Keeping right on track with the massive number of Fall season big-name game releases is the sequel to 2009’s smash hit Batman: Arkham Asylum. Developer Rocksteady Studios have upped their ante with Arkham City, delivering a wonderful story and game-play mechanics that really draw you in and make you feel like the bad-ass Dark Knight himself! On top of that, they’ve filled the title to the brim with content to ensure you’ve got plenty of Gotham City mysteries and action to keep you occupied for quite some time.
I actually really enjoyed the story of Arkham City. The mayor has essentially walled off a sub-section of Gotham and has thrown in anyone with even the slightest criminal background and locked the gates. Our hero, Bruce Wayne, is against this hellhole and begins a protest when he is arrested by Tyger Security Forces and thrown into the city himself. Inside, he finds that Hugo Strange is somehow really behind this and that his goal is to become the real hero of Gotham City. While trying to put a stop to this, Bruce will deal with Strange and the Penguin, find that Two Face and Catwoman have it in for each other, he’ll step between the Joker and Mr. Freeze, and even get caught up in some business with Ivy and Zsasz. This place is just bat-shit crazy!
It was neat seeing so many different characters from the comics and animated series take a part in the plot, but I would have preferred to get a little information as to what happened between the two games. In the end, the story is about genocide and is filled with twists and turns to keep things interesting, and the various situations that you’ll be put through allow you to see deep inside Batman’s soul.
If you purchase the game new you’re given a code to download some Catwoman DLC, which you’ll want to do upfront as it will seamlessly mix in Catwoman specific story missions throughout campaign. This was a nice change of pace as she has her own unique play-style, moves, abilities and gear. She’s much quicker than Batman and can really wrack up the combos easily!
The size of Arkham City is significantly larger than that of Arkham Asylum and for the most part, it’s a single, large, well-designed zone with a few buildings here and there that you’ll interact with – and flying across it was amazing every time! The game takes place all in a single winter night and the visuals throughout the city are just stunning. On top of that, the frame-rate remained intact throughout my entire play-through and I only experienced a little screen tearing here and there as I was flying quickly across the city. Like its predecessor, the soundtrack is amazing and the voice acting, well, it’s some of the best voice acting in any game ever!
My play-through on the normal difficulty setting took me 22 hours to complete, which included roughly half of the side quests. Like Arkham Asylum, Arkham City is also loaded with the Riddler’s riddles and while I solved what I thought to be a ton of them, I didn’t even scratch the surface as to the time that would be required to solve them all. What’s great is that they are significantly more entertaining this time around as you’ll deal with actual puzzles much of the time, over the monotonous alignment of the question mark, found so often in Arkham Asylum.
Completing the game will unlock a New Game Plus mode so that you may start again with all of your upgraded gear, but this time with much tougher enemies. If all of this wasn’t enough for you, there are also various ranked challenges and campaigns with world leader boards to keep you occupied once you’ve taken care of business in the city.
I actually found the game to be pretty challenging as well and while I had several deaths, they were never frustrating as a great checkpoint system prevents you from losing too much progress. The combat is for the most part simple and semi-rhythm based. To be the most effective and build the best combos, you’ve got to press the buttons at the right time and at the right speed. Fighting off hordes of goons is exciting from the very beginning and getting to play with all of Batman’s awesome gadgets is just icing on the cake.
You begin the game with a good collection of the gear you obtained in Arkham Asylum, and you’ll gain a wide variety of new gadgets as well – and the way that each item is awarded to you is pretty clever. Gear is also upgradeable via a level-up system that allows you to either add new abilities to the gear, or upgrade and unlock your combos, armor and predator take-downs.
See, the game is not all about running in and mashing buttons until you beat up all the goons. Batman is the world’s greatest detective/ninja/ultimate bad-ass, and as such, utilizes stealth mechanics and intellect over brute force. Detective Vision allows him to analyze crime scenes to gather data, as well as reveal objects of interest – be it ledges to grapple to or grates that may be busted in to. This augmented reality also revels metadata about the goons, like whether or not they‘re armed, have body armor, and what their heart rates are. This allows you to get really creative and utilize your wits and your gadgets to take out the henchmen without being detected. Batman is just a normal guy after all… He can’t take a bullet. But being that the developers created such a beautiful world for you to explore, it annoyed me that I had to rely so heavily on the Detective Vision as I didn’t want to miss any secrets as I played through the game.
In the end, I found Batman: Arkham City to be a wonderful game. Rocksteady took everything that was great with the original, improved it, and then gave us another great story to partake in. You really feel like you’re in something of a hybrid between the animated series and the latest Dark Knight movies. I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying this is the greatest game of all time, like some other sites may be have hinted at, but it is still a pretty damned good game. While this fall has been bursting with so many huge hits already, it can be rough trying to decide which ones to pick up. I’m not going to make it any easier for you, because I absolutely recommend this bad boy as well.
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Commentated Gameplay – http://www.youtube.com/ZGRWhyUDead
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