Batman Arkham City – Review
How do you make the sequel to the greatest super-hero video game of all time? Well that’s was the question on the mind of many when UK developer Rocksteady scored big with the 2009 smash Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Where Rocksteady succeeded with Arkham Asylum was to make you actually feel like Batman – The World’s Greatest Detective (TM). My Game Of The Year for 2009, mixed stealth, puzzles, exploration, gadgetry and being a badass together superbly.
I therefore had massive hopes for the sequel, Arkham City when it was announced as surely bigger is better? Recent reports on the game have it boasting a play area five times the size and a reported playtime of 30 hours plus. Indeed, now that I have played through the main game I can see how Rocksteady have made attempts to crank the template to 11.
For a start where the asylum was a quite a low lying, linear experience, we are now in a sectioned off area of Gotham ran by Hugo Strange which expands the playfield not only in scope with streets & alleys but vertically. Batman in this environment positively soars and a new move set in his glide set means he can dive bomb from a height to then glide upwards at the last minute.
These streets and roof tops are also littered with the scum of Gotham. Gang members aligned with Batman’s arch enemies like Joker, Two Face and Penguin hang about ready to hand out their best beat down. Sub-quests not associated with the main plot show up frequently and a central map hub enables you to see these and set handy way-point markers. These missions range from rescuing political prisoners to cameos from characters from the DC Universe. Then there is the tackling of various puzzles to gain Riddler trophies in a cleverly imbedded sub-plot named “Riddler’s Revenge” which neatly carries on from events from the first game. Arkham City is perhaps the richest play area of any game of recent memory.
Batman also starts out with nearly all of his gadgets from Arkham Asylum which you originally had to earn. This allows you to get stuck into the game following an absolutely awesome introductory level (jaw on floor). There are also of course other gadgets to pick up along the way which, like Zelda before it, enable you to explore further by uncovering new routes and secret areas. They also can fit in nicely into the free-flow combat and predator sections of the game, giving you more and more options when plotting to take out henchmen.
Boss fights are also again well designed and feel solid and without being cheap! Well fancy that. The battle with Mr. Freeze is especially “cool”. Ahem…
There is also a neat new game+ mode once you finish the game which begins the campaign anew but mixes things up a bit whilst maintaining all side-missions completed from your first play through. This is a definite improvement over the first game which left you to explore an empty Arkham Asylum to pick up collectibles.
Then there is Catwoman who has four interconnecting missions to Batman’s main story arc. She controls similarly to Batman but with different combat move sets, gadgets and a neat ceiling climb. However although she is “online pass” DLC, she feels more like an after thought in the whole scheme of the plot of Arkham City, just turning up and not being all that integral in the grand scheme.
This is the problem I had with Arkham City. In an attempt to make things grander, Rocksteady has perhaps added too many characters into the mix with major players in the DC Universe turning up, saying a few words to get you excited to then bugger off never to be heard of again.
Furthermore, sometimes the task at hand can be so overwhelming that I felt rail-roaded into following the main-plot just to make sense of it all. The magic is lacking in this instalment for me as I preferred it when Arkham Asylum gradually opened itself up, pulling you along and allowing you time to see the world on offer.
That said what is on offer is spectacular, the main story is still magnificent with notable character voice performances from Mark Hamill as Joker (stealing the show again) and Nolan North as a cockney wanker-esq Penguin which actually works. Furthermore Harley Quinn’s comeuppance is pure hilarity.
I enjoyed my time in the City but please do take me back to the Asylum.
Verdict – 8.5 / 10