Hello and welcome to part 2 of my three-part Batman game review! This review will look at the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum and see if it holds up to its predecessor.
Batman: Arkham City was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in 2011. The game follows the Dark Knight when he, as Bruce Wayne, is arrested and thrown into the newly-built Arkham City, a city-wide open world prison. Due to the massive breakout that happened in the previous game, Warden Sharp, now mayor, convinced city officials to take the northern part of Gotham and wall it off in order to turn it into a massive prison for housing every range of criminal imaginable. A private security team, called Tyger Guards, is supposed to be enforcing prison rules, but instead they let the inmates have free reign. This allows for the bigger criminals to not only rebuild their organisations but also begin an arms race to take over the entire prison and become top dog. Batman has many missions in this game and tackling the arms issue is but one of them.
The game takes place a year and a half after its predecessor and begins once Bruce has been deposited into Arkham City. After a quick meander he runs into Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin, who wants to exact revenge for what the Wayne family did to his own. After beating everyone up and leaving the scene, Bruce makes his way to the top of Ace Chemicals while in communication with Alfred via a wrist band in order to establish the building as a drop off point for the Batplane to deliver his costume. He then suits up and the game is on!
Mysterious powers control the forces in Arkham City. Although Quincy Sharp was the poster child for the establishment of the prison, Batman knows that the mayor is a puppet and discovers that Professor Hugo Strange is pulling his strings. When confronted by Hugo at the beginning of the game, Bruce realizes the professor knows of him being Batman and threatens to release that information should Batman interfere with the plan dreamed up for Arkham City. Naturally Batman interferes anyway to discover what this plan is, which is given the ominous name of Protocol 10, and put an end to it. But he has more than just Professor Strange to deal with.
The Joker returns to reek havoc once again. As it turns out he is dying due to something he did to himself for the climactic event from the last game. To make things worse, he transfers his own illness to Batman as motivation for having his archenemy get the cure, which the Joker enlisted the help of Mr. Freeze in order to have created. Hugo and the Joker are the two main villains of the game and the overall story encompasses both characters, though there are many more to contend with both in the main story and in side missions: the Mad Hatter, Two-Face, Deadshot, and the Riddler, amongst others.
Gameplay consists of puzzle solving, stealth and brawler fighting, investigation, and exploration. The puzzle-solving is mainly contained to completing Riddler challenges, though it is also used for the Mr. Freeze boss battle, where no form of attack can be used on him twice! The fighting works exactly the same as it does for the last game, but the fighting system has been improved and refined for a better playing experience. Investigation and exploration work exactly the same and play just as big a role as they did in the previous game.
You can venture away from the main story any time you want to tackle available side missions. These range from saving political prisoners from thugs, to identifying a killer known as the Identity Thief, to discovering who the mysterious person observing your actions is, plus more. Though the side missions can be completed during the game or after it is over, there is one that is meant to be played solely during the game’s run and it will feel out of place if you save it for later. Completing side quests, along with fights and playing the story, earn you experience points which you can use to upgrade your equipment, combat skills, and health.
Some of Batman’s gadgets from the previous game make a return, while others have a spotlight shone on them. As before, many gadgets can also be used for combat techniques outside of their normal applications of exploration. A new addition, however, has certain gadgets assigned to certain button presses for quick firing. These button combinations are easy to remember, though recalling which gadget is assigned to the quick fire button variable can be difficult for new players.
In addition to the standard game, there is an extra difficulty setting called New Game Plus that can be unlocked after beating the game on Normal or Hard. As you play through the entirety of the game again, you will find that the enemies are a little smarter and there are no indicators above their heads to show which ones are about to attack you. A benefit given for those who play New Game Plus is that they start out with all of the gadgets and upgrades they obtained during the previous playthrough.
1,500 words are just not enough for me to give this game the proper justice this game deserves. The problems it has are all minor, and therefore not worth mentioning, though one problem many players seem to have (outside of Arleen Sorkin not reprising her role of Harley, being replaced instead by Tara Strong for some reason) is that the experience is lacking. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a closed-off environment that made you feel like you were in a horror movie, an element that is lost when cavorting about in an open world. I personally have no problem with the environmental shift as I have always known and accepted that there was more to the Batman universe than enclosed spaces. The Dark Knight has an entire city for his playground, so the shift between the two games never bothered me. Plus, even though the horror elements are gone in this game, that does not mean that the Joker has gone soft. If anything, he is much worse than before!
If you do not own this game, buy it now! If you get the Game of the Year edition, you will be able to play additional game content as Catwoman, whose own story arc falls in line with the main game and is a welcome contribution instead of something that has just been tacked on. It also allows you to unlock extra costumes and play an additional game called Harley Quinn’s Revenge, which takes place two weeks after the events of Batman: Arkham City and very briefly continues the story. All in all, this game was well-crafted and deserves to be enjoyed by everyone.