5 Times larger than Arkham Asylum, more gadgets, more moves, more villains, is this the definitive Batman experience?
There are few instances where a developer can outdo a previews title they have done, especially if that title got a lot of critical acclaim. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a game that was lauded as THE BEST COMIC BOOK GAME….EVER! So developer Rocksteady had a huge task ahead of them in bettering it. Guess what…they did and in spades! Batman: Arkham City (BAC) picks up the trail where Asylum left off. Quincy Sharpe has become Mayor of Gotham and somehow has convinced the powers that be that cordoning off a piece of Gotham and turning it into a super prison was a good idea. Heading this facility is the enigmatic Hugo Strange, Batman smells something afoot though and goes off to investigate exactly what is up. He learns that Hugo Strange has an agenda called Protocol 10 and tries throughout the campaign to solve exactly what Protocol 10 is, not to mention Hugo knows that Batman and Bruce Wayne are one and the same.
Now the game play in Arkham City improves upon the original in everyway, first off you start with all the gadgets you had in the first game. Batman also has new traversal abilities, a grapnel boost and a glide ability, combining these two are essential in covering ground quickly and efficiently in Arkham City, and it’s a huge city, Rocksteady says that Arkham City is 5 times the size of Arkham Asylum. The feel of Arkham City is more dynamic than Arkham Asylum as you now have an entire populated city block to play in with each section ruled by different factions representing their villain leader whether it be Two-Face, Penguin or the Joker. So at anytime you can dive down on goons pummel them and move on to your next objective in true Dark Knight form. The combat in Arkham Asylum was one of the greatest assests of that game and though simple in execution reveal a complex layer when different elements were thrown into it and forced players to adjust and think on the fly as any Batman would. Rocksteady has stuck to that same formula with tweaks that have opened a wave of combat options When you get proficient enough in combat you’re never afraid to step into a room of 50 thugs, as you knew that you were going to kick everyone’s ass. The exciting part of combat (well for me anyway) was the fact that Rocksteady has implemented quickfire (quick access) buttons for your gadgets, what this means is that now in the middle of combat you can implement almost every gadget! Other new combat maneuvers include being able to counter up to 3 guys at once, double silent takedowns and even takedowns using your legs hanging from a ledge!
Batman isn’t the only one that has gotten upgrades, to balance out these adjustments to Batman Rocksteady has amped the ante by upgrading the tactics employed by your enemies. For example when you go into Predator mode (sneaking around picking off goons one by one) enemies will react to what you’re doing if you’re not very careful. For instance, do an inverted takedown on an enemy and get spotted while you swing away and hide, the goons will now realize you are using the vantage points and start shooting them off so you will not have that same option again. Not to mention they can lob grenades at you as well! Also new for them are armored goons that cannot be taken down silently, goons that plant proximity mines, goons with infrared to see you hiding in the dark (namely on vantage points) and the worst of ‘em goons with frequency jammers that knock out your detective mode! New also are goons with riot shields/car doors as well as those that will hurl stuff at you which if timed right you can catch and return to sender! A combination of each goon in areas serve to test your mettle and wit as the Dark Knight and further immerses you into the role of that character, which is great, you really get a feel that you are the Batman.
As for the Rogues Gallery it’s overwhelming the amount of villains that are put in here, which sometimes almost feels as if it works against Rocksteady. Most characters aren’t fully fleshed out and feel like they were thrown in there just to say that they were in it. As a fan it’s great to see each and every one of them but on the story side it seems a bit much and makes the narrative suffer slightly switching from villain to villain rather quickly. The addition of Catwoman within the story is a nice touch and the fact that she has her own skill set separate and apart from Batman entirely adds a nice change of pace and tactic. Your time with her will be short; Rocksteady has estimated her percentage of involvement in the game is around 10% that though isn’t much, fleshes out the story a bit more. The Catwoman involvement is via Downloadble Content that is free if you bought the game new, if you didn’t then you have to purchase it for $10. Other downloadble items include playable characters like Nightwing and Robin, which come with their own skill sets and maps for the challenge arenas and will cost $7 each.
In terms of content off the disc Arkham City has a decent amount, Challenge maps, Riddler quests, side missions all of which can add up to give you an extra couple of hours on a game that’s already about 12-15 hrs long. The graphics in Arkham City are impressive especially due to the fact that the world is so much bigger. Rocksteady was still able to give you more detail and life in a world that is 5 times bigger than the original, that in alone is a huge accomplishment. Once again Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their respective roles as Batman and Joker with an ensemble of voice actors that support their high standard of delivery. The original composers also return and deliver a riveting soundtrack that swells and crescendos when necessary in the heat of combat or when sneaking about further adding to the cinematic feel of the game.
Batman Arkham City is a true testament that in the right hands a comic book character can make for a very compelling and entertaining AND FUN videogame. We salute Rocksteady Studios and look forward to their next Batman adventure, cuz their good and we want more!