The Dark Knight returns
Batman: Arkham Asylum set a new precedent when it was released just over two years ago with a great story set in the Batman world, great gameplay and solid mechanics. The sequel doesn’t disappoint and expands upon all the great things from the first game making for an unmissable experience for fans of Batman and fans of gaming alike.
Arkham City is based shortly after events from the first game where former Arkham Asylum warden Quincy Sharp now runs Gotham City as its mayor. He has sectioned off part of the city and moved all inmates from the asylum and Blackgate prison to here. This area is called Arkham City and Hugo Strange runs it and it’s your job as Batman to find out what’s going on in this god forsaken place!
The combat is as intuitive and rewarding as it was in Arkham Asylum and feels a little more polished. There’s plenty of new ways to take down the enemy in your fight against crime with several new moves such as the Bat Swarm, where you call upon a cloud of bats to daze multiple enemies at once. The Special Combat Multi Ground Takedown will make Batman jump into the air and instantly incapacitate all the thugs that are knocked down at the time. The Beat Down will send you into a flurry of punches concentrated on one foe and is especially useful against any one that is heavily armoured. It is now also possible to take out up to three bad guys during counter-attacks. As in the first game, every fight finishes with a close up of Batman taking down the last man standing and it never gets boring.
The graphics are beautiful in a dark gothic sense with old buildings and neon lights creating a great sense of what Gotham could look like and feel like as a whole. The area is roughly four times bigger than that of Arkham Asylum and the gameplay benefits significantly from the use of more space. Moving around the neon lit City of Arkham is a pleasure and is just what Batman needed after the small open space we were given in the previous game. You can dive bomb, swoop in between buildings and boost off your grappling hook like a slingshot giving the game a flow and freedom of movement reminiscent of Just Cause 2, albeit a much darker setting.
There are now several side missions away from the main game; some are extremely short and will be completed in no time, others will carry on throughout the game, but all are a welcome distraction from the main storyline and keeps things interesting. As well as these, the Riddler trophies make a comeback. There are now around 400 of these in total and some are extremely tricky requiring the use of multiple gadgets and some quick thinking in order to unlock the trophy. Many will be impossible to get until you progress through the game and upgrade to some better gadgetry. Any trophies you can’t get can be marked on the map to tackle later on.
The sound design is fantastic; turn the sound up on a decent system during a fight and you will feel the punches yourself. Voice acting is also a highlight with the return of Mark Hamill as the joker as well as several other great performances.
Once completed, fear not! There is still the new game plus to play where the difficulty is ramped up. This hardcore mode is like playing the real game without the hand-holding of the normal mode: On-screen prompts for moves are removed, there are more henchmen to deal with as well as more variation in enemies from the very start, and you will have all the gadgets and moves that you unlocked in your first play-through. This mode will sort out the boys from the Bat-men!
Challenge maps make a return with 12 combat challenges and 12 predator challenges. Combat challenges will have you fighting off four waves of increasingly hard enemies trying to keep your combo flowing as best as you can. Predator challenges require a more stealthy approach and will give you a set of three goals for each map such as: taking down a bad guy through a wall or knocking someone out with a batarang and then take them down. These are useful for training yourself but also work great competitively for any leader board chasers out there.
As for the bad, all I can come up with is some slightly off lip syncing and texture pop in, but seriously I can’t a find a game without these problems to some extent. Batman still feels a little stiff but he’s a big guy wearing a big suit so maybe he’s supposed to feel a little stiff.
Arkham city expands upon the first game in every way possible. There’s more to do, more to see and everything you loved about the first one is back, bigger and better than before.
Fans of the first game have to play this and newcomers should consider playing Arkham Asylum first but will have no problems getting into this.