Le Bat is Back
Before getting into the nitty gritty of why this game deserves praise, it should be known that I am by no means a perfect-score, reviewing whore-man. If anything, more recently, my tolerance of video games has worn thin. It takes a really immersive piece of work for me to rave about it. Perhaps it's my growing lack of patience in life or maybe I should be diagnosed with ADHD.
Nonetheless, it's very easy to preach the great things Rocksteady has accomplished in this second installment of the Arkham franchise. What appears to be less defined is what could have worked better, or as some might say, what just isn't that great.
It's funny, because I have to be very particular to pinpoint the cons. For one, all the henchmen/thugs could have varying opinions about the happenings of Arkham City and Batman. But no, everyone just wants a bullet in the Dark Knight's head. No exceptions. It's like they're all brainwashed by Poison Ivy.
Walking, not running, around as Batman always feels awkward no matter how much time is spent playing. Luckily enough, the majority of the time spent playing is either running, beating ass, or gliding to and from rooftops.
Despite those two annoyances the game is superb. The introduction rivals the opening image of any fantastic film--from the get-go the player is sucked in and locked within the boundaries of Arkham City until the entire story unravels itself. Even then, there's so much to do: 400 riddles littered around by the Riddler, hundreds of online leaderboard challenges (playable by not only as Batman but Catwoman and Robin as well), 12 progressive side missions (plus Catwoman's story missions), and countless unlockables.
Key differences between Arkham Asylum and City is basically picked up in the title itself. The city of Gotham has expanded the institution to an entire enclosed portion of the city. Therefore this time around it is not as linear as in the debut title. Think Grand Theft Batman, just mix in a leveling mechanic with upgrades and pitch the prostitutes... Hey now, Catwoman can be a nice lady!
The combat can be approached just like everyone's favorite conventional fighting game: minimal thought, a little timing, and button mashing OR masterful memorization, acutely measured strikes, and ninja-like fluidity. Regardless of how one decides to play through, strengthening Batman with upgrades (be that in the categories of batsuit, gadgets, combat or predator) is proven to be rewarding.
The film, The Dark Knight, was a tour-de-force that woke up many oblivious movie-goers to the reality that comic books are indeed capable of presenting memorable, complex stories. In a sense, Arkham City capitalizes on just that--relationships between characters drive the plot in multiple directions that keep players intrigued and eager to discover those story arcs.
The Joker continues to keep Le Bat on his toes, the chess game played between the two remains fresh. Thanks to over 70 years of character development in comic books, this holds true with practically every face-off between each demented antagonist and Mr. Wayne.
You may pick it up for the ass-whipping gameplay and rich aesthetics but what will keep you button-mashing is the entertaining storyline.