Rocksteady did the impossible when they released Batman: Arkham Asylum – created not only a good licensed superhero game, but a fantastic Batman game. After seeing the announcement for the sequel, I grew skeptical due to it being close to the last one’s release. Could Rocksteady really deliver a second blow with the Dark Knight? Hell. Yes.
Batman: Arkham City takes place six months after Batman: Arkham Asylum. Blackgate Prison and Arkham Asylum are both nearly destroyed, so the newly inducted mayor Quincy Sharp assigns Hugo Strange to run a sectioned off portions of Gotham that will be “home” to it’s many villains, prisoners and serial killers. Of course, this idea drives the Dark Knight himself his own way and so the story unfolds. The story is indeed a fantastic one, backed up by plenty of twists and surprises and superb voice acting to top it off. From the amazing opening sequence to the shocking ending, Batman: Arkham City’s story delivers in every way possible. The countless amounts of villains fit in respectfully, and the boss fights provide true variety in defeat methods. Rocksteady successfully amped up the single player experience to a new high this time around. As noted, this is all backed up by superb voice acting. Kevin Conroy reprises his critically acclaimed role as Batman once again and performs a stellar job. Mark Hamil also puts on one amazing final act as the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. Other notable voice actors worth noting were Mr. Freeze and his robotic speech tone and Two-Face’s dual personality pieces of speech.
The original’s combat was received with some positive reception, so keeping the basic formula was a perfect decision by Rocksteady. However, that isn’t to say that they didn’t bring changes to said formula. The Freeflow Combat system was revamped to better fit against a now wide variety of enemies. Enemies have a shield or armor protection? Prepare to stun an enemy and get the beat down again. Were you annoyed with the various enemies tossing items over at you? That’s fine, as items can now be thrown back at enemies. Two or three enemies getting to you at once? Not an issue with the Dark Knight, take them both down at the same time. Even the incredible amount of gadgets at Batman’s disposal can be used with a simple press of a button or two in mid-combat. Rocksteady made enough tweaks and changes to the system to make it feel fresh and new, while still providing an unearthly adrenaline-rushed, exciting combat sections. Stealth moments return as well – with the fantastic Detective vision alongside it – and were practically left alone. Despite some changes with the AI that added further difficulties into the mix, the stealth portions are as difficult and rewarding as they were the first time around. One issue I had with the original Arkham Asylum actually was with the Detective Vision. For an undetermined reason, I found myself using it throughout most of the course of the game. However, this time around I find myself using it much less often for a reason I can surely pick out.
This, of course, has to do with the visuals of the game. While Batman: Arkham Asylum was technically considered an “open-world” game, it felt very linear in nature. Batman: Arkham City improves upon that on a massive amount of levels. For starters, the city’s environment is absolutely stunning. Providing a dark and gritty nature, the city still manages to be incredibly lively – a must with open-world games. The chatter in Batman’s radio frequencies proves that there is plenty going on around the city. The second way in which Arkham City improves upon the open-world formula is through the amount of side missions scattered around the city. The best part about these side missions is that they do not feel as if they are just thrown there. They all reveal a sort of side story with the game, showcasing many of Batman’s classic foes and even features boss battles against some of them. You may even find yourself working together with some of these foes, such as the back-breaker Bane himself. Batman: Arkham City truly feels like an open-world Batman game and succeeds in doing so in every possible way.
One of the loved features of Arkham Asylum returns as well, and yes I am talking about the Riddler Challenges. Incorporating the same Riddler trophies – now hidden very well – and adding a ton of unique challenge sets, hostage rescues and eventually a boss battle between the Bat and the Riddler himself, Rocksteady made sure to better what they had succeeded with in the original. On top of those challenges, the Combat Challenges and Stealth Challenges return for the ride and are still as hard as ever – but still a blast to run to. All in all, Batman: Arkham City provides tons upon tons of re-playability. Other important notes that add to the game’s replay value are things like New Game+ and the Catwoman missions. New Game+ buffs up the AI difficulty and has you run through the entirety of the story again, with all your Riddler trophies and challenges carrying over. What makes this different from Hard more? In New Game+, you start the game with all of your unlocked gadgets and upgrades, giving the player the better hand. The Catwoman missions are definitely a must to try out. Taking a mere 10 to 15% of the game’s story, playing as Catwoman proves to be a fresh break from playing as Batman. Catwoman is much quicker and agile, and has her own unique gadgets and movesets. However, as a fair warning, download the Catwoman DLC before starting the story. I made the mistake of downloading midway, and got over-excited about her missions integrating with the main story, when it should have been that way from the beginning.
Batman: Arkham Asylum set the standard for super hero licensed games. With that, Rocksteady had a lot of hype to live up to with the sequel. Rest assured, they not only reached that height, but exceeded it in every way possible. The story is fantastic, the boss battles are all unique, the characters are fantastic and voiced to perfection, the environment is amazing and the list goes on. Batman: Arkham City isn’t only the best super hero game out there, but it is one of the best games released to date. I can sit here and go on explaining why Batman: Arkham City defines what a licensed game and what many games should be, but in the end you will have to play it for yourself and I certainly recommend doing so. Batman: Arkham City has hit the peak of what is to become for super hero games. This isn’t a game in which you play as the Batman. In this game, you ARE the Batman.
- Fantastic, well-written story composed of unique boss battles each go around and well-developed arcs
- Superb voice acting across the entirety of the game
- Adrenaline-fueled combat, revamped with some great new tweaks
- Massive amount of replay value to be found with Riddler Challenges, New Game+, Side Missions, etc.
- Perfect open-world experience with beautiful, dark and gritty environmental pieces blended with lively city streets
- Intense score, notably comparable to that of the Nolan Batman film series
- No Scarecrow missions