Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009‘s outstanding Batman: Arkham Asylum. This time around, the stakes are higher, as Arkham City has been one of the most hyped games of the year. Does it deliver? Yes and no. Arkham City is a great game, but like the three sequels to the 1989 Batman ?lm, it suffers a bit from trying to pack too much into the game.
Like Arkham Asylum, the background story is outstanding. After the events of Arkham Asylum, a section of Gotham City has been carved out and turned into a prison, Arkham City, which is kind of like Escape from New York. The prison is run by Hugo Strange, a psychopath who just so happens to know that Batman is really Bruce Wayne. Strange has Wayne arrested and incarcerated in Arkham City. Once inside, Wayne recovers the Batman suit and gadgets with Alfred’s help and the game begins in earnest as Batman sets about uncovering the truth of Hugo Strange and Arkham City. Along the way, Batman will tangle with several of his nemeses, including Two Face, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and, of course, the Joker, who have all set up shop in the City and have their own gangs.
Arkham City will feel instantly familiar to Arkham Asylum veterans. The control scheme is unchanged. There is an attack button that you will mash the hell out of, a counter button, a jump button, and a cape attack button. Batman has the same moves as before, though he does learn new moves as the game progresses. Batman also has the same gadgets as before, including the Batarang, a cryptographic sequencer, and a grappling hook. Batman also acquires new gadgets, including a really useful device that locks ?rearms, unbeknownst to your enemy. It’s awesome to lock an enemy’s ?rearm, then charge at them and attack while they helplessly try to shoot Batman. There’s also a quick-attack function to easily use many of Batman’s gadgets in combat.
Arkham City plays a little bit differently than its predecessor. There is a main story path, but there are also side missions scattered throughout that are entirely optional. This includes a Catwoman storyline, which is somewhat entertaining but short and unnecessary. There are a handful of boss ?ghts scattered throughout the game, but most of them are kind of ho-hum. Batman has some of the greatest villains in the comic book universe, but Rocksteady can’t seem to nail the boss battle concept. It was an issue in Arkham Asylum and it’s an issue in Arkham City. The last ?ght in particular is annoying. The story behind the ?ght is cool, but the actual ?ght is about as lame as the Joker ?ght in Arkham Asylum.
Ultimately, Batman: Arkham City is a lot of fun to play, but I would have liked it better had Rocksteady stuck to a linear story. The option to play side missions involving more obscure Batman characters was a good concept, but it just wasn’t implemented well and the main story suffers for it because it’s too short. I was stunned when I got to the end because it seemed like I really hadn’t been playing that long. I also felt like the game was too easy. Batman is, essentially, a ninja with million-dollar weapons. This time around, he’s got even more million-dollar weapons and it almost makes you feel sorry for the bad guys. Oftentimes, the question isn’t “How am I going to beat this guy,” it’s “Which of my millions of weapons am I going to use to beat this guy.” That being said, I am looking forward to starting a New Game Plus, which lets you carry over your stats and upgrades while upping the dif?culty. Maybe Two Face and friends can hire some better henchmen. Some of these clowns are so useless that the Monarch
wouldn’t hire them.
Some publications are crowning Arkham City the game of the year. I wouldn’t go that far. It’s got a great story, the gameplay builds upon its predecessor while retaining the familiar formula, and it’s Batman kicking the crap out of dudes. Still, at the end of the day, I just expected it to be a little bit better. When you make a sequel to an outstanding game, you better not miss. Arkham City doesn’t miss, but it doesn’t hit bullseye, either. — Pedro Moreno
Score: 4.25 out of 5