After creating a game that is heralded as game of the year, there must be a huge sense of satisfaction with all those involved. Soon after the champagne is gone and the confetti is cleaned up, everyone is left with the question: “What now?” How do the developers follow that up? How can they make a sequel that not only reaches the success of the prequel, but raises the bar to a new level? That was the challenge that Rocksteady Studios had in front of them after the glory that was Batman: Arkham Asylum. So as we start the new year, we take a look back to the best games of 2011 and check out Batman: Arkham City.
From the get go, Arkham City beautifully transitions from where Arkham Asylum left off. The former warden of Arkham Asylum is now the mayor of Gotham and has sent all the inmates of the asylum to a large gated area of Gotham that is Arkham City. Hugo Strange runs Arkham City and Bruce Wayne has been captured then sent into Arkham City in an epic, Hollywood worthy, cinematic intro.
The gameplay mirrors that of the original game and why not? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. This is really a huge testament to the franchise’s success; the core of the gameplay is very simple. You can fight all the thugs with a single button; if you want to add some counter attacks then you’re now up to two buttons. Anything further than that is unnecessary, though the game will prompt you on how to perform certain combos and unlock the fighting potential of Batman. If you find this too easy, then you have the option of removing the prompts and left to learn and memorize these combos, but regardless of what you choose, you’ll be in an action packed, and visually stunning battle every time. It can get redundant after awhile, especially in the regard of the random groups of thugs you encounter along the way. But most of the time you can spare yourself by just passing them along. Arkham City is quiet large, with many different buildings that you can interact with and free roaming the skies as Batman is really half the fun. In fact, gliding and grappling will quickly become the preferred mode of transportation; not only is it faster but walking and running with Batman is really rather cumbersome and not very smooth, which was something that unfortunately carried over from the original. Batman’s place is in the skies anyway.
Without giving too much away, the plot is very intricate and packed with almost every Batman villain you can think of. They’ve even added a couple of missions where you can play as Catwoman that are behind the scenes but still relevant to the main plot. Another thing that I learned about Batman is that his life sucks. I say so because now, through this game, I feel as though I understand what it is to be Batman. Hear me out. You’re gliding around the city on the hunt for Mr. Freeze, and when all the sudden your radio scanner tells you there are some thugs assaulting someone. Are you going to be that heartless guy that carries on with more important matters and let’s this poor innocent man get mugged or worse? Okay; yeah you do sometimes, but a lot of the time you put your own mission aside to help out others. Believe me that this is no understatement. There will always be other side missions to accomplish, which really goes to show that there is always work to be done for Batman. These missions vary from random acts of kindness on the streets to full fledged missions with other bosses that show you how large and in-depth this game really is. There are even little trophies that the Riddlers has scattered around the city. This all makes for countless hours of content – relevant content. Everything about this game has a great attention to detail.
I really can’t express enough how great of an experience it is to play this game. It is like you are living the character of the major motion film, with great graphics, cinematic movie score, and a great plot to go along with it. Though it obviously is a sequel Arkham Asylum, Arkham City delivers in its own right and can be a standalone game with the hours upon hours of content. Though it is not in my nature to give anything the title of a perfect game, this game does come close. The franchise has created a great environment that can be enjoyed from the noobs to the veterans without detracting from the gameplay experience, allowing the player to engulf themselves into the world of Batman.
Available on: 360, PC, PS3; Publisher: Rocksteady Studios; Developer: Warner Bros. Interactive; Players: 1; Released: October 18, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Site