Arkham Asylum was a saving grace for both Batman and superhero games everywhere. Rocksteadys attention to detail, characters and story brought reluctant fans back to the genre of Superhero video games. So when Arkham City was announced (after someone accidently discovered a hidden room in Arkham Asylum) fans were pumped to get a return and hoped that the game would live up to its predecessor. Let me tell you, that after having it now for almost two weeks I was NOT disappointed at all. Improvements were made in a lot of areas and I only found myself ridiculously frustrated ONCE in the entire game. But we’ll get to that later, let’s jump right in!
Arkham City takes place roughly a year after the events of the first game. Former Warden of Arkham Quincy Sharp has become Mayor and after purchasing a large section of Gotham, turns it into a free roaming prison for the inmates of both Blackgate and Arkham who find themselves without a normal place of incarceration. In charge of the whole thing? Professor Hugo Strange of course, one of the few Bat villains to know the true identity of Batman himself. So it should be no surprise when Bruce Wayne is kidnapped by Tyger Security, the force in charge of Arkham City, while he’s protesting outside. Enter Batman into Arkham City. While the first game had a long intro and a lot of walking before you ever got to beat up any thugs, Arkham City doesn’t even wait for the opening credits to be over. You’re first mission as Catwoman takes place before you even play as Batman!
Like the first game, Arkham Citys story is strong with Paul Dini returning along for writing duties. Hugo Strange has a mysterious “Protocol 10” that you have to investigate and on top of that, you have all the normal crazies running around including The Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze and more. There’s cameo’s out the ying yang of notable Bat characters including Vicky Vale, Jack Ryder (more commonly known as The Creeper), along with returning baddies like Killer Croc and The Riddler. I know the Riddler challenges annoyed some folks in the first game but I always liked them. This time things have been improved where The Riddler has kidnapped several EMT’s and has them held hostage throughout the city. Finding riddler trophies and solving his riddles will lead you to the locations of the EMT’s that need saving. How do you find the Riddles? Are there more maps like the first game? Sort of, but no. This time around when you enter detective mode, certain thugs are lit up Green, meaning they work for Riddler. After eliminating all the other thugs in the group, with the Greenie being the last one standing, you can interrogate them to reveal clues to you. Common thugs are also a little smarter in this game, so be careful as the game goes on because they will find you easier if you are hiding and will tend to stick together. It’s definately more challenging!
Navigating the city can be tricky. I compared it to a not as large version of GTA. In a big city for the first time, everything looks the same and can easily lead to you getting lost. The onscreen map from the first game is gone, leaving you with more or less a compass telling you which way to go. Unfortunately the bulk of Arkham City is a big U shape, which means if you’re on one side and your goal is on the other it will tell you to go one direction that will ultimately lead you into a brick wall, literally. As the game progresses you’ll find yourself recognizing buildings and generally having an easier time getting around, but it can still be annoying sometimes to have to pause and open up your map to see where the hell you’re going.
The graphics and attention to detail are just as on par as they were in the first game. Dazzling visuals create such real characters that you forget that men who can’t survive outside the cold don’t actually exist. To go with the amazing visuals is the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill in what will apparently be his last time portraying the Joker, though we’ve heard that before. Other big names in voice acting join the game this time around including Maurice LeMarche takes on the role of Mr. Freeze and Tara Strong takes over the role of Harley Quinn that was previously played by Batman: The Animated Series veteran Arleen Sorkin. Tara puts in such a strong performance you’d never know that it wasn’t Arleen, it’s that good!
As always, once the game is over you find that the game isn’t over yet. You’re probably like me and leave the The Riddler stuff till the end when you can “Clean up the streets” freely so you can do the challenges without getting attacked. Not to mention there’s several instances in the game that lead me to believe another sequel is in the works, though only time will tell for sure on that one. If the sales and reviews continue like they have though, it’s only a matter of time before we get “Arkham State” or “United States of Arkham.” Another positive for Arkham City is the increased DLC available. Depending on where you bought your game you may have gotten new costumes for Batman and Catwoman, new challenge maps, early access to the Robin DLC or more. PS3 has an exclusive Sinestro Corps skin for Batman available when you buy Green Lantern on BluRay. Don’t ask why it’s Sinestro Corps when he was never a member, I don’t get it either but it still looks pretty badass.
Now other than the issue with the onscreen map, the only thing I had problems with was with the glide feature. New to this game, you can now DIVE while gliding across the streets, and in one mission you are required to go back and forth between diving and gliding to cross dangerous territory. However, the game doesn’t teach you how after entering the dive and going back to gliding you can pull up heavily and gain more height again and not just crashed straight into the ground a few seconds later. It was so frustrating it lead to the only time I had to go online to see what the frig I was supposed to do to pass it!
To go with the new Dive feature are new Bat gadgets along with the old. You start off the game with almost all the gadgets you had at the end of the first game, with only the line launcher missing. New toys include freeze bombs, smoke bombs (which are SUPER handy), a weapons disruptor and a few more. Of course all these are available to upgrade through out the game as well to increase strength, distance or how effective they are. As you upgrade you are also able to upgrade Catwoman as well. Don’t be like me and ignore her because it will get to the point where you need her to be pretty tough! So focus on Bats, but don’t forget your favorite femme fetale either!
Though it’s not necessary to have played Arkham Asylum before hand, the backstory involving the Joker can only enrich your playing experience. So pick it up at your local GameStop used, it’s not very expensive, and play through before picking up Arkham City. While playing STRAIGHT THROUGH the game can be fun, cherish it, because the story actually goes pretty fast!
PETER is still playing Arkham City to try and get as close to 100% as he can. He loves the fact that when you finish the game, you can use the DLC skins in the story mode, so you can kickass as Batman: The Animated Series version!