The Dark Knight Stikes Again
You might think that comic book heroes are perfect as video game protagonists. Already imbued with demigod-like resilience, a wealth of well explained super-powers, and villains that complement them like black complements white, they should be perfect in this role. This has sadly not been the case. Usually reduced to shallow movie tie-in games that are, at best, poor and at worst, shameless cash grabs by movie studios trying to boost the profits of their movie, they have not been worth the discs they have been printed on. However, in 2009 a Dark Knight arrived to change all that. Batman: Arkham Asylum put to shame its brothers and sisters with a gripping storyline oozing with character, amazing vistas, and combat that made you feel like the caped crusader himself. With such a flawless game, Rocksteady has a lot more to live up to this time.
Arkham City is the location for this new sequel and what gives the game its name. This condemned area of Gotham city now plays host to the scum of the Batman universe. Joker and Harlequin make their return to continue their wild antics after the events of Arkham Asylum, but there are a few new faces to shake up the crazy storyline and to give the story a different feel to the first game. The real star of the show though has to be the art direction and design of the city itself. Its dark and moody atmosphere really helps to get you immersed in the story and feeling of the game.
Arkham City is meant to give this new Batman game more of an open world feel and it does give you more side missions and other open world trappings but the main storyline is still a linear affair. If you decide to blaze though the story it will probably take you about 12 to 15 hours but if you decide to tackle all of the side missions and other little distractions you can easily double that. The side missions are only that because they aren’t necessary to finishing the main story, but they are just as well fleshed out, with most of them dealing with one of Batman’s enemies from the comics and being well worth the extra time investment.
The way in which you will be dispensing with the Arkham city inmates isn’t very dissimilar from the first game. The differences are subtle, for example enemies won’t just wait for you to take them out one by one but multiple enemies will attack you at once. The combat does have the same flow as the first game that is frantic yet methodical, without it feeling like you’re unbeatable, something that games like Assassin’s Creed have still to master. Stealth also makes a return but is almost completely unchanged, which isn’t a bad thing.
Riddler’s challenges also make a welcome return, with literally hundreds of trophies to collect and picture puzzles to solve. If you didn’t like being Riddler’s lab rat the first time you won’t be swayed this time either, but there are some fun side missions if you do decide to put in the considerable time.
Catwoman’s part in this sequel was heavily marketed during the months up until release, and rightly so in some respects as if you have the content you will start the game as her. As a character she plays differently enough that when her sections in the story are triggered they are a welcome respite from the way Batman is controlled. However, for all the people who live in university halls, be warned, the Catwoman content is locked behind an single use key code and a 250Mb download. So, if you want to play this part of this singleplayer game you will want to find a friend who lives off campus and has Xbox Live.
Batman Arkham City is not that different from its predecessor. Even though it has some open world frills it is still a very focused affair. It manages great moment to moment action that is always putting you in new and interesting situations, and a story that is always pushing you forward. If you enjoyed the first one go and get this one today, and if you haven’t played Arkham Asylum, go play that.