Arkham City came out Oct 18th, at the time of this writing three weeks ago. Normally we want all our review to be as current, relevant, and quick to come as possible. Unfortunately (sort of), that could not be the case here as I needed much more time than would be allowed to even digest enough of the game to feel comfortable giving it any sort of score. So, to find out how Batman fared in this outing, take the jump.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
The story picks up about a year after the previous game. Former Warden Sharp is now the Mayor of Gotham and has walled off a large section of the Gotham slums so as to create the new prison/city Arkham City and then sets up Hugo Strange as the head. The inmates are given free reign to do what they will as long as they don’t get too close to the walls and of course some of the larger personalities start carving up territory as they want.
This is where Batman comes in. As Bruce Wayne, he starts speaking out against Arkham City and is promptly arrested in the middle of a press conference. During processing, Strange reveals that he knows Batman and Wayne are one and the same and still sends him straight into the city. This is where the game starts.
The game quickly revs up as you start to figure out what’s going on and the primary story is handled very smoothly, sending you back and forth across large chunks of the city as you handle whatever twist or turn is thrown your way. The main story is full of interesting twists that kept me wanting to continue and every section proceeded logically into the next. The more interesting turn taken from the previous is the addition of the Catwoman story. Four times throughout the story, Catwoman takes the driver seat as her actions directly affect what will be happening for Batman shortly. Each sequence is handled in a logical cut from Batman and adds to the overall story. (Quick aside, the only way to get this content is by buying the game new. Each copy comes with a redemption code and the Catwoman content is technically DLC. More on this later.) Outside of the main story are literally hundreds of side missions and quests. Many of Batman’s rogues are only seen through these, but each has its own little story and their existence outside of primary one feels natural.
This is everything you could want in a sequel, including starting with almost everything you had at the end of the last. Gameplay and controls in Arkham Asylum were near perfect. Rocksteady managed to get rid of that “near” for this installment. Arkham City (the actual in game location) is massive and fairly open, as such traversing the city can take some time. To alleviate this you are provided with increased control and speed while gliding and some extra mobility and increased versatility with the general grappling hook. Both of these come into play as they are some challenges and missions that require precision flight control or speed to get across the city within a time limit. Other control improvements were made for combat and stealth modes. Each combat useful gadget now has a quick-fire button combo to be used in the middle of combat, usually designed to deal with the most problematic enemy possible. Also, multiple enemies can attack at once now, and with appropriately timed button pressing you can counter all of the attacks at once as well. In predator (stealth) mode you gain more stealth take downs, better gadget usage, and the ability to take down more than one mook at once.
Enemy AI has also been improved and the mook variety vastly increased. Previously we had guys with knives, normal guys, and titans; now we have titans, knife guys, taser guys, armored guys, shielded guys, unique lieutenants and probably a couple others that I’m forgetting. Predator is where the new AI shines though as the mooks will start trying to ferret you out: tossing grenades in hard to get spots, using night/heat vision goggles, or destroying things you hide upon and vast number of other improved techniques. Additionally, the boss fights here were much better than in Arkham Asylum. Each boss feels unique and is a fun challenge to take on. My personal favorite was Mr. Freeze (why isn’t he Dr. Freeze? I mean he has a PHD and all) who requires you to change your tactic each time you hit him.
Catwoman is fun. She is noticeably weaker than Batman and has fewer gadgets, but is very much quicker and more agile. I could feel the difference between playing her (finesse) and Batman (applied strength) in combat and the stealth differences make tactic changes absolutely necessary. I’ve also purchased the Nightwing DLC and he makes for a good balance between the two.
Outside of the actual game, Rocksteady gives us more of the challenge modes from the previous game. This time redubbed as Riddler’s Revenge we get more of the same from the previous game and a new system dubbed “Campaigns.” These campaigns are where we see more interesting fair as each is set up as a series of normal challenges with handicaps (both positive and negative), such as tougher enemies or Batman regenerating health, that have to be used throughout. Much like the previous game this has become my favorite part of the game as it provides the primary play features with no in between time. Also, this is the only place to play as any character other than Batman or Catwoman and so far the extra characters do add more to the experience while not being necessary.
Continued/Extended aside: DLC is frustrating me. The only way to play as Catwoman is to either buy the game new or purchase it. This includes the story content of it, no DLC, no Catwoman. The rest of the DLC announced so far (Nightwing, Robin, and alt skins) are fair uses of this plan, but the fact that Catwoman, a fairly decent chunk of the game and story, is just bad. There is even additional Catwoman story content coming down the line that will have to be purchased additionally. While I don’t agree with how it is being handled, this does not take away from the game itself and as such will not affect my score, but still needs to be addressed properly.
Arkham City is everything I hoped it would be and more: very solid gameplay, improvements upon the original, a great story, and just overall tons of fun. I would be lying if I said this deserved anything less than five stars, so it gets a full 5 of 5 stars.