Is this game good? Does Batman look worried?
Batman Arkham Asylum was a really cool, linear game with a great combat system, and fan-service oriented story that didn't really end that well. Batman Arkham City proposes new additions to the combat system, an open-world dynamic, and endless riddler challenges to complete or collect. Well, Batman Arkham City delivers on all fronts and surpasses it's predecessor in almost every way.
The story starts off in the most awesome way possible. It takes place a little while after the events of Arkham Asylum and pits Batman against villain, Hugo Strange, who has sectioned off part of Gotham City, and turned it into a prison, thus calling it Arkham City. Bruce Wayne, or Batman, has decided, like the rest of us, that this is a really awful plan and rallies against it. Well, worst comes to worst, and Bruce Wayne is taken into Arkham City and forced to uncover Strange's plans as Batman. The narrative remains steady, for the most part, and ends with tons of twists and turns that not too many games manage to pull off making it one of the best of the year.
Although the game is set in an open world, the story missions still feel very much closed off from the rest of the world just like Arkham Asylum. This, however, does not keep Arkham City from feeling linear, because there is just so much in the world to see, do, and collect which ends up providing a lot more freedom. The campaign ends up clocking in at about 10-15 hours or longer depending on how much side content is attempted and is made all the more enjoyable by the exception combat system.
The combat system in Arkham City is one of the best in the business. Each punch can be chained into more impactful punches as Batman zips across the screen clobbering each and every foe. Little notifications appear when enemies attempt to attack him, and they can be countered with the press of a button. Batman can also stun enemies in order to serve them up for a flurry of devastating punches, and the whole system is very similar to what Arkham Asylum brought to the table. However, Arkham City varies the combat by allowing batman to use his various gadgets, like his grappling hook, stun gun, or batarangs to unleash longer combos with a lot more ease.
The side missions are all expertly crafted and feel very unique. Each sidequest, minus a couple, end up having Batman investigate and interact with named and known Batman characters whom are each explored a great deal. A clue of some sort usually appears, then Batman investigates various locales, and then they conclude in a semi-meaningful way. Compared to most other games with open-world sidequests, these missions are a lot more memorable due to the abundance of polish and care that goes into them.
Side missions aside, there are hundreds of challenges to complete that are all assigned by the Riddler. The Riddler apparently has hostages, and he won't give them up until you collect enough trophies, solve enough riddles, destroy enough cameras, etc. Overall, there are so many things to collect that it could start to feel nauseating, however, the game smartly allows players to fill in the map by interrogating Riddler informants or hacking terminals. When you've had enough of that, the game also offers challenge rooms, which act as sectioned off arenas with score objectives, and predator challenges which are sectioned off areas from the campaign that have Batman trying to take every enemy out in the stealthiest ways possible. Custom campaigns are also offered to string together both the challenge rooms and predator challenges in 3 round chunks.
With the elements that made Arkham Asylum good, combined with an open-world backdrop and even more collectibles, Rocksteady has nailed, once again, what it feels like being Batman. The story is a lot of fun, and the side missions are well-done, but it wouldn't be as good a game if the combat wasn't so tactile and precise. So, chances are if you liked Batman Arkham Asylum, you're going to like Batman Arkham City a whole lot more and it'll keep you busier for a lot longer too.