Batman: Arkham City is the 3rd person beat em up, open world sequel to the Arkham Asylum game where once again you play as not only Batman, but a few missions as Catwoman. There are so many criminals in Gotham City that someone decided Black Gate prison and Arkham Asylum can’t house them all, so now there’s an entire city district now being used as a prison / asylum. With that logic out of the way, this is an open world game unique unto itself. The city is gorgeous, every part of the city is a vista no matter how grimy areas are, they’re all so beautiful. Every locale oozes personality, from a frozen police station to a clown infested steel mill. No exterior seems copied and pasted and that says a lot. There is an amazing attention to detail and the game still runs silky smooth.
While the city (district) is big, it doesn’t feel huge, there are missions that will have you from one end of the city (district) to the other in about two minutes, because Batman knows how to get around. You’ll glide from place to place, dive kick enemies and use your grappling hook to quickly get from rooftop to rooftop. Not only that, but just holding the run button has a lot of functionality, it’ll let you jump, climb and even glide. So you never miss a beat. Catwoman has a whip to get around. She can also cling to walls and ceilings.
The streets are still dangerous, that’s where most of the enemies are. You can keep to the rooftops or stealth around them. You can take out enemies stealthily one by one by using gargoyles to hide in the shadows and floor or wall grates to move through from point A to point B all to evade enemy detection. You’ll hear them talk about things and when they find one of their comrades down, they’ll be more alert and eager to shoot down gargoyles so you won’t have that one to hide on. Once you get far enough in the game, you’ll unlock challenge rooms which revisit previous locations, but with more challenge that you need to take out the enemies using stealth.
Almost all of the major villains are back from Arkham Asylum, proving Batman should really start killing his greatest foes. Not just that, but there are new villains and almost all of them have their own gang. This gives the goons more style, but really, the goons are all the same for the most part resorting to just brawlers and gunmen. Eventually the game amps things up with long range snipers, armored brawlers, shielded brawlers, knife wielders and stun batoners. If a gun or weapon gets knocked out of the hand of a gunman, someone else can pick it up. The brawlers will pile on you, sometimes two dozen at a time, and as Batman, you can easily if not tediously defeat them. Batman: Arkham City is essentially a beat em up with a lot of traversal. Batman really just has one attack button to spam and Batman will do all of the punching, kicks, sweeps and brawling himself. When enemies telegraph an attack, you have a counter button. There are other enemies that require you to use a stun maneuver, but you might forget you even have it. The gunners require a lot more finesse to deal with, since Batman can easily be murdered by anything with a gun, even when you start upgrading your armor. The AI of the gunners is great, they’ll patrol, warn others when they find a downed ally. While the enemy variety is very limited, they all seem very smart, so that makes up for it. Why have specific enemy types when they’re all smart enough to do anything?
Other than brawling, Batman has other tools and a quick switch menu using the D-pad. You’ll start out with everything you earned in the previous game. Multiple batterangs, remote control batterangs, a zip-line, explosive gel, a grappling hook to rip down high up grates, a new smoke bomb to hide when you’ve been spotted, freeze grenades, which are good for freezing one enemy at a time and floating through the sewers. You’ll quickly find a new electricity gun for lack of a better term that will power devices like garage doors. Everything in the arsenal can be used for combat or traversal.
Making its return is also detective mode that lets you see hints, such as highlighting enemies, seeing them through objects, lit up gargoyles you can grapple onto, doors, grates, footprints, sniper rifle trajectories and the Riddler’s riddles. Speaking of the riddles, in the previous games they were just collectables. At the most you had to blow up a wall using explosive gel to reach them. Now you’ll need to solve puzzles to get them. It is amazing the level of detail that was put into this game, even just for these common puzzles. You’ll come across them often.
Speaking of the level of detail, the side quests aren’t just quests, but they feel like extra storylines. Everything is fully voiced. Every NPC, villain, thug, Batman and Catwoman. You’ll hear thugs discussing things, along with radio transmissions every so often. In the previous game you were taunted by the Joker who is voiced by Luke Skywalker for those that remember the old Batman: The Animated Series. Kevin Conroy reprises his role from the series as Batman, and they’re both excellent. There are plenty of other major voice acting stars such as Tara Strong, Nolan North and Maurice LaMarce.
With the actual game out of the way, there is the ‘Riddler’s Revenge’ mode, which are challenge rooms like the first game had. Combat rooms where you get a high score beating up waves enemies. Then there are ‘predator maps’ that require you to take out gunmen in specific ways to beat the challenges. There are even downloadable challenge rooms, mini campaigns and even a make your own challenge map where you chose a map and select goals. You’ll also get to select your character from Batman, Catwoman, Robin and Nightwing. Since this is Game of the Year Edition, you’ll have plenty of costumes to chose from.
The Game of the Year Edition comes with the Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC that has you playing as Robin and Batman in an extra hour or two mission. It has a good quick story and quality voice acting, but it won’t expand that much. Robin plays mostly like Batman and has the same tools as he does with a few exceptions. Its nice to have, but I couldn’t imagine it being worth the purchase price outside of getting it free in the Game of the Year Edition.
To top that off, there is a lot of extra content for players and Batman fans. Profiles on every character with detailed information. Challenge rooms to unlock and play through for high scores. This is an amazing game that feels and looks completely different than anything else out there. It is really enjoyable as a game, not just as a Batman fan.
There is a ton of content in Arkham City. Well worth $20, unless you can find it on sale or in a bundle like I did. I just feel bad for any game that has to follow this up. Not only another game in the franchise, but I feel bad for competing games. This game makes great use of the Batman mythos while new superhero IPs like Infamous just don’t have the fleshed out characters to draw from. This is an amazing win and a crushing defeat to any other super hero game.