Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to one of the best games I have ever played in my life. Batman: Arkham Asylum set such a high bar that I was actually afraid that a sequel wouldn’t do it justice. If Batman: Arkham City has a flaw, it’s that perhaps it tries to do too much at times. Arkham City is alive and vibrant with tons of things to do, places to explore, and thugs to beat down. Batman: Arkham City is all the things fans of the first game could want and more.
The plot of Batman: Arkham City will definitely be a point of contention. Some people will think that it is a brilliantly crafted and complex story, while others may feel like it just has too much going on and needs more focus. Personally, I am somewhere in between. The only thing that I can say about the story for sure is that nothing is what it seems, and if you think you can put it all together early in the game, you would be tremendously off base. One thing for sure is that you will get to the bottom of it, and when you do make sure you come back and let us know what you thought about it – no spoilers though.
Batman: Arkham City pulls no punches dropping player’s right into the middle of the action as soon as the game starts, letting them get in on a little Catwoman action. For anybody that played the original, this won’t be a challenge because the same free flow system that allowed for awesome and dynamic attack/counter combat is back and better than ever. The combat system in Arkham City is so simple that anybody can master it quickly, but it is still extremely satisfying to pull off flawless combos among a gang of enemies for more advanced players. As you get your bearings in the wild environment that is Arkham City, you will very quickly notice that movement feels a lot better this time around – much more natural and fluid.
Batman: Arkham City is an example of what separates the good developers from the great developers. Batman: Arkham City is pretty large in terms of size and the player can move through that environment very quickly depending on the methods used, and it never feels like the game is slowing down or lagging. Compared to some other less impressive titles that require huge installs, Batman: Arkham City requires a relatively small install, and from there performs near seamlessly throughout the game.
For those of you that bought the game new, you got the Catwoman DLC as part of the purchase, though you may have had trouble getting it to work properly. The Catwoman storyline left me a bit wanting honestly. There are such huge gaps in between her story and you almost forget that it’s actually happening. From a gameplay perspective, it’s a nice changeup though as Catwoman plays a bit different from Batman. While Batman is much more deliberate and forceful with his movements, Catwoman is of course much more agile and graceful. It’s hard to discuss the Catwoman portion of the game too much without giving away a lot of the story. However, I will say that if you don’t have the Catwoman DLC, it wouldn’t drastically change your overall opinion of the game either way.
Batman’s gadgets were one of the highlights the last time around and they don’t disappoint this time around. By the end of the game you will literally have a dozen weapons and gadgets at your disposal. The game will present you with some very complex puzzles, especially on some of the side missions, and understanding how gadgets can be used in harmony with others is key. I am happy to report that even with so many gadgets, you never feel like Batman has too many. They all have a function. When you get to a certain number of weapons, using the basic up/down/left/right buttons to select them won’t work. Diagonal is actually used to select gadgets as well. This may be obvious to most people, but it wasn’t to me so I wanted to share that.
If I had one problem with Batman: Arkham City, it had to be in the composition of the type of enemies you face later in the game. From the start, in combat situations you will always be outnumbered, but mastering the freeflow combat system will allow you make quick work of even large gangs of thugs. The problems start to occur about midway through the game when you start facing 3 and 4 types of enemies in the same grouping. Batman can easily handle dozens of enemies that are unarmed or armed with melee objects. Where he is very vulnerable is when you throw in enemies with guns. Batman isn’t superhuman and bullets can drop him relatively quick. Normally, you would just go after the guy(s) with the guns and take them out first, the problem is that someone else just picks it up and starts shooting you again. The result of this is that even when you are handling an onslaught of unarmed enemies with ease, you will still find yourself dying way to much because somebody has picked up a gun and unloaded on you. In a mass of 10 or more enemies, it also becomes very difficult to identify who is actually shooting you without getting beat up in the process. Luckily, Batman has the ability to drop bombs. There is a button combination that allows you to quick drop them, so learn it and prepare to use it a lot late in the game or suffer multiple frustrating deaths.
Batman: Arkham City is one of the best games you will play this year…PERIOD. Outside of its main storyline, there is a ton to do in terms of side missions and other objectives. I felt that it was a bit inconsistent in how they treated villains. There were some that had large roles in the game, and others had what I would consider bit parts. I understand Rocksteady didn’t want to rehash the same villains over and over, but their major focus on some characters that are barely part of the Batman mythos is interesting. The biggest point of contention though will more than likely be the ending. Of course I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it’s a major move in terms of any additional games in the franchise. I can’t guarantee what the majority of people will feel about it, but I can personally say that I was a bit disappointed. My first thought after seeing it was “Can it end like this?” I mean intellectually I understand what they were trying to achieve, though emotionally it gave me a different response.
In the end, Batman: Arkham City is a brilliant game even if its story gets a bit convoluted at times. If I could change one thing about the game I would have given it just a bit more focus. In a rush to tell all these stories and explore all these angles, they diluted the content just a bit. Conversely, I commend Rocksteady for not being content with just rehashing what they did the last time around, even if it didn’t quite work in every instance. Batman: Arkham City is more than a worthy sequel to the original and for that we give Batman: Arkham City by Rocksteady 9.5 out of 10.