Written by Micah Messer
Back in August 2009, comic book fans everywhere rejoiced. Batman: Arkham Asylum was released, and Batman fans finally had a high quality game that accurately portrayed the Dark Knight in all his glory. It was fun, innovative, and if you were a pre-existing batman fan, it was a dream come true. Many called Batman: Arkham Asylum the greatest comic book game to be released thus far. With Arkham Asylum being the critically acclaimed success that it was, naturally a sequel was immanent. Rocksteady games attempts to recreate their success with yet another adventure in the Batman universe.
The premise of Arkham City is a serious head scratcher.Quincy Sharp, former warden of Arkham Asylum, is now the mayor of Gotham City. Now, old Sharpy thought it would be a good idea to move all of the inmates from Arkham Aslyum and Blackgate Prison into a blocked-off area right in the middle of Gotham, and call it Arkham City. Brilliant plan, right? Sharp hands the reigns of this train wreck of an idea over to Dr. Hugo Strange. Bruce Wayne actually ends up getting arrested and thrown into Arkham City, thus starting another “I can’t leave Arkham until I find out what’s happening” adventure. The rest of the game’s story is actually pretty good, but the way that you’re eased into it is kind of silly, as the idea of an “Arkham City” is very obviously a fucking stupid one.
“Who’s shit idea was this?”
Gameplay in Arkham City is largely the same as it’s predecessor, but everything feels tighter, more refined and polished. The biggest change is in your environment. The upgrade from Arkham Asylum to Arkham City is basically just a bigger sandbox to play in. Akrham City is truly a sight to behold. It’s super detailed and fun to explore. The atmosphere is also fantastic. You’re running across the rooftops and suddenly you hear the distressed voice of someone screaming in pain, begging for someone’s help. When you swoop down and beat the crap out of the punk that’s starting trouble, it’s hard not to feel like, well, Batman. In fact, that’s one of the things that this game does best. There’s not a single moment when you don’t absolutely feel like Batman. When you’re walking across a thin layer of ice that’s crackling with each step you take, and you pull out your ice density scanner, who else but Batman would have such a device?
In addition to the awesome character of Bruce Wayne, Rocksteady also tries it’s hardest to cram in an unreasonably high number of villains into the game. If I were to list them all, it would take up an entire paragraph, but I will list some of the major ones. Hugo Strange, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Ra’s Al Ghul, and of course, the Joker, all make appearances. Some might argue that there were too many, and none of them truly got to be fully fleshed out, which is undeniably true. But I still enjoyed seeing all of them portrayed in video game form.The voice acting is also very well done, with Mark Hamil returning as the Joker, and Nolan North performing as the Penguin.
suit you got there, Victor.
The combat in Arkham City is very similar to Asylum’s, but Rocksteady has implemented a couple of additions and tweaks. Combat is fairly simple, but it works great. You have one primary attack button, and another button that counters. You can build up combos that let you unleash powerful finishing attacks where you essentially beat one thug senseless while the others stand there and watch in fear. The combat animations are fantastic, and let you seamlessly glide from enemy to enemy, chaining together your impressive melee attacks.
You can now implement almost every single gadget in Batman’s arsenal into your battle strategy via a hot key system. You can pull out your stun gun and shock someone in mid-combo, or pull someone towards yourself with the batclaw and then proceed to close-line them. Batman can also counter multiple enemies at once. It’s very cool stuff. Combat is heavily enhanced by large enemy variety. There are baddies thrown at you that carry stun rods, riot shields, knives or even just heavy armor. You have to deal with each of them in very specific ways, keeping you from just spamming the punch button until you’re surrounded by 20 unconscious thugs. But occasionally you come across a room full of poor saps that have no special weapons whatsoever, and you get to go to town on them.
Arkham City also has a pretty substantial stealth element included, just as Asylum did. Not a whole lot has changed in the jump from Asylum to City in this regard. You still swing from gargoyle to gargoyle, sticking to the shadows and slowly picking off one armed guard at a time. Although, it has some pretty cool tactical decision making involved. You have to plan out how you’re going to silently take out each guy. It can be fairly punishing if you get caught. This isn’t Assassin’s Creed; you can’t just fight off infinite guards if you’re discovered. If these guys catch you, they’ll gun your ass down.
There are a couple of boss fights throughout the game, and they’re kind of a mixed bag. There are some of them, like the Mr. Freeze fight for example, that I really enjoyed; but there were a couple of others that were pretty underwhelming and generic. I like it when a game surprises me with interesting mechanics, not when some hulking figure in the middle of the stage relentlessly hurls projectiles my way.In the end, there were a couple of small areas where Arkham City let me down a little bit; but the game does more than enough great things that those tiny complaints don’t effect my overall enjoyment of the game.
Overall Score: 89
If you’re coming in from playing Arkham Asylum, don’t expect a massive overhaul of the formula. Rocksteady doesn’t do a whole lot to mix it up, but it does take what it has and refines it. It’s tighter, more polished, and all around more enjoyable than it’s predecessor. If you’re a Batman fan, you simply must play this game.
Genre Score (Action-Adventure): 93
Batman: Arkham City excels within its genre. A detailed environment to explore, fantastic seamless combat, tactical stealth encounters, awesome characters, and a great story make this a must play for fans of the genre.