This is it, the main reason I started Batman-month. This is the most anticipated game of the year, and does Rocksteady deliver? Oh yeah.
It’s been 18 months since Joker took over Arkham Asylum. In the time between, Warden Sharp, now mayor of Gotham, has built a walled prison city inside Gotham and dumped everyone from the asylum and Blackgate prison within, leaving the enigmatic Hugo Strange in charge. When Bruce Wayne is abducted by Strange’s men during a protest of Arkham City, our hero learns two facts: that Strange has an ominous plan called Protocol 10 that is set to begin, and he knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman. As Batman enters the city, he’ll have to contend with a huge amount of his enemies including the Joker, who is even more dangerous now that he seems to be dying.
I could waste time talking about the great graphics, awesome voice acting by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker and what not. But if you’ve played Arkham Asylum, you know the quality that has already been established. So instead, I’m going to just list what they’ve added/improved on:
* The massive open-world. The previous game was a Metroid style adventure where you could only enter certain areas after getting a certain item. While there are still elements of that, nothing can prevent you from just running all over Arkham City exploring to your heart’s leisure using the improved gliding abilities of the Dark Knight.
* Better villain encounters. Every villain you face is a unique experience in of itself, which means less of that feeling of repetition that you could have had with the previous game, given how you often seemed to doing the same fight most of the time.
* More moves and gadgets for combat, stealth and movement. All of the various gadgets and moves from the last game show up, but now there’s even more to do with them. Need to take a guard out from behind but have to be quick? You can sacrifice the stealth for a louder but quicker knock-out. Smash through walls from behind thugs to bring them down, grab a gun from a foe’s hands and disassemble in one swift move, take out two at once, counter three foes, use most of your gadgets in combat, divebomb and knock them all down… there are so many options for every situation, all of which make you feel more and more like Batman.
* Darker take on Batman’s world. This game establishes that the Arkham franchise is set in its own continuity. While this can lead to a few nitpicky questions for die-hard fans, and confuse people unfamiliar with Batman’s world, it helps sell all the various characters in the game as credible threats. I think this is the first time in a long time that the Penguin could actually be seen as scary.
* So many more things to do beyond the main story. Last game the Riddler stole the show with his secrets and trophies. This time, there are over 400 to find in the open-world and inside the many buildings, and you’ll need them if you’re going to rescue hostages from the egotistical madman. And he’s not the only added side-mission villain. There’s strange phone calls from a serial killer that will require to track down other ringing phones, corpses taken out by a sniper that you will have to go forensic on to find the killer, and several other tasks. And the best part is, these all feel like Batman-type activities, instead of the usual open-world stuff that just seems frivolous. And once you beat the story, you can do New Game Plus, and replay against a harder group of foes with all your gadgets and upgrades. And that’s not including the challenge rooms that you continue to unlock and can play with any character. Speaking of…
* Extra characters and costumes. If you buy the game brand new, you get the code to download Catwoman, her skins, and her side-story episodes which end up woven into the main campaign. This can sometimes feel like an extra, but Catwoman handles great and shows how the combination of exploration, combat and stealth can be used for tons of characters in the franchise. And with Nightwing and Robin coming soon for everyone, it is going to add a lot of replay value for the challenge rooms. If they could be played in the main campaign, that’d be awesome. Of course, there’s always the next in the franchise. And don’t forget, Batman’s bonus costumes will be coming soon, and they’re great for every die-hard fan of our hero.
The only thing that seems to be missing is a chance to drive the Batmobile. But that’s just me being a wistful fanboy. Batman: Arkham City not only has given us the ultimate Batman video game, nor just given us one of the best superhero games ever, it may just be one of the greatest games of all time.
|Graphics, sound, gameplay, extras, fanservice, this is not only the greatest Batman game, but one of the best games ever.||There are some continuity questions and tons of ways non-Batfans will feel excluded, but that doesn't change how good a game it is.|