Batman, The Dark Knight, Watchful Protector of Gotham City is one of the greatest superheroes of all time. In 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum rocked the gaming world with it's impressive graphics, multi use of gadgetry, absorbing story, seamless combat and faithful villains.
Featuring open-world gameplay, a host of new gadgets, new playable characters, and returning comic-book villains, the release of Arkham City was touted to be even better than it's multiple-award winning predecessor. With the first game awarded as the 2009 Game of the Year, how does Arkham City shape up in comparison?
What Arkham City Got Right
You're Batman - Who ever said being overpowered was boring? Being The Dark Knight has never been more fun. Combat is as rewarding as ever as you take on gangs of thugs with special takedowns, gadget combat, and sneak attacks. Batman is skilled at both stealth and combat, allowing you to choose your tactic wisely while faced with groups of armed thugs throughout Arkham City. Throughout the game, the thugs are equipped with high powered guns, riot shields, switchblades, and heart monitors forcing you to change your tactics every time. The use of Batman's 12 different gadgets in combat, stealth, and puzzle-solving is more satisfying than ever.
Open-ended gameplay - Arkham City definitely has a lot more going on than the Asylum. The city is yours as you can wander off the beaten path at any time to explore more of your surroundings. As you fly around the city, you overhear conversations between the inmates which really fleshes out the scenario and may even lead you to discover new side missions. At any one time, you will have riddles to solve, riddler trophies to collect, several side missions to complete as well as the main story which means you'll be kept busy in Arkham City.
Rewarding side quests - While Arkham Asylum's side quests were limited to Riddler trophies and solving riddles, these are a major aspect of Arkham City. The main story only takes about 6-10 hours to complete but the side quests really add to the bulk of the game. There are 12 side missions overall, some which are unlocked after certain points in the story and others which are discovered by exploring Arkham City. Completing the missions are quite rewarding, as you will encounter and stop some main villains from the Batman universe. By collecting Riddler trophies and secrets, you'll also unlock Arkham City Stories and Character Bios which fleshes out what has happened since Arkham Asylum.
Rich, immersive game world -
The level of detail put into the game world is astounding, bringing the Batman universe to life. Arkham City is filled with crime, corruption, and turf wars, with an astounding level of surrealism. Inmates are overheard commenting on recent happenings, the harsh conditions of the City and even the lack of women. Cleverly devised puzzles in the form of explosive walls, hackable devices, and riddler trophies are littered across the city which can be identified using the Detective Mode. Filled with places to explore and villains to discover, the highly immersive world should be once again commended in Arkham City. The Catwoman segments which come with your PC version of Arkham City are also a bonus. While short and sweet, they do add an extremely fun element to the game, fleshing out the game world even more.
Numerous villains - Familiar faces from Arkham Asylum make a return and new faces are there to discover. The game opens with a showdown between Catwoman and Two-face and you are soon plunged into the world of Arkham City's corrupt, ganglike population. Arkham City has definitely blown the number of villains out of the water by breathing life into many familiar characters, including Mr Freeze, Penguin, Ra's Al Ghul, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Bane and much more. The villains are perhaps the most fascinating part of the game and the Batman universe as they are so twisted and unique in their nature, and Arkham City really delves into their background and methods.
Movie quality production - Carried on from Arkham Asylum, the movie-quality graphics and flawless voice acting are superb. Arkham City looks and feels as if you are part of an interactive movie. If you have an Nvidia Graphics Card, you'll be able to enjoy the rich particle and 3D effects of PhysX. PhysX adds a superior level of realism and immersion within the game, ensuring that it looks as impressive than ever.
What Arkham City Got Wrong
Boss fights are too easy - With so many villains running amuck, the relative ease of the boss fights was a slight disappointment in Arkham City. Like the first game, defeating each boss required specific tactics for victory, but it seems the focus was more on the innovation rather than the difficulty of the fight. While I admit some of the fight sequences were cool, especially the one with Mr Freeze and Ra's Al Ghoul, most of them were rather underwhelming. Definitely no match for the Scarecrow sequence from Arkham Asylum.
Aggravating Augmented Reality Training - If the Advanced Augmented Reality training was only put in to add to the playable hours count, then I'm going to rage. Never has there been such a frustrating side quest in my opinion. Basically you have to fly through these hoops which are so precise and out of reach that they seem to be impossible to achieve. Being the completionist that I am, hours upon hours was spent trying to achieve this which really soured the beginning of the Arkham City experience for me. If achievements don't matter to you, then I suggest completed the Basic training and skipping the Advanced section altogether. (Mind you, I did end up completing the training but the measly achievement was not worth the lost time in making that happen).
Controversial ending - I'm just being picky now, but it's definitely worth a mention - it is without a doubt that Arkham City may feature one of the most controversial game endings of all time. Like any good ending, it's emotionally affecting and leaves you in a sense of limbo, where you try and piece together the ends that will unfortunately stay unanswered until the sequel. I'm not going to spoil it for you - you'll just need to play the game and find out what happens.
The Final Verdict
From combat to gadgetry, villains to side missions, extra content to different playable characters, and a strong engaging story, Batman: Arkham City has undoubtedly topped it's predecessor and is a definite contender for Game of the Year 2011. With two out of three "shortfalls" that aren't really faults, Batman: Arkham City is a near perfect game. Whether you're a diehard fan of Batman, or you're simply looking for a good game to play, you'd be hard pressed to find one better than Batman: Arkham City. Go forth into the world of criminal masterminds and save Gotham City!
By Jeann Wong