Published by – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Number of Players: 1
Platform – Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PC
Release Date – October 18th, 2011
Genre – Action-Adventure
ESRB – Teen
MSRP – $59.99
Arkham Asylum was the Batman game that a lot of us had been waiting for. The equation was brilliant: one part careful tiptoeing ala Metal Gear Solid, plus good ol’ fashioned mash-the-y-button-until-the-thugs-stop-moving. So, when we inevitably finished traversing the Asylum, finding The Riddler’s many, many trophies and even exploring that extra secret room behind a wall, we were left yearning for more.
It’s no surprise, then, that the sequel– Arkham City– has had so much hype attached to it. The expectations for this game have been set extraordinarily high since it was first announced. Does it meet them? Will this be the glorious second coming we all hoped for? Will there be more trophies?!
The answer to all these questions is, thankfully, “yes.” While no game is perfect, Arkham City delivers the same great gameplay we enjoyed in Asylum, plus more. This time around, the Dark Knight doesn’t just face an institution full of enemies, but rather an entire, corrupted Gotham City led by Dr. Hugo Strange. The not-so-good doctor knows much more than he should, and he seems determined to make Batman’s stay in the city as difficult as possible.
This open world area is considerably larger than the playing field we were given previously, which offers several new opportunities and challenges. One can, for example, spend hours just completing the side missions that pop up through exploring the terrain, several of which involve helpless NPCs that you will feel motivated to assist (unless, of course, you’re heartless). While the basic mechanics of the game remain unchanged, you also now have some useful bonuses to aid you in the huge new space. A compass has been built into the system that points you in the direction of your current objective, which is helpful when gliding over countless buildings that begin to look the same in the generally gritty, sinister environment. The loading screen gives you a recap of recent events and objectives to refresh your memory from the last time you played. Detective Mode has also changed slightly, though not necessarily for the better. It’s possible that the creators realized gamers were playing through Asylum almost entirely with this feature on, and it has since been adjusted to lack the compass, radio, and key objective tools. In Arkham City, Detective Mode is a resource to be used sparingly, probably as it was originally intended.
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the game is the cast of characters. I started the game at about the same time as three other friends, and all of us have encountered a different set of villains depending on what we decided to focus on or where we decided to explore. Interesting to note is that you can also see actual interaction between many of these villains as they each try to lay claim to a chunk of Arkham City. Clashing interests makes for a more realistic scenario, because it’s definitely more believable to see a group of men fueled by hate and greed butting heads than somehow deciding it’s A-OK to hold hands and become a super-powered team, as is the case in some comic books.
Oh, pardon me!—did I just suggest men were the only ones involved here? Make that men and women. We can’t forget Selina Kyle, whose Arkham City incarnation has gained plenty of buzz. Catwoman is available as immediate downloadable content with purchase of the game and, though not necessary for the game’s completion, her one-player storyline is a fantastic addition. Selina is Arkham City’s resident femme fatal and Batman’s wily counterpart, and you’ll see a lot of her. She has a basic moveset that mirrors Batman’s, but also possesses an entirely different arsenal of weapons and abilities that makes acting the part of the thief incredibly rewarding. The only unfortunate aspect of her role is that it’s too brief—you can only play as her in selected instances. The good news is that in doing so, you’re often given a different perspective of an event that has already occurred, which helps build a bigger picture.
Technically speaking, everything in Arkham City is rendered beautifully and, for the most part, smoothly. Some gamers have complained of lag during cutscenes or at points where a great deal of gliding is necessary, but that can usually be resolved by installing the game onto the harddrive, at least on Xbox 360. Other users have mentioned missing or invalid DLC codes with their games, but Warner Bros. has been making some effort to resolve that, and there has been mention that all the DLC content accessible now only to pre-order customers will be open for public purchase down the line. This is very good news, because with so many alternate costumes, extra maps, and added characters (like Robin and Nightwing), DLC is obviously important in this game and everyone wants a piece of it.
All in all, Arkham City is a satisfying sequel. Sure, the sheer expanse of the world you’re playing in can be a little intimidating. Sure, Batman’s voice will get on your nerves when you’ve turned on “hints” and he is endlessly bugging you to move forward like a corrupted Navi from Ocarina of Time. And yes, you might accidentally land directly in the middle of a group of thugs while gliding through a city so fouled that even Rorschach would be at a loss for words. But, the plot is excellent and will have you scouring the streets and eavesdropping on criminals for answers, the music is just as eerie and classically Batman as one can expect, and the combination of familiar faces and new foes will make sure you never get bored. It’s a game full of options and customizability, and it will take you a good, long while to finish everything: exactly what we like.
Just be careful when answering the phone in that city, okay? It’s also a game full of surprises.
Gameplay: 5 / Story: 5 / Graphics: 4 / Sound: 4 / Overall: 4.5