When the original Batman: Arkham Asylum was released a scant two years ago, it was not only the best Batman game I had ever played, it was likewise not just the best game I had ever played based off of licensed characters; rather I was able to put it up on my list of the top ten games I had ever played period. Everything about it was fantastic – the combat felt and looked like Batman, the score was perfect and able to set every scene, the graphics were simply stunning – and while the story might have taken a few hits from some gamers, to me, someone raised on Batman comic books, it felt just like playing a graphic novel instead of reading one. So what could the guys from Rocksteady do to the sequel to make it have the same effect – if anything?
Thankfully, Rocksteady didn’t in fact change that much from the first good Batman game in years – they obviously learned quite a bit from other companies that have made sequels to successful franchises turn out badly. While I’m sure that’s going to lead a lot of people to complain that there’s not enough different, The saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” didn’t come around on its own. Truly, the system they first put in was so close to perfect, that all they had to do was tweak some things here and there, and they would have landed in comic geek gold yet again.
Tweak they did then – combat is much more fluid this time around, with a lot more variation on moves. So long as you’re not hitting buttons before you should, you can effortlessly move from attack to counter to special move. The ability to use gadgets in with your combos is also quite nice – whether it be spraying some gel on the floor in order to gain some breathing room, to hitting someone with an electric shock to make him inadvertently shoot someone else, your gadgets are now a completely crucial part of keeping your combo string going.
Gadgets are one thing that Batman always has had in spades, so you know there were upgrades done to that system as well. While I’m not completely sold on how they make you select some (two presses in one direction, but press a second too slow and you do nothing), for the most part it all works nicely. Veterans of the first game will also be pleased to know that about 75% of the gadgets you end Batman: Arkham Asylum with are yours at the beginning of Batman: Arkham City. Now that doesn’t include what I’m calling the Prologue – where you learn how Bats gets in to Arkham City, but the way they pull everything off there just works.
One of the things that I really found odd in the game, was that for some reason rather than beat the hell out of every villain around, Batman starts working with some. Now the ideals are good (For instance, you work with Bane – yes, the same Bane that breaks Batman’s back – to take out canisters of Venom), but it just feels completely out of character for Batman to become an errand boy for villains that would just as soon kill him and be done with it. I understand they were trying to give the player more things to do, but these are missions where the game wouldn’t have suffered if they had been left out.
I say the game wouldn’t have suffered if there were a few things left out to keep in Batman’s character, because there’s just so damn MUCH to do in Arkham city. Let’s be clear here – Arkham City doesn’t encompass nearly as much real estate as a Grand Theft Auto, a Red Dead Redemption, or even a Saint’s Row , but it’s packed just as much stuff to do as each of those other games into a smaller space. The setting actually feels like an urban sprawl with how it’s all set up – and that feels good. There’s also cameos from SO MANY iconic villains here, that if you’re a real Batman fan, you’ll be going nuts. While the first game had a lot of items laying around from other villains, this game has the villains themselves (but still retains the item hunt for good measure).
Speaking of villains back for a second helping, the Riddler is back, and that’s the one thing that causes this game to drive me CRAZY. You see, I’m a bit OCD about getting everything done that I can in a game; so much so that I played Just Cause 2 for months just to 100% every freaking island. So naturally when I see green and shiny Riddler trophies, I have to have them. This lead to many times throwing a controller when I realized I didn’t have the required items to get them all right away, but it wasn’t a big deal as this game constantly shoved more of them in my face. There’s just a ton of these things – 436 to be exact – and later on you’re rewarded by being able to do certain challenge rooms that made me think of the Saw movies.
The Bottom Line: This is another solid Batman game, and while some things might not make perfect sense, it’s a home run in every other area that matters from graphics to sound to straight up game play mechanics – if you’re a Batman fan, you need to play this game.
- Batman never feels underpowered for the sake of extending the duration of the game
- The new and improved combat dynamics make every fight a lot more fun than in the last game
- New gadgets are always a plus with Batman
- Batman teaming up with villains to do things he could do solo is kind of silly
- Making specific Riddler trophies only for Catwoman ruins the flow of the game
You can pick up Batman: Arkham City from Amazon (or any retailer worth their salt) for $51.99