Expansion aside, the laser-beam story is as great as ever.
What I enjoy most about Batman lore is the different perspectives that authors include to challenge the concrete wall of Bruce Wayne’s morality. In “The Killing Joke”, Alan Moore creates an ambiguous ending in which the reader must choose whether Batman can be corrupted or not. In Batman: Arkham City, the next environmentally logical step in Rocksteady’s perceived trilogy, like Arkham Asylum, Batman is battered and beaten, and by the end, through gradual wear-and-tear, his suit is ripped, and he’s bloody and bruised.
Many fans take issue with the open-world natural progress that is prominently featured in Arkham City. Asylum was a laser-beam of story, with rich and developed villains, filling the necessary canonical strokes that many Batman interpretations lack, so for those seeking the focused storytelling featured in Asylum, you have to force yourself to stay on track, avoiding the open-worldness (for those crazy people who have obsessive tendencies to collect everything, there are 400+ trophies to get, but I do not recommend it) and this is how I mostly played it throughout. The story is on par with the previous installment, featuring new characters, while also filling the Joker quota, as that’s what most fans have desired in the broad strokes of the Batman universe.
While Arkham City doesn't bring any new essential elements, it exceeds what was done so well in the previous game, such as the combat system. Nearing the end of the game, beat up thugs was always satisfying, albeit not very challenging: Stalking, picking and choosing methods of predatory action created numerous iterations of assault, and while it tolerates button-mashing, it rewards those who pick and choose attacks and counters, all leading to an extremely satisfying combination.
The tacked on Catwoman material felt forced, creating parallel equipment for her to play like Batman, with a whip for maneuvering and caltrops in place of the “Batarang”. Also, it is a shame that the fact of this being new-game material only, an awful way to get people not to purchase used games, made me wonder just how necessary playing as Catwoman was (the used game incentives is a completely different issue altogether). Add to this the several codes you have to input before actually playing the game, I was set to hate these Catwoman chapters before I even played them, leaving a sour taste in my mouth on new copy exclusives altogether.
“Sequel-itus” aside, Batman: Arkham City continues to develop an interesting universe, proving that superhero video games aren’t always terrible once again. What I want and what I expect from a new Batman game from Rocksteady are actually not two completely different ideals, although I sincerely hope they do not focus on only making a bigger universe in a third game, because the strengths of this chapter, and the previous installment, are the intensely focused storyline and fleshed out characters of the Batman universe.