Batman Arkham City is the highly anticipated sequel to Batman Arkham Asylum Arkham Asylum broke new grounds on what it meant to be a licensed superhero game. Even the best licensed superhero games may have had gameplay but many have failed to provide a compelling story, narrative and has not appealed to gamers well. Arkham Asylum accomplished all of those things and has won multiple game of the year awards and has become the best superhero game in the eyes of many gamers. Does Batman Arkham City live up to the cowl or does this bat fall short?
Batman Arkham City takes place over a year after the events of Arkham Asylum. Arkham Island has been deemed unusable and Warden Quincy Sharp suggested plans to convert Gotham Slums into an open area jail for the Arkham and Blackgate inmates. These plans have been met with public approval propelling Sharp to the position of Mayor leaving Hugo Strange Warden of Arkham City. Hugo Strange has turned Arkham City into a social experiment seeing what happens when you let inmates run loose and providing the means to cause havoc. Major villains Two-Face, Penguin and the Joker have formed gangs and violence runs the streets. Bruce Wayne wanting to have the jail moved from Gotham runs a campaign to have it shut down. Bruce is arrested and sent to Arkham City and is met by Strange revealing his knowledge of his identity of Batman. Strange claims that Batman will be defeated by the end of the night and if Batman wants to stop Strange’s plans he will have to face the might of the villains of Arkham City first.
Arkham City is a game that is not afraid of its comic heritage. Arkham Asylum had many nods to the lesser known Batman characters and well-known villains were oddly absent. Villains whose only appearance have been comic or the occasional animated movie or cartoon are present. Characters such as Solomon Grundy, Mad Hatter, Robin and even Vicky Vale are some of the characters who either make cameos or have a part in the story.
Arkham City took everything that worked in Arkham Asylum and built on top of it. The already smooth freeflow combat has been improved. Batman has new combat moves and gadgets that to deal with new types of enemies and give you more options. The volume of enemies has increased where fights with ten or even twenty foes are not uncommon. Multiple inmates will attack simultaneously and countering each of them show how much more dynamic the combat feels.
The fast paced stealth has been improved by giving Batman more offensive and defensive options to deal with foes. Smoke pellet bombs creates a cloud of smoke to avoid gunfire or takedown a foe, enemy guns can be disabled and you can takedown multiple enemies at once. Your enemies have new techniques as well. Some have thermal goggles to see you hiding on gargoyles, some can plant proximity mines and they can take hostages forcing you to take them down without being seen.
Arkham City is an open world environment and balances the amount of free roaming and interior exploration. Arkham Asylum was a place that held both Arkham and Blackgate inmates but felt empty. Arkham City does not. Inmates wander the streets defending their territories. You can listen in on their conversations revealing more about current events and the people in Arkham City. Batman has new grapple and gliding techniques that are incorporated with combat and stealth.
At first glance Arkham City seems smaller than Arkham Island but there is certainly more to do. There are various sidequests involving major villains. These villains put something on the line giving a sense of urgency making the experience feel more like a Batman story in its own right. Handling sidequests in this manner give them more weight and meaning than if it were from a random civilian.
If there is a weak part in the gameplay it is investigations. Crime scenes have you scan for clues to figure out what to do next. They feel incidental due to the simplistic solutions and the scope is non-existent. Most crimes happen in front of you not warranting an investigation but rather a “Hey, see that? Go there.”. There’s no reason Batman couldn’t perform the investigation on his own saving time and keeping the flow.
The graphics and attention to detail is impressive. Character designs are elaborate and well detailed adding to the well-known costumes and characters. The references tied to the Riddler Challenges feel less forced and fit in better. Arkham City is home of known Gotham locals such as the Iceberg Lounge, an old GCPD building and Crime Alley that don’t feel forced.
After complete the game there is a New Game Plus that allows you to start the game again with all your gadgets but enemies have access to all of their weapons from the get go and the counter indicator is hidden raising difficulty. Completing Riddler Challenges unlocks Combat and Predator maps playable by DLC characters as well, concept art, character trophy models and Stories of Arkham City. The stories provide background information from the events between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. These give a lot of context on to why the city is the way it is, why certain villains are in Arkham City and motivations of character actions to this point.
The voice actors from the animated series and Arkham Asylum make a return. Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong reprise their roles and Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn respectively and there are great performances from Nolan North as the Penguin to name a few. The music sets the mood for all situations and there are references to well-known themes from the cartoons and films.
Batman Arkham City is proof that Arkham Asylum wasn’t a fluke. Batman is in good hands with Rocksteady and can use the Batman license responsibly. There is a lot of love and hard work put into the game makes you feel more like Batman than ever. The game is about 8-10 hours but the sidequests can easily add 10+ hours not including New Game Plus. Right now is the start of the holiday rush of games and I have limited myself to a certain few for the rest of the year. I love Disgaea 4 and am excited for Uncharted 3, Sonic Generations and Zelda Skyward Sword. Batman Arkham City is a purchase that I do not regret in the least.