Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release: October 18, 2011
Batman: Arkham City is a lot like you remember Arkham Asylum. The same feeling of taking on the role of Batman exists in the sequel, but the experience is tweaked with upgrades to combat animations and extensive side missions. Whether you’re gliding through the city, grappling from building to building, or combating Jokers’ goons, you’ll feel just like the character you may have read about, watched in movies, or played in the first game.
Like the original game, Arkham City throws you into a dark, open world riddled with conflict from Batman’s favorite arch enemies. The Joker is yet again a prominent figure in setting the challenges you’ll face in the game. He often takes advantage of his allegiances with other enemies, and that stirs the pot even more for his twisted and diabolical plans.
Although the setting is very much reminiscent of the experiences you undergo in Arkham Asylum, Arkham City is just as its name would indicate: a comic-inspired crime and adventure story, but set in the much larger atmosphere of Gotham City itself. Each sector of the city is the domain of Penguin, Joker, Mr. Freeze and others. You can see the thematic differences between the areas as you glide or crawl your way through them.
The included DLC also allows you to play as Catwoman, a snarky and lithe character who is lighter on her feet, but almost as impressive of a fighter as Batman himself. Although her role in the game often feels like fodder, it does offer a chance to experience the world of Gotham from a different perspective, in both her character as well as her fighting style.
But the Batman series brought to you by Rocksteady and Warner Bros. is also a heavy sneak game. Batman is, after all, a master of his gadgets. This wouldn’t be an appropriate Batman game without the developers ensuring you’re to make best use of them. Once again sneaking through ventilation shafts and taking enemies down from under cover, Batman lets his enemies know who is in charge, and enemy bosses like Joker even laugh at their own goons over it, taunting them over who may be next.
This only works to feed your ego as the silent, dark knight as you enter detective mode to scope out the next most feasible target. Maybe you want to chuck a batarang at an unsuspecting meathead just to tease him. That’s all up to you. Personally, we really like drop attacking them from above, with the occasional electric shock for good measure.
The highlight of this particular sneak game, though, is that it still manages to be a fast-paced experience. While a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution has us timing our movements to the precise measurement needed, Arkham City let’s you quickly grapple between enemy targets. If you’re careful not to alert anyone, you can clean the room without having to wait and linger on the gargoyles above for too long.
You start off well-equipped enough to feel like Batman should feel - namely, a rich and resourceful badass - but the upgrades are still compelling to incentivize the need for them. You can upgrade everything from your gadgets to your combat moves, adding to the roster of how you can take your enemies down.
The gadgets at your disposal have more function than just hassling and taking down your enemies, though. Much of the experience in Batman is also about solving puzzles. This is particularly prevalent when undertaking Riddler’s missions who, as you might guess, loves setting up puzzles and riddles for Batman, especially considering his idea that he’s far more intelligent than you are.
Half the fun of Batman: Arkham City (and its predecessor for that matter) is searching out for the small green question marks, and figuring out ways to attain the ones out of your reach but in your sight. You may be on your way to interrogate Mr. Freeze but soon find yourself distracted and on a wholly separate course led by neon painted question marks and on-screen questions prompted as you fly around the designated riddle area.
Batman: Arkham City will certainly appeal to your achievement whore side, because there are a ton to complete. A lot of games feature mini games, but Arkham City (and Asylum) did it best with a mini-game that keeps you captivated and hungry for more. You actually want to solve these puzzles, not just because you have to for those precious, precious cheevos.
That’s not the only side of Arkham City that will have you potentially off course from the main game. You can finish the main storyline and still have over half of the game left to finish. Completion percentages reveal just how minimal the main storyline is in comparison to the entirety of missions you can complete.
As you fly through Gotham’s skies, you may hear a prisoner being beat up, or a phone ringing that Batman knows can only mean one, dangerous thing. You can choose to partake in the side missions that are ongoing as you navigate from one main mission to the next. If you’re particularly fiending for more side quests, Batman’s scanner can easily pick up police calls by scanning the nearby area for any broadcasts of emergencies.
Potential Batmen beware, though, as combat against the typical goons can sometimes feel like a grind. The excitement in playing Arkham City ultimately becomes about versing the next boss. Each boss has unique characteristics that are spelled out in their behaviors when you fight them. Both experiencing that personality, as well as figuring out exactly how to defeat them becomes one of the more fun aspects of Arkham City. While goon fights involve swift combat moves and a lot of camping, boss fights are predominantly about managing the balance between dodging their strikes and timing your moves.
Batman: Arkham City may not be a wholly new experience, and rides a lot off of the successes of the first title, but it’s just as fulfilling an experience. With more animations during combat, you feel significantly more like Batman on seeing the variety that brings to your fights.
Arkham City is a sneak game that gets better as you hone your skills through practice, but ultimately it’s a game that immerses you into the feeling of entering Batman’s shoes as effectively as Arkham Asylum managed.