Batman: Arkham City
With Batman: Arkham Asylum we got an incredibly tightly worked out superhero game with my favorite hero in the lead. The only downpoints we could blame the makers back then – for as far as there were any – were the disappointing bosses, the use of the Detective mode, and the fact that we couldn’t go outside the walls of the so-called asylum.
With successor Arkham City not only are these issues fixed, we even get a ton of extras on top, and what was already great has only become even more amazing. The best superhero game has become even better and gets miles head of all the competition.
The makers were clearly aware of their assignment and immediately throw you into the game like they would Batman: like a predator high above its hunting grounds, filled with prey, innocent victims, past and future. The city may not be immensely big, each square meter was detailed with love for the lead characters and their universe. Fans of the comics will love the graphics and the rich story and will easily recognise all important places from the series.
Developer Rocksteady also took the opportunity to give Batman some more gear and possibilities. You can catapult yourself through the city like a bat and float so that after a while you feel lord of the environment. Also the combat feels tighter than before and opponents are more varied and a bit more intelligent. Where in the first game you could easily come out of the darkness, defeat a hostile and again disappear, now also the more standard hoodlums have learnt to offer some more resistance. Amongst others thanks to heat scanners and a jammer that kills your Detective-sight they’ll be able to find you and you’ll have to be more dynamic and make smarter use of your moves and tools before and during combat.
Also the bosses, let’s say the usual bad guys from the series, are a lot more interesting and now make for challenging gameplay elements as well as interesting storylines. Clearly a lot of effort was put in thinking about the personality of The Riddler or Penguin so that also their headquarters can surprise you. It sometimes reminded me from the better missions from Bioshock and here and there the lovers of the psychedelic Scarecrow pieces from the first Batman won’t be able to suppress a smile.
The advantage of this semi open world is also that if you don’t feel like progressing the story, you can decide to do one of the many side missions. Only with those alone already you’ll be occupied for many hours and they’re also interesting as they’re not just inspirationless variations on repetitive structures. The Riddles is of course back with new puzzles and rewards, but you can also go save innocents or protect them from other bad guys. You can even go work the Challenge Rooms which are even more extensive than before. And you can now also take on these challenges with Catwoman.
Just like Batman she’s very deeply worked out with her own moves and possibilities and doesn’t feel like a more sexy skin over the same hero(ess). Thanks to that the parts with her are very pleasant and welcome, and we wouldn’t have minded spending more time with her. Seeing the time spent on Catwoman, maybe something for future DLC or a sequel?
You would almost forget the main story in a city where there’s so much to experience, and you sometimes do while playing. Luckily you’re drawn in subtle again so that you don’t miss a thing from what in the end is a scenario that’s definitely worth following. The Joker was for us personally a tidbit more interesting than Hugo Strange, but the setting is used in a powerful and intelligent way the more you come towards the end of the adventure. The last couple of hours you’ll be clustered to your TV with your mouth open.
Batman: Arkam City has all the strengths of the first game and improved them. The setting is bigger and while the story is still a blast, you get more side missions, more freedom, an even more interesting and rich world, and most of all one in which you can truly feel like Batman. Catwoman delivers some sexy variation and fans will love the details and the line-up of baddies, but in the end you remind yourself you’re playing because Batman is that stone cold avenger we all would love to be (with enough money and training)