Batman: Arkham City is the long hyped follow up release to Batman Arkham Asylum. That game saw Batman trapped in the famous mad house trying to prevent the Joker from over running the Asylum and Gotham itself with titan (a derivative based off of Bane’s Venom formula). In the game you fight your way through a host of Batman’s villain foes to finally fight a beefed up super Joker. After taking him out you leave him on the island quiet clearly in a lot of pain and very, very ill.
This is kind of where Arkham City picks up. If you read the tie-in comic series you will know that Hugo Strange has been made chief psychiatrist of Arkham and decided to move all the inmates into a small part of the lower town. Although I say lower part as you move around its clear these are not the slums of the narrows that you see in Batman Begins it has quite a few of Gotham’s well known land marks including the court house and the GCPD head quarters. Batman suspecting something is up decides to enter and investigate. As the story progresses (I will not give too much away, listen to the upcoming TBU special for that) you encounter as you did in Arkham Asylum several of Batman’s villains, who have information and evidence that you will need to complete the storyline, as well as investigate Joker’s illness and who exactly is running Arkham City, whether its Strange, Talia, Joker or Maxie Zeus (okay well its not Maxie Zeus, but it should have been).
The storyline itself is fast flowing, action packed and leads you right to the climax in a well paced and clever way. I think the story, which is a weakness for some games, has always been the strength for Batman and it has always held up well for many of the games, even if the rest of the game has not. The integration of Catwoman also into the story is very well done and does not feel to jarring as you switch between the two. However I did feel that more could have been made of her character. I did not feel I spent enough time in her skin to understand or really care about her character and although the chance to play her parts of the story do, to an extent, ad to her. It just still does not feel enough to make me enjoy or really like her.
Speaking of side characters, while much has been made of Robin turning up also in the game, I felt it was an epic let down and to me served no purpose really. Now before I get abuse from the Robin fans. I say that as a massive fan of Tim. That is why I felt disappointed; it really felt tacked on to drive up interest in the game rather than further the storyline. Now as I said in the podcasts I did not want Robin as a playable character mainly as I felt there would be too much going on. And I stand by that argument. However, I was expecting more than just 5 seconds. Also I did not like the fact Tim sounded about thirty five in the game. He is 17-18 and it is a shame they could not have made him sound like that. I think like Nightwing’s character he would have been better served by just being a downloadable special.
That said the special combat is amazing with each character given their own style of combat. This really adds depth to the game and makes it feel that you really are getting more for your money. Catwoman and Batman have special moves with Batman much more stealth and less maneuverability but boy can he take one hell of a beating. This topped off by some bone crunching finishing moves. This is alternatively counter balanced by Catwoman who is much faster in her movements but packs less of a punch and her finishing moves exuded sexiness giving a thug a quick kiss before throwing him to the floor. While Nightwing has a more gadget and speed influenced fighting style which shows off his gymnastics background but doesn’t work so well on stealth for me. There is a fantastic flow with each fight, which allows you to quickly build up combos and then release them on some unsuspecting goon and visually it looks amazing.
As do the visuals in the entire game, from Joker’s Funland to Two-Face’s Court. It is clear that great attention has been paid to each area giving it its own unique feel and style. This makes every area interesting to explore, which was, for me, a flaw in Arkham Asylum which was that things looked a little similar. Also the fact that the thugs hang around even after completing the game also make it much more fun and gives a real replay and indeed carry on playing factor, compared to Arkham Asylum after the story end everyone cleared off and it soon got a little lonely. The fact that each goon has a style which reflects their boss is also a clever touch and it is nice to see even at times a little warring between the two. The bosses themselves are lovingly designed and the art team clearly took a lot of time over the style of the villains but kept the look of some their universe such as keeping Poison Ivy the same to give some real continuity. From Two Face’s genuinely scary face to the slight vomit inducing look of the Joker and his illness it is, visually, a feast and certainly a massive step-up from the last game.
The side missions also provide a challenge and a great way to leave the main plotline for a little while. Although it is hard not to be distracted by them and if you do it’s almost impossible to come back to the main game with some 400 plus trophies to be found and several special guests to be discovered. This is why it is useful that after completing the main story you can go back and carry on to finish the game completely. Or if you want start the game all over again but with all the gadgets so you can actually finish the game in a normal life span.
With so much to do this is not really a game you can sit down and do in one afternoon. Nor would you want to as you would simply miss too much. It is rather a large meal that you cannot finish in one go but you still keep going back to, to have just that little bit more. Which speaks volumes of the hard work that was put in (the credits take about five minutes) and it’s worth every second.
Batman: Arkham City: