From the minute I first saw the cover of Batman: Arkham City, I realized that this wouldn’t be an ordinary adventure for Batman. The cover is just black and white, except for the blood on our hero. Seeing the Dark Knight bloodied surprised me. Batman is untouchable, or so I thought. In nearly every portrayal of Batman, Batman is presented as an unstoppable predator. In Batman: Arkham City, we see a side of Batman that we’re not used to seeing. Batman is not unstoppable. He gets hurt more and more as the game plays out. Batman isn’t even always the predator. In fact, he’s usually the underdog. However, he doesn’t let that stop him. He presses on, even when it’s hard. That’s what makes this Batman one of the best. He’s a character that players can relate with, while they try to overcome ridiculous odds to protect what is good.
Batman: Arkham City takes place in a new section of Gotham that is made specifically for prisoners. After the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum, a man named Hugo Strange gets permission from the City of Gotham to set up Arkham City. Many people including Bruce Wayne oppose this, but they’re not able to stop it. Every prisoner in the
City of Gotham is sent to Arkham City. These prisoners range from super criminals like the Joker, to political prisoners. The variety of prisoners leads to some very interesting encounters. Pretty much every major Batman villain makes an appearance. This leads to some serious turf wars. It also leads to some story issues. There is a ridiculous amount of great villains in this game. Some of these villains are good enough to carry the antagonistic side of the story by themselves. The huge variety of villains cuts the screen time of some really great characters. For example, the fan favorite Two Face makes an appearance at the beginning of the game, and then disappears for good (unless you’re playing the Catwoman missions). While this isn’t a huge problem, it will disappoint some Batman fans.
The actual city is enormous. It is far bigger than the asylum in the previous game. Rocksteady has stated that the playable area in Arkham City is five times bigger than the playable area in Arkham Asylum. After playing Arkham City, I believe it. There are tons of things to do in Arkham City. Besides playing through the main story, there are a decent amount of sidequests. These sidequests range from stopping a serial killer to saving political prisoners, who are in Arkham City for minor crimes. These sidequests do a great job of getting some of the lesser known villains screen time. Many players won’t have even heard of some these villains, but they’re interesting none the less.
Arkham City is an action-heavy game. While its predecessor focused more on stealth, Arkham City focuses more on hand-to-hand combat. Stealth is still a factor, but it isn’t used nearly as much. Batman starts out with all of his gadgets from the first game. While this might not seem like a big deal, it’s huge. Many developers bring the main character’s weapons and abilities back to the starting point for sequels. Batman: Arkham City only adds new gadgets and abilities. It doesn’t take any away. These new gadgets and abilities are very interesting. Batman has a lot of tools in his arsenal this time. There is a lot of room for creativity during combat. Via a new upgrading system, players can give Batman new abilities through leveling up. Batman levels up after he has gotten enough experience by mainly defeating enemies. This new upgrade system is a nice change. It doesn’t completely change the gameplay, but it lets you have more control over the Dark Knight. Batman will usually face foes in big groups. At first, the enemies can be beaten through excessive button pressing, but they get more complex as the game goes on. The combat is usually excellent. It can sometimes get a little annoying or repetitive, but for the most part it’s a joy to fight as Batman. It’s also fun to play as Catwoman, but her overall part in the story feels forced, and unnecessary. Catwoman is faster and more acrobatic than Batman, but she can’t take as many hits. She can access areas that Batman can’t, but she can’t move across the city as quickly. Playing as Catwoman can be a nice change of pace, but it just feels like they were just trying to throw her in there.
The Riddler trophies have returned, and there are a lot of them. In total, there are 400 Riddler trophies in the game. This might seem like a daunting number, but Rocksteady has taken steps to make it easier. There are operatives hiding everywhere who work for Riddler. The operatives appear green, so it’s easy to separate them from your average thug. If Batman interrogates these operatives, a portion of the Riddler trophies will show up on your map. These interrogations are easy, if the operative is alone. However, the operative is rarely alone. You’ll usually have to beat surrounding thugs first without knocking the operative out. The operative will attack you, so this can be difficult. You have to carefully defend yourself from the operative. You don’t want him to hurt you, but you don’t want to hurt him too much either. This process can be frustrating, but it usually works well. There are well over a dozen operatives working for Riddler in Arkham City, and you’ll want to interrogate every one of them if you want to locate all of the Riddler trophies. Although this is a difficult task, it’s completely optional. You don’t have to do it if it seems too tedious for you.
Batman: Arkham City has great graphics and terrific voice acting. The combination of the two leads to making your favorite characters even more realistic. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammil are back to voice Batman and Joker respectively. These two have been doing this for years now, and you can tell. Their voice work is practically flawless. The other characters have great voice acting too. Nolan North especially does a great job as the Penguin. Arkham City also has a great score. The music gets seriously epic as the story draws to its conclusion. There is also nice attention to detail. As the story goes on, Batman looks noticeably worse and worse, due to all the fighting. In this day and age, that might not seem like a big deal, but it makes Batman feel even more real.
The story is great for most of the game. Towards the end, it takes a certain plot twist that has been done rather recently, but it’s still a great twist. It will just be expected by many serious Batman fans. As I said earlier, there are a lot of characters in this game. Many characters get some sort of cameo, but that’s frequently it. There is not very much closure to the story. While this can allow them to make better DLC in the future, it doesn’t work well for the game as a stand-alone product.
Batman: Arkham City won numerous Game of the Year awards last year. It’s not hard to see why. Batman: Arkham City makes you feel like Batman. That’s the highest compliment I can give a superhero game. Between the fun combat, fan service, and engrossing story, Batman: Arkham City is arguably the greatest superhero game ever made. Even though there are a few issues, Batman: Arkham City is just fun to play. When it all boils down, isn’t that why we play video games? It’s not perfect, but Batman: Arkham City is one of the most entertaining games you’ll play this year.