It was a revelation when it was first released two years ago. “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” the best superhero game ever made at that point, told a tale of the Dark Knight as he attempted to quell a rebellion within the walls of Gotham’s infamous institution. Coupled with a great combat system, a slew of classic characters, secrets galore and genuinely gripping atmosphere, it was the Batman game people had waited years to play.
If there was one thing that could be held against “Asylum,” though, it would be that its setting was somewhat confined. Enter the sequel, “Arkham City.” Now, a massive chunk of Gotham — turned into a city-sized prison where the inmates are allowed to run wild — is the setting, giving the player an incredible amount of freedom to roam and explore.
The feeling that you are stepping into the Caped Crusader’s shoes is more powerful than ever.
The plot sees Batman traversing the city in an effort to learn the truth behind the institution’s existence, and why a madman like the villain Hugo Strange has been put in charge of it. There’s also an overriding sense of doom, aided by the returning Joker, who appears to be dying of a mysterious malady.
The original game’s excellent combat mechanics have been retained, as fights with a group of enemies flow with a grace of power and skill. Also back are all the trademark Bat-gadgets seen the first time, plus oodles more — if anything, the game may be a bit too overpopulated with gadgetry, as it’s a lot to keep up with, but man does it feel cool.
Once the main campaign is finished, “Arkham City” still provides oodles more to do. In addition to the original game’s Riddler challenges, greatly expanded in number, the game features a vast selection of side missions for a player to find.
These aren’t silly quests, either — these are full-fledged narratives featuring even more classic villains and tremendous set pieces. Players even get the chance to play as the infamous Catwoman. (Note: Unlocking Catwoman requires a pass code provided with new copies of the game.)
All told, “Batman: Arkham City” does everything a sequel to a successful game should do — it takes what was accomplished, polishes and expands it, and uses it to tell a compelling story. Fans of “Asylum” shouldn’t hesitate to snap this one up — and neither should fans of great games everywhere.
For a second opinion, I invited Toledo Free Press Star video game reviewer Michael Siebenaler to share his review:
“Batman: Arkham City,” the sequel to the 2009 video game “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” does not disappoint. It is an amazing one-player game experience with up to four profile saves. The Batman and Robin option cannot be too far away. Great additional elements include add-on content, leader boards and 3-D capability, but the real experience comes from the initial setup, characters and varied gameplay.
Players get a peek of Catwoman early in the story and then can play this counterpart character (using the included code), who basically gets a guest role in this installment. The villain encounters add nice touches, like an optional attack on the Penguin after beating his thugs. This delightful option is subtle, as developers avoided any visual cues or icons, which matches the intuitive experience. Some boss characters go down a bit too easily, but the overall challenge level is high.
Grapple, sneak, jump, eavesdrop and fly around the environments as each scenario presents different challenges and thrills. Sometimes the Dark Knight can fall off ledges from player missteps (a common gameplay frustration), but not at highly vital moments, like from the top of a tall building. The smooth enemy-to-enemy fighting lets players create smooth fisticuff sessions interrupted only when baddies get a lucky hit.
Batman gets a nice technology assist with the detective mode, which is available anytime but does not include the helpful navigation tools. This game series has now produced one of the few adapted properties where the extra materials (see the included catalog) actually enhance the experience instead of making players cringe with awkward commercialism where game developers just want more money.
Developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive, this game is available on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The “Batman: Arkham City Collectors Edition” includes bonus game content, art book, music soundtrack, bonus movie, special figure and more. The Nightwing Bundle Pack is available now while the Robin Bundle Pack releases Nov. 22, which is also the release date for the PC version. A Wii U version is also planned for 2012.
Tags: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Batman, Catwoman, Hugo Strange, Jeff McGinnis, Joker, Michael Siebenaler, Nightwing, PC, Penguin, PlayStation 3, Pop Goes the Culture, Riddler, Robin, Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive, Wii U, Xbox 360