The latest piece of significant downloadable content for Rocksteady Studio’s Batman Arkham City takes the form of The Challenge Map Pack. For 240 Microsoft points (around £2) and £2.39 on Playstation Network you can purchase three new challenge maps to play in the Riddler’s Revenge mode.
Of the three maps on offer only one, The Bat Cave, is entirely new – the Joker’s Carnival was a preorder incentive, while The Iceberg Lounge came bundled with the limited edition of the game. We previously reviewed the Carnival and Iceberg maps individually before it was confirmed that they would only be sold as part of a bundle and not as separate downloads. This review covers the Challenge Map Pack as a whole, as well as looking at what each map in the collection offers you.
It is worth noting that all three of the challenge maps in this pack are playable with all of the game’s characters, Batman, Catwoman, Nightwing, and Robin. If you have already purchased the two new characters, and felt that there wasn’t enough to do with them, this may prolong your experience.
When the Joker’s Carnival was first announced initial reports indicated that this challenge map would offer up to four hours of additional content. Well, unfortunately someone must have got their wires crossed somewhere along the line, as the Joker’s Carnival map is one single timed combat challenge.
However, what it does offer is a fresh new take on the game’s default combat challenge gameplay. The key to earning the top scores in The Joker’s Carnival is it defeat as many enemies as possible without getting hit (much like every other combat challenge out there), with the one substantial difference here being that, as you defeat more enemies, your score fills up a metre. The metre is broken up into multiple segments, and as you fill each segment more vicious types of enemies start to attack you.
In order to score points, and add extra precious seconds to the clock, you need to tactically bank your points. To score more points you simply need to take down stronger enemies, but by facing stronger foes you run the risk of getting hit and losing all of the points in your metre. It is a wonderful risk vs reward system that makes for an interesting gameplay experience.
Throughout the entire proceedings The Joker offers commentary, including character specific remarks (my personal favourite was the Joker’s surprise at seeing Robin, as he thought he had already killed him.) Mark Hamill excels as the Joker, and if you found yourself wanting to hear more from him then this is the download for you.
While you likely won’t be spending four hours playing The Joker’s Carnival, it once again shows that Rocksteady are willing to experiment with the gameplay, rather than resting on their laurels.
The Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge was one of Gotham’s trendiest nightclubs before the walls of Arkham City were put up around it. Throughout the game Batman hears chatter about how Penguin has now turned the club into his own deadly version of fight club, with only the best fighters going on to join his ranks. Well now you can fight your way through the endless legions of Penguin’s forces in the Iceberg Lounge VIP Room challenge map for yourself.
This is by far the most simple of the challenge maps on offer; as your hero of choice, you fight off an infinite wave of enemies until you run out of life, with no time limits. As you progress further and further more varied and powerful enemy types enter the arena, such as armoured guards and those with shields.
I like to think that I am good at the Arkham City challenges, but I only ever last a few minutes in this challenge map due to the fact that there are always a dozen or so enemies on screen at any one time.
Throughout the entire challenge The Penguin watches from the other side of a fence, treating you to more of Nolan North’s take on the character. Those that didn’t take to North’s portrayal of The Penguin as a cockney gangster likely won’t warm to it through further exposure, but if you found yourself enchanted with North’s performance then this will likely please you greatly.
This is by no means a bad challenge map, but it is one of the least experimental on Rocksteady’s part. Players of Batman Arkham Asylum may remember that Rocksteady released a similar map that took place in a library. Despite that, this is still a difficult map that will offer an additional challenge to those that have already conquered the game’s default challenge maps (and also provide plenty of opportunity to earn combat related achievements/trophies.)
The Batcave is the only Silent Predator challenge to be included in this pack and, as the name suggests, it takes place in Batman’s secret sanctum The Batcave. The challenge opens up with the Batcomputer running a simulation of what it would be like if the Batcave were ever breached by hostiles.
The aim of this challenge is simple; take out all six enemies, without being seen, using a variety of gadgets. In order to earn all three medals you must complete three objectives, such as electrocuting one enemy enough that he fires his weapon in to the air and startles another enemy.
The Batcave itself is quite small, but does feature a few items that will please long time Batman fans. The Batmobile, the Batwing, and Batman’s mechanical dinosaur all make an appearance, although you cannot really do anything with them. One noticeable omission is Batman’s trophy room, which is a real shame – it would have been great to hide among Batman’s trophy cases, filled with mementos of past cases. Another disappointment is the lack of environmental specific take downs or challenges, such as using the mechanical dinosaur to scare the enemies. You can press a button to make the dinosaur roar, but it doesn’t achieve anything.
If you have purchased the other playable characters then you will be pleased to hear that they have their own unique challenges on this map. This can potentially add to the challenge’s length, but overall it is a very basic challenge map. It would have been nice to see some of the creativity that Rocksteady have shown with their other pieces of downloadable content, such as the side scrolling combat challenge in the Robin Bundle, or the Joker’s Carnival’s challenging new take on established gameplay.
All in all this is a short and simple challenge map that, once completed, offers little incentive to revisit beyond trying to earn a higher position on the online leaderboards.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 5/5 - Although I am not a fan of the game’s “gritty” art design, the game looks spectacular.
Sound: 5/5 - Features more original voice work from Mark Hamill and Nolan North, as well as continuing to use the main game’s brilliant sound track.
Gameplay: 4/5 - The game’s brilliant combat system remains unchanged here, offering up infinitely respawning enemies courtesy of the Iceberg Lounge Map, and a devilishly challenging game show in the form of the Joker’s Carnival. The only let down is the Batcave map which, while being perfectly decent, offers little new beyond a glimpse at some of Batman’s more expensive toys.
Longevity: 4/5 - The only map that’ll likely take a long time to earn all three medals on is the Joker’s Carnival, with its devilishly high score criteria. The Iceberg Lounge likely won’t challenge seasoned players too long, while The Batcave can easily be beaten in a few minutes per character. Each challenge is playable with all of the game’s characters, so long as you have purchased them.
Overall: 4 out of 5
The three challenge maps included in this pack offer up a variety of different game types – a deviously violent version of The Weakest Link, an endless battle against a legion of foes, and a stealthy defence of Batman’s home. For the low asking price this is a must have for fans of Arkham City’s challenge mode.
- Luke Mears