Review – Batman: Arkham City

Arkham Asylum was an amazing game. It’s fluid combat, great atmosphere, and memorable characters and plot made it a blast to play. After such a great debut, all eyes were on Rocksteady as they neared the release of their second Batman game – Arkham City. And I tell you now, Rocksteady delivered one of the best action titles of all time. Arkham City kept everything that Asylum did well, and made many huge improvements.

Arkham City’s story is extremely memorable. Set four months after the events at the Asylum, Quincy Sharp, now the Mayor of Gotham, has built a sprawling megaprison in the heart of Gotham City. He’s transferred all the prisoners from BlackGate and Arkham Asylum to the new prison, appropriately named Arkham City. The new prison is run by Dr. Hugo Strange, and Batman has to go in and figure out what’s really going on within the walls of the prison. If you buy the game new, you also play an extra four missions as Catwoman. These Catwoman missions tie into the main plot perfectly, and even change the whole beginning of the story, which is one of the best starts to any game within the past 20 years. If you want to buy the game used, you get the option to buy the Catwoman DLC for $10. If you choose not to get Catwoman, you still get a complete story, but it won’t be as enjoyable as if you have Catwoman unlocked. The ending is a little anticlimactic, as it feels like that the game throws too much information at you at once, but other than that the story is very compelling.

People who played Arkham Asylum will be immediately familiar with the returning FreeFlow combat system. The premise is simple – Left Mouse to attack, Right to counter, and #s for gadgets, and it works extremely well. You always feel as powerful as you should as Batman, and you’ll never feel overwhelmed by 20 vs 1 situations. The other half of combat is taken up by Predator style gameplay. Here, you’ll be swinging through vantage points, attempting to survey your environment as best as you can, waiting for the best opportunity to silently take down your foes. The games delivers a healthy mix of both Predator and Arena style gameplay, and in lots of other situations you can pretty much choose how you want to engage your enemies. While playing as  Catwoman, you really do feel like Catwoman. You use a much more agile style of combat, and your gadgets function differently from Batman’s. It’s tough to create two distinct playable characters in a game that centres on one, and Rocksteady pulled it off perfectly. Boss fights are a little on the easy side, but become drastically tougher in the New Game Plus mode on Hard.

Movement is extremely similar to the first game. You still grapple your way across buildings, glide through the sky, and sprint across the ground. You get a few more ways to fly around, such as grapnel boosting, but there haven’t been any drastic changes. As Catwoman, you pounce across rooftops, using your whip to cling to buildings before jumping up them. Since you don’t fly, it’s harder to get around the city at a fast pace, so you’ll be running and jumping the whole time.

One of the great things about Arkham Asylum was the way in which it captured the overall atmosphere of the prison. Arkham City also manages to pull this off perfectly. Hearing prisoners nervously chat amongst themselves really helps establish the dreary mood of the City, and everywhere you go there are broken highways, ruptured ground, and torn posters. You really feel like you’re in Arkham City, which is something that most games don’t manage to do.

After you finish the story, there’s still plenty to do. Riddler challenges return, there are side quests to complete, trophies to find, and a new game plus (which is a  to finish. There’s tons of replay value here, and you’ll be playing for weeks after completing the main game.

However, even Arkham City has one big downfall. There’s one fatal bug that exists that wipes away all your saves randomly. The chance of encountering this is less than being struck by lightning, but just in case, back up your files, and you’ll be fine. I did encounter this bug when I was around 40% done the main story once, but I actually felt compelled to play it again. This doesn’t happen with many games, but it did with this one, so that says something.

Overall, Arkham City is amazing. It is one of the best games of the past decade, and you should play it.

DLC

Nightwing Bundle – $6.99. 8/10 value.

Robin Bundle – $6.99. 8/10 value.

Arkham City Skins Pack – $4.99. 5/10 value.

Challenge Missions Pack – $2.99. 6.5/10 value.

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