NOTE: This review will contain spoilers of Arkham Asylum. If you haven’t played it first, I insist that you do before reading this.
After Arkham Asylum exceeded all expectations of a Batman video game, some might wonder if it was possible to do it again, only with a new story, new background and new characters mixed with old. Thankfully, Rocksteady not only did this…they may have shown us their own personal growth as developers.
Set once again in February, a year after the Arkham Asylum incident and in Bruce Wayne’s 8th year as the Mask Vigilante – Gotham experiences a unique scenario. 1 where the new Mayor of Gotham, Quincy Sharp (The Warden of Arkham Asylum, who took all of Batman’s credit and admiration over the incident), decides that in order to keep Gothamites happy and safe, it would be better to divide the whole city into 2. On 1 half, you have Gotham City…and on the other, is Arkham City. The setting of the game has “Escape From New York” written all over it, and Bruce Wayne disagrees with giving Gotham’s criminals half of the city to run havoc in. While doing a press conference where he expresses his disagreement, Bruce is arrested by TYGER Guards, who are Arkham City’s police force, and under the command of Arkham City’s Warden, the super-villain known as Professor Hugo Strange (1 of Batman’s earliest enemies in the comic books). Hugo provides a unique scenario, as he knows who Bruce Wayne really is, and what he does when he’s not being a brooding Tony Stark. Upon arriving inside Arkham City, he is greeted by another well-known face…The Penguin. Who brings Wayne into a back alley of the City to effectively kill him. Only for Wayne to beat everybody up, escape, and get in touch with Alfred in order to have a Bat-suit delivered to a roof-top. After this, you play as Batman, and the game technically begins (unless you got all of the DLC or the GOTY Edition, where you play as Catwoman first). So what’s the bigger picture? Well, after that massive overdose of TITAN back on Arkham Island, Joker is…a mess…and he’s dying. It’s enough to make him kidnap medical staff from the Church (Where medical staff are actually there to help sick Arkham patients), and make him approach Mr Freeze for help in finding a cure. Unfortunately for Batman, he gets caught up in Joker’s problems, and has to cooperate. Written once again by Paul Dini (and a few others), we’re provided with a slightly more complex story than Asylum, but it’s also 1 with a greater peril, and therefore 1 that’s of quality right to the end. There is also a DLC story were you get to play as both Batman and Robin. It’s pretty good for being a 2-3 hour game.
A lot can be said about Arkham City when comparing it to Arkham Asylum, and also as a standalone game. Does the game standalone? It can, but it’s a lot more fun when paired with Asylum (and makes more sense).
The Graphics came with the times and experiences, as the overall presentation of graphics on the PS3 had developed significantly in 2 years, and Rocksteady did too. They might not be on par with Uncharted 3 (which came out in the same year), but they were better than Skyrim, and many of the textures presenting dirt, grit and skin looked wonderful. Especially in The Wonder City, which I fell in love with.
The music was once again done by Nick Arundel and Ron Fish, and we were provided with a soundtrack that beautifully blends the evident borrowing of both Danny Elfman (Tim Burton’s Batman) and Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy). In it’s own way, it’s 1 of the best presentations of Batman within music. Big, dynamic, haunting, gritty, and dark.
The gameplay is a step-up from Arkham Asylum and flows much better than it used to, especially within the combat aspects. We’re also introduced to an upgrade of Detective Mode, which allows Batman to be a detective at a crime scene, and not just have x-ray vision. In general, Arkham City is a gem in its polish…especially if you play as Catwoman. The RPG elements are once again really well done, and the new gadgets that help you both get around and collect Riddler Trophies are excellent. It can also be noted that they really stepped up with The Riddler’s influence, by having hostages involved when you solve a certain amount of his challenges. There aren’t as many actual riddles, but the puzzles themselves are well done.
The range of characters and their presentation in Arkham City (in design and voice) is very pleasing. It’s full of surprises, and it’s the closest that a Batman game has gotten to having a near-perfect super-villain reunion. You have Joker (obviously), Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Catwoman (thought she was always on the fence), Mr Freeze, Bane, Hugo Strange…and others…I’ll keep them a surprise, because they were very pleasant. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill once again return to play Batman and Joker, and much like the Animated Series and Arkham Asylum, their chemistry remains a treat.
Compared to Arkham Asylum, how are the Boss Battles? They’re definitely an improvement. But 1 boss fight stands-out in particular is Mr Freeze. His boss fight can be rather difficult, even on easier settings. Reason? Because you can’t attack him the same way twice. He learns, and he deals with any attempts to try that attack again. I haven’t had a boss fight as good (and as unnerving) as this since The End in Metal Gear Solid 3 (They’re different, but because they’re unique and stand-out, they’re great), a proper cat-and-mouse boss fight.
Would I recommend Arkham City? Well…I guess. It’s 1 of the best video games ever made, so I think it’s worth a look. I enjoy it enough that I have few problems with replaying it again and again. It’s really that good.
Overall Rating: *****