well, shit happens” kind of a thing starts to become incredibly frustrating.

I’m all for difficulty in games, and I’ll happily smash my face into the brick wall of a hard mode for hours trying to overcome a challenge, as long as it feels like my skill level the only thing standing in the way of victory. When it starts feeling like the game is throwing shenanigans at me that I have no way to counter or avoid, then it stops being fun.

Yeah, I could probably just play the game on normal mode, and walk through these fights. Maybe that’s what needs to happen. But I remember Arkham Asylum on normal, and it was a bit of a joke, difficulty-wise. Fantastic game, great story, etc, but I don’t think anyone would call it a challenging on normal. I think it’s disappointing that I now have to choose between playing the game without a challenge, or fighting a frustrating system that doesn’t seem like it was designed/tweaked to be played on the higher difficulty setting they included with the game.

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