When you first popped Batman: Arkham Asylum into your console, you didn’t know what to expect. But when you put Arkham City in, you expected something great, and it did not disappoint. Batman: Arkham City is the single most impressive superhero game I’ve ever seen.
The story begins with Bruce Wayne being arrested and put into Hugo Strange’s Arkham City prison; a sectioned off part of Gotham where all the inmates of Arkham Asylum and the maximum security Black Gate prison have been placed. Naturally, the place is a festering hole littered with crime and all of the super criminals Batman can handle. While investigating what the Protocol Ten that Strange keeps mentioning is, Batman gets poisoned by the Joker and spends the game juggling curing himself and stopping Strange’s plans.
It should be mentioned that this an open-world action game much like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in that you have a large area to explore with many, many side quests to keep your attention when you want a break from the main story. Rocksteady has hidden all kinds of little Easter Eggs throughout the vast Arkham City for you to find. So don’t worry, there’s plenty to do and discover in Arkham City.
And when you do end up finishing everything in the campaign, there is a New Game + mode that lets you play again on the hardest difficulty starting out with all your gadgets and upgrades. Still, after that, there are the challenge maps, just like in Arkham Asylum, adding playtime to the game for each character available to play: Batman, Catwoman, Robin, or Nightwing, depending on your pre-orders. Any you didn’t get will be available via paid DLC mid-November.
There are some subtle, and some not so subtle, differences between Arkham City and it’s predecessor. The combat has been retooled slightly, but just enough that, at first, it feels a little different, but in a good way. The combos flow smoothly and work more effectively. You’re given more special attacks that require two buttons to be pressed, like the combo takedown and the combo throws. Batman can now catch thrown objects, dodge knife attacks, jump off an enemy to attack him from above, perform a “beat down” attack that strikes a single target multiple times in rapid succession until he falls, and plenty of other things that make Batman feel more powerful than ever.
There have been some changes to the gadgets as well. You start off with some of the same gadgets from Asylum and as you progress you uncover some new favorites. The ice grenades are particularly entertaining. You can throw them at enemies to freeze them or toss one into water to create a floating platform of ice to ride around on.
The quick fire feature for your gadgets has returned, but it has been amped up as well. Using a combination of buttons you can now quick fire most of the gadgets you acquire, including the exploding gel. While this feature comes in handy for exploring sometimes, it can also make getting the achievement for using all your attacks in a single combo much, much more difficult. But if you don’t care about than then you’re set.
There are many new faces appearing in Arkham City. Two-Face, Catwoman, Penguin, Solomon Grundy, Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia, just to name a few. Returning guests are limited, but they do add a certain flavor to the story, mostly in the form of side quests.
One of the best parts of Arkham Asylum has returned in this sequel in the form of the Riddler challenges. They, too, have been improved. You will still find yourself solving riddles and searching for those little green question marks, but sometimes you have to solve a puzzle to get that little trophy. Once you solve enough of his riddles you will be led to a Saw-like room where you have to rescue a doctor. These rooms will require a variety of your gadgets so its best to attempt this feat after you’ve beaten the game and collected every gadget.
Speaking of the end of the game, I found it a little disappointing. Rocksteady has already said they plan on making more Arkham games, or of a similar style, in the future, yet the end of this game seems like the end of more than just the series. I won’t spoil it, but it comes as a shock what happens at the end.
When all is said and done, Batman: Arkham City is an amazing game. Rocksteady has turned the proud template they developed in Arkham Asylum into an even more impressive and powerful game. It’s nothing short of gaming excellence. It looks and sounds great and plays even better. Rocksteady has truly done Batman justice with Arkham City. Any true fan of Batman should own this game.
You can find Batman: Arkham City on sale now for PS3 and Xbox 360 (coming to PC on November 15th). Pick it up at one of these stores around Anoka County.