Batman: Arkham Asylum was an amazing game for its time. In 2009 we had never seen a Batman game of its type and in many ways it was a pleasant surprise for the franchise and the state of superhero games in general. In many ways Superhero games hadn't aged well since the glory days of the arcade and SNES. Will Batman: Arkham City live up to the hype? Read more to find out!
Release Date: 10/18/2011
Released For: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC (November 15)
System Played On: Xbox 360
Hours Played: According to Raptr, 7
Single Player Progress: 20%
Single Player Thoughts: Once again Rocksteady Games has gone ahead and showed the rest of the gaming community exactly how to go about creating a solid video game based off a comic book. Much like Batman Begins showed movie-goers that superhero movies can be created without the need for Adam West-style campiness, gamers now can experience what it is like to be Batman in a serious, dark, and ultimately fascinating environment the likes of which has only been done once before.
If you played Batman: Arkham Asylum then you will be familiar with the combat. It’s much more of the attack/counter-attack style we previously saw but with much tighter controls and much more intelligent enemies. Comparing the normal difficulties between the games, Batman: Arkham City feels more difficult simply because the enemies are harder, are better equipped, and have better gadgets. Rather than making the game frustrating, that actually works more in the favor of the game as every battle feels much more satisfying and every time you complete a fight against 20 henchmen it’s hard to not raise a successful fist in the air.
While Batman: Arkham Asylum had a strong focus on isolation and claustrophobia, Batman: Arkham City feels so much grander and is a good fit in the Batman expanded universe. The list of allies as well as villains is pretty impressive. The appearance of Robin didn’t feel campy like I feared. He was less Boy Wonder and more of a legitimate character. Villains like Solomon Grundy were well placed and the warring factions of henchmen really added to the idea that Batman doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The story was incredibly immersive and the side quests felt more like moral decisions than filler. Tracking down Szaz or helping a political prisoner were choices presented in such a way that I often interrupted whatever I was doing just so I could participate.
What would Batman be without his gadgets? Fortunately Batman: Arkham City doesn’t start him off lacking or completely powerless like what we saw in Arkham Asylum. He has all of those toys we previously got to play with, and you get to find more as you progress. Augmented reality challenges help you upgrade certain gadgets in order to help you travel the city faster and more. They are completely optional, but they make certain missions much easier. Tying some of the toys to quick-use buttons is also well done. Fights become just a little bit easier when you master quick-use weapons, and they balance out the presence of harder enemies.
Another improvement over its predecessor is the way Riddler is presented. We see his markings all over the city and figuring out his puzzles is a delightful challenge. Unlike the rest of the rogue’s gallery, Riddler doesn’t have his own faction outright. Instead you see his “informants” littered among the other factions. You can either take them out as normal, or you can take out everyone else and interrogate the Riddler’s henchman. This will reveal the location of a hint, or the answer to a riddle, etc. These then help you rescue the Riddler’s hostages. It’s incredibly satisfying, and the amount of work and detail in the unlocked biographies and challenges make for delightful reads.
Speaking of the challenges, they are most certainly challenging. Outside of normal single player mode you can practice your combat or stealth in order to obtain more unlockables and prove your skill. Much like Arkham Asylum your time or your use of combos will be put to the test, however you can now play as Robin or Catwoman as well, which makes for a nice touch.
The aesthetics of the game have been stepped up considerably from Arkham Asylum. It’s much more beautiful to look at, and the atmosphere is really well done. There is still a bit of isolation, but many more opportunities to explore. The territories owned by the different villains each have their own little quirks that add to the feel. The overheard conversations not only have fun nods to outside media like Lost, but continue to add to the sense of inner turmoil and the politics of the warring factions. As Batman you aren’t just trying to stop crime, but you are trying to stop the criminals from killing each other. The use of the voice actors from The Animated Series goes a long way to adding nostalgia, plus you honestly couldn’t find better voice actors.
Overall Thoughts: In just about every way Arkham City has managed to surpass its predecessor. It is an incredibly tight, incredibly addicting single player game and it’s hard to think of any flaws. On the 360 the game runs smoothly and looks beautiful. The controls are tight, the aesthetics are perfectly Batman. The Catwoman portions felt a bit tacked on, but they are easily overlooked.
Recommendations: If you are looking for a single player game to keep you entertained for hours, including multiple play-throughs, this game is for you. The fairly open world and hidden secrets as well as the large library of unlockables make this game ideal. It’s worth its price and will find an incredibly comfortable place on your shelf. It’s a must buy in his holiday season. Don’t overlook it.