Much like the game that came before it, Batman: Arkham City is an excellent 3rd person game with Real Batman-like Action that does a pretty good job of weaving the disparate plans of several villains all stuck within the eponymous quarantine zone into a cohesive narrative. While this game is billed as an Open World game, it is far from the Grand Theft Auto games that established the genre. There are dozens of sidequests in the game, it’s true, but you’re also encouraged to stick to the main story which is strictly gated.
The game begins with Bruce Wayne being taken into Arkham City, initially as a PR move of some sort but he’s quickly captured and about to be beaten when, naturally, he turns the tables and dons the Batman outfit. From there, you’re stick within the city, chasing down rumors that the dying Joker has some nefarious plan for the whole city. Once you find him, however, Joker captures Batman and gives him a transfusion of the blood that killing him to encourage Batman to find a cure. Thus the main story begins and Batman must now search the city for the pieces necessary to save his life and – unfortunately – the Joker’s as well.
Throughout this, you’ll run into nearly the whole gamut of Batman villains from Two-Face, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Ra’s Al Ghul, Talia, Mad Hatter, SOLOMON GRUNDY(!!), Hugo Strange (who has somehow become the director of Arkham City), Clayface, Poison Ivy (somewhat), and of course, Catwoman, who has her own storyline in the game that runs parallel to Batman’s.
Gameplay is top notch, with the fighting system tuned even more to allow better group fighting, so Batman can now take on hordes of dozens of bad guys at once (and will) with ease. Gadgets from the first game are, very surprisingly, retained! And a new set of gadgets are made available to use as well.I had expected, especially given the opening, that Batman would be stuck in a Metal Gear Solid-style On Site Procurement mission, but no, everything you used in Arkham Asylum is back and most will get even more upgrades.
Visuals are a mixed bag, unfortunately. The game is very well detailed and has some good animations associated with its characters (and Batman, of course) but the whole game takes place at night, in a grimy city that looks more like Blade Runner than the gothic cues of the Animated Series or even recent comics. With the excessive greys, blacks, and dark blues at play here, most things blend together to the point where you’re probably not missing out on anything if you stay in Detective Mode all the time.
Yeah, Detective Mode is back and is the best way to survive the fights you get into, especially since it lets you spy through walls. The only annoying part of Detective Mode is that you can’t see your navigation markers, so you won’t know where you’re supposed to be headed when you’re in the overworld map. And inside of buildings (and in sewers) I found that the ability to see through walls is hindering because I often thought a dude was right next to me when he was, in fact, one room over. When you’re trying to be stealthy, casually cold clocking a blank wall often runs counter to your intentions.
As for the story, it’s serviceable. Given the need to be as action oriented as possible, there are limits to how dramatic a tale could be told, but this game gets by pretty well. Joker’s story is interesting as a motivating factor to STAY in Arkham City as long as Batman does, and from there we get some pretty good interactions with Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia (who is annoyingly portrayed as a genuine love interest for Batman and not an obsessive floozy as I would prefer).
Catwoman’s story can interact with Batman’s or completely avoid it depending on the choices you make, but when you do go after the caped crusader, the scenes are usually good though very brief. Catwoman probably has the more interesting tale, all things considered, seeing as she’s playing between the lines. She approaches Poison Ivy in a friendly manner during the game, and is attacked, then when she finds what Poison Ivy is looking for, she destroys it. Likewise, Two Face starts the game by trying to kill Catwoman, even though she’s also a villain in his eyes, and betrays her as well in the end by stealing her stuff.
Compared to Batman’s rather single-note “I MUST STOP JOKER”, Catwoman is breath of fresh air. It’s a shame that Robin and Nightwing only briefly appear and aren’t playable characters (except in challenge mode). I’d love to see this cast grow a bit in future games.
All in all, though, I was pleased with this game and consider it a worthy sequel that probably surpasses the original.
Except for the Riddler Trophies. There was NO WAY I was tracking down 200 trophies.