It wasn’t until 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum that the Batman franchise meant anything to gamers. Prior to Arkham Asylum the Batman name had been dragged through the mud with game after game that had no idea how to handle a character so varied as the Dark Knight. Arkham Asylum finally got it right allowing Batman to use both his brain and brawn. The attention to detail and loving care by the team at Rocksteady was incredibly amplified for the sequel Batman: Arkham City. Much like Christopher Nolan, Rocksteady on their second tour of duty with the Caped Crusader have created a masterpiece.
From beginning to end the story has a gravitas that Arkham Asylum did not. As the opening credits roll Dr. Hugo Strange has essentially kidnapped Bruce Wayne and made him an inmate of Arkham City (a maximum security prison built in the heart of Gotham City). He knows Bruce Wayne is the Batman and by the end of the night he’ll either see you dead or tell the world of your true identity. Dr. Strange, along with the Joker and his nefarious agenda help immerse the player into the fiction of Arkham City. The story adds further depth through interactions with Two-Face, Catwoman, Penguin and the Riddler. Other Batman characters from the familiar to the obscure round out a strong cast for you to interact, meet and assist.
The main storyline alone is captivating and poignant, further enhanced by the inclusion of Catwoman as a playable character and side missions to undertake as you explore Arkham City for its fullest potential. Although the Catwoman segments are brief they are a welcomed footnote in an incredibly polished and finely crafted plot. If nothing else Catwoman adds a different dimension gameplay wise, while adding another perspective to the happenings around the city. The side missions provide more than just a distraction from the main storyline, as some may be providing hints as to what is to come in future Batman games. Their variety is amazing as you’ll undertake a simple search and destroy mission, hostage rescues, interrogations and actual detective work. These missions are a varied bunch that will have you using all the tools at your disposal to overcome them.
The map of Arkham City is open, for the most part, for you to explore at your leisure and although there is plenty to see and to do you are never overwhelmed by the amount of content put in front of you. The “city” is split into districts with a large restricted area smack dab in the middle of everything, so what seems on your map as a large arena to navigate, quickly becomes much smaller due to this area taking up a quarter of the map. Even with this misstep the areas you can explore more than make up for the real estate you’re seemingly miss out on. With random people to save, various side-quests to undertake and the return and expansion of the Riddler and his riddles you won’t lack reasons to not explore every inch of the map. The city’s general populous, can even sometimes, be a welcome distraction for a quick “beat’em down!”
Combat is as smooth and delightful as ever. You can easily find yourself in a trance as you punch, kick and gadget your way to victory. For some reason building combos feel more natural and combat seems more fluid. The addition of a double counter, new takedowns and more quick-fire gadgets exemplifies the number of great addition to already stellar gameplay.
Batman: Arkham City has set a new standard for superhero video games, and along with the Christopher Nolan movies, make no mistake about it the Dark Knight is truly on the rise. Simply on content alone this game is one of the year’s best titles. Factor in how all the pieces have been finely put together and you get arguably one of the best games ever made. The love and care that Rocksteady so clearly has for everything Batman is on display every second you spend playing. It’s a labor of love underscored by its sheer triumph. As a gamer it’s an experience that you cannot miss, as a Batman fan not playing is tantamount to blasphemy.
- Combat is even more fluid
- Fantastic main storyline
- Incredibly varied side missions
- The little things (like your way point being the Batsignal)
- Multiple endings
- Catwoman is a bit of a disappointment
- Cutscenes do not take different skins into account
- The restricted area being about 1/4 of the map
- Final boss is not very challenging