[Note: I'm surprised to find that this semi-rambling commentary on my not so good experiences with Arkham City got lost in the Posterous edit pile. I'd forgotten how much this game annoyed me, so better late than never. Looking back, I think my initial "what are you even doing" response to this game still rings true for me.]
Arkham City is one of the most user unfriendly packages I've ever seen in years of gaming. I'm more than a little surprised given how good the first game was.
Peeling open the tin reveals...uh....some flyers with DLC codes and a promo leaflet for another game. Where are the instructions? Oh well, the game must tell me everything I need to know.
Confusingly, the game begins with Catwoman. There are a few basic fight prompts, but no indication of how to do takedowns, keep bad guys down permanently (come on, I don't remember given I played the first game an age ago) or anything else. When you switch to Batman, you realise that no - the game dumps you on a rooftop and it is not actually going to tell you the first thing about what you have to do, how to play, how to fight, how to keep the bad guys down, how the new gadgets work, how the old gadgets work, situational context for using said gadgets and etc.
This is the first time in a long time I've been pretty baffled by a big release. Worse, I started on Hard so about fifty pastings later I thought I saw a menu telling me I could change the difficulty at any time. Either I imagined it or the menu was wrong, because all I could do was start again on Normal.
This is not going well.
I decide to take a break from my opening game fiasco and redeem the other DLC code - a "store exclusive" piece of content called the Joker Carnival. So of course, I type in the code on the dashboard and am told the "Code has already been redeemed".
If you're going to butcher one of the hottest sequels to one of the hottest games in recent years by chopping up single player content into DLC, you better hope the damn things work. As it turns out, there's four pages worth of complaints about my issue on the official forums and forty plus on other DLC problems. Nobody is helping or assisting those with problems as far as I can see.
Well, no problem - I'll contact Rocksteady technical support. Except - the game didn't come with instructions, but their website says to contact technical support via the method listed in the game package.
So hey, this is going well.
I ended up sending two emails asking who to contact about the problem to their info@ address - of course, I didn't get a reply because I was asking about a problem instead of sending them a drooling missive or asking where I could buy something.
I also pinged their Twitter feed, but it's too busy promoting 10/10 review scores and launch parties.
In the middle of all of that, I discovered a rather long thread wondering where the instructions were due to people not actually knowing what the controls were, how to do Riddler challenges and everything else I already mentioned.
It seems Rocksteady didn't know where their instructions were either, because the only way I was able to find them was via a random forum post saying "here they are" posted a few days ago. Hilariously - or not - there are apparently errors in some of the commands listed too.
Am I the only one that thinks this is at least a little bit unacceptable? Exclusive content that doesn't work, DLC code issues galore, missing instruction manuals and a lack of any kind of tech support to assist with those problems?
But of course, who cares because the box has a 10/10 sticker on it and best game ever so run out and grab it, kids. I don't think I saw a single review for this game mention there are no instructions. How is that possible? Surely not everybody was issued some strange instructionless review copy?
Wow, I haven't even got to the game yet. Well okay: the raging "best game ever" style 11/10 reviews all seem horribly over the top. The intricate focus and stealth / planning aspect of the first game have been replaced by a city that is effectively dead and contains no content, unless your definition of content is "beat up the same bunch of guys over and over again as you go from location A to location B".
Because you're in a "prison city", there are no random pedestrians to rescue (unless you count the "political prisoners"), and absolutely nobody in the entire city besides goons to beat up.
That's it, that's the entire city content. I was hoping for a lot of deep city based interaction, but all it is is a dead zone populated by goons that you'll quickly get tired of flying over while trudging from A to B each time you decide to do a main story mission. Oh, you can perform some OCD style collect em up nonsense if you want (pop 10 balloons, shoot 15 security cameras, smash six penguins or whatever) - but I can only imagine the sort of skull cracking boredom you'd have to be suffering from to want to actively do that.
The actual story missions? Yeah, those are good. I have a horrible feeling the "city" aspect of the game is going to severely reduce the amount of main mission content and it's going to feel quite short by the time I'm done. There's also strange moments where the game arbitrarily decides things for you - early on, I was finding locked security consoles that I couldn't hack because I needed to download "Municipal access codes" or something. Okay, fine - I guess I have to go look for those codes. But later in the game during a main story mission, I'm trapped in a room, need to hack a console and Batman says "I need to download Municipal access codes" and then just goes and does it. Hello, immersion breaker.
Let's put it this way, it isn't a good sign that I'm enjoying the Predator room challenges more than the main game.