Welcome to a very small world of quality licensed video games. Batman: Arkham Asylum surprised everyone a couple years ago by not only surpassing expectations for a Batman game, but also earning itself a handful of Game of the Year awards alongside the cream of the crop franchises of this generation. No one expected the developer (Rocksteady) to produce such a gem when they only had one game under their belt (and not a very good one). A couple years later, here we are in glee for the sequel to one of the best comic book games of all time. New villains. New Gadgets. New city. Peggy, hold my calls for the rest of my life. What do you mean no one ever calls me?! You’re fired! No, wait! Resign. I don’t want you to get unemployment money. That’s how good Arkham City is!
Sit back and pop in your Arkham City disc, because you’re gonna be playing as… Dun nan a na na na na na Catwomaaaan…? Yes. The very first thing you do in AC is play as Catwoman. Odd. You would think players would want a chance to get used to walking in Batman’s shoes again before learning a new character. The disappointment quickly disappears after you find out how awesome she is to play. She can’t glide like Batman, but she can use that dominating whip of hers to latch on to rooftops and billboards in the environment. It’s surprisingly effective and almost doesn’t make you miss the cape. Catwoman also has thief vision (her version of Batman’s detective mode) that allows her to see the heat signatures of enemies. Unfortunately, it isn’t as robust as detective mode. It doesn’t give you a detailed analysis of the fight like its Dark Knight counterpart (total enemies, which thugs are armed, etc.), but still helps a little.Combat works slightly differently with Catwoman as well. She’s faster than Batman and can use her whip (instead of a cape) to stun enemies. Beyond that, it’s pretty similar. You’re still pressing the same buttons to punch and counter as you would in Batty’s shoes. Starting the game on such a different note than its predecessor is pretty ballsy, but it was still a really fun sequence and doesn’t last too long. There are about 3 Catwoman sections in the game, but you won’t be playing any of them unless you scored an activation code from buying the game new, used from GameStop, or renting a copy with an unused code in it (I Win). If you want to hop strait into our masked hero’s suit, it’s almost better you don’t have the code, but the Catwoman sections are short and a lot of fun if you give it a chance.
Now you get to play as dun na na na na na Robiiiin! No, kidding. Fuck that. BATMAN! Well, Bruce Wayne. Close enough. The story starts with the explanation of the game’s title. Every prisoner in Arkham Asylum has been moved to a new district of Gotham called Arkham City. Led by Hugo Strange, Arkham City is a Gated mad house of Batman villainy. Strange arrests Bruce Wayne at the game’s opening and throws him in Arkham. The tutorial teaches you the basics as you bust out of captivity and call Alfred to send you an aerial drop of your goods. Time to suit up.
Toiling around in the city, Batman discovers that Joker is alive but not well. He was exposed to quite a bit of Bane’s Titan formula in the last game and is now feeling the effects. It’s killing him. In 24 hours, the Joker will be dead. Lucky for him, he captured and infected you with the same poison, knowing you’d be forced to find a cure now. At the same time, Strange is constantly making announcements over the city’s loud speakers saying “protocol ten will commence in 9 hours.” What is protocol ten? Will Batman find a cure to save his life in time? Who else will get in the way? Tune in next paragraph!
Every piece of the story is logically and expertly crafted. Mr. Freeze gets involved because he is an extremely talented scientist and the perfect candidate to cure Batman and Joker. Freeze tells Batman he needs a sample of blood that has been exposed to the toxin for longer than Batman and Joker has had it. Batman then rushes to find Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s has been exposed to it for centuries and never dies because of his Lazarus Pit. He’s perfect. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to give too much away, but every villain has a motivation that fits in the games story perfectly. Rocksteady allows you to enjoy fighting a handful of major Batman villains, without compromising the narrative. Tough to do, and amazing to experience.
All your favorite gadgets return. Batarang. Grapple Hook. Line launcher thingy (technical term). The game is mostly full of familiar tools, but there are a few new toys to play with. You now have a device that can disable enemy weapons in a room from a distance (limit two baddies per fight). This makes for a new level of strategy when tackling rooms full of armed guards. There’s also a new device grabbed from Mr. Freeze that allows you to create a floating platform of ice in any body of water. From there, you simply hop on and use the grapple hook to pull yourself to your destination. Leveling up also returns, allowing you to upgrade most of your gadgets and even your suit. Again, some of the upgrades are repeats from the last game, but there’s plenty there to keep you hooked on beating the crap outta henchmen to gain XP.
The city isn’t quite as fleshed out as a Grand Theft Auto or a hand full of other open world games. There aren’t a whole lot of landmarks and recognizable buildings to help you remember where you’ve been. Thankfully, an effective map and waypoint system help you forget this flaw quickly. You can glide around the city to get everywhere. Clinging on to Helicopters also works as a mode of quick travel, but you won’t use them often. There aren’t too many in the sky and it’s hard to tell if they’re ever taking you in the right direction. Gliding is surprisingly fast and you can zoom around pretty quick using the grapple hook too. The city is small enough that you won’t really miss a more robust quick travel system.
Arkham City is an amazing video game. Comic book fans will get an enormous nerd-rection from the clever story and characters. Gamers will enjoy an awesome open world experience with satisfying combat and varied missions. If you’re a comic book fan and a gamer, get ready to change your pants every 5 minutes. It isn’t a perfect game. Some of the repeated gadgets have lost their luster from the last installment, and the map could have marked building entrances to avoid pointless door hunting. It got slightly annoying to search around huge structures for a tiny vent or passageway. However, these are complaints are small and are quickly forgettable. The only thing bad about this game being so good, is not being able to use the article title “Batman: Arkham Shitty.” After a very satisfying experience, I must say, worth it!