Batman Arkham City Review

The sequel to Batman Arkham Asylum has been in my possession for less than two weeks, and I’ve already put more than 20 hours into the game. Considering I average a 60-hour work week, that should give you some context into how I’ve been spending what little free time I have. I loved the first installment of Batman and anxiously awaited Arkham City, its larger environment and the chance to go up against the cavalcade of Gotham supervillians. After a few cut-scenes and an introduction to the Penguin you find yourself back in the Batsuit leaping and flying around Gotham. After a short readjustment period I was back in the saddle and loving every minute of it.

The story for Arkham City is compelling and once again centers on Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker. Mark Hamill again does a brilliant job voicing the Clown Prince of Crime and the Joker continues to toy with Batman with the voluptuous Harley Quinn and her shrieking voice assisting him at every step. There is a greater story to uncover regarding the reason for the walled off prison that becomes home to innocent and guilty alike and the interactions with the Joker are a great compliment to that mystery.

Batman Arkham City

Catwoman missions play differently than Batman missions, keeping the combat fresh.

What have been added to this installment are numerous side quests. These can be approached head on as they appear or saved for later. While there are certain points in the game that once reached must be seen through to the end, for the most part you can dip in and out of these side missions at your leisure. I found myself flying through the main story because I constantly wanted to see what was coming next, I had to tear myself away long enough to perform side missions or grab a Riddler trophy. One of the wonderful things about a sandbox environment game is the ability to continue to go after just “one more thing” which can lead to a few “oh crap” moments when you look at the clock and realize you’ve played about 90 minutes past your bedtime.

And speaking of the Riddler, one of the great improvements in Arkham City is the Riddler trophies. Similar to Arkham Asylum, there are trophies to grab and elements in the environment to scan as well as the occasional oversized question mark to line up. Between Batman and the playable Catwoman there are a whopping 440 trophies to gather. As I write this I’ve found almost 200. The placement of some of these trophies requires a great degree of ingenuity in solving the puzzles. You will have to get familiar with Batman’s gadgets as well as his moves to gather them all. Some trophies are so devilish that you will find yourself first spending time trying to figure out the solution and then more time actually executing the moves needed to gather that emerald question mark. And once you do, understand that there are over 400 more to collect.

In Arkham City Batman has more gadgets in his arsenal and you’ll need them all to survive. Some are carryovers from the last game but many are new and they are very cool. Perched up high, looking down at a room full of thugs I found myself staying completely still to avoid their thermal scanning. I remotely detonated a mine that took out a goon and then performed an inverted takedown on the poor sap that went to check on him. I remotely disabled another henchman’s rifle and then took him down. I fired an electrical bolt into a thug that uncontrollably swung his bat into the man next to him who I then froze with a blast, finally swooping down and taking them both out. There are countless ways to approach these challenges and that’s what makes it so fun.

Combat is also an opportunity to flex your creative muscles. You can approach groups of bad guys by implementing a series of blows and evasions or you can use your gadgets to give yourself an edge. As the game progresses the bad guys start carrying guns, wearing armor, and using shields. A great addition is the presence of Riddler informants, henchmen that can be interrogated to give you details on the location of Riddler trophies. The catch is that they can’t be knocked out and must be saved for last in combat. That doesn’t mean they won’t be trying to kick your ass so imagine a room with 10 assailants – 3 have guns, 1 has a knife, 2 are unarmed, 1 is wearing armor, 2 are carrying shields and one has to be saved for last. Your familiarity with Batman’s moves will be the difference between success and failure. There’s also the fun of experiencing combat as both Batman and Catwoman. While Batman’s moves are brutal, Catwoman moves more fluidly and with acrobatic flair. Watching her silently choking out a villain with her legs while checking her nails is a sight to behold. She can’t take damage the way Batman can and her arsenal is much more limited so fighting takes on a new tact when playing as Catwoman.

On the negative side, my only problems with the game came during some timed challenges with what I refer to as “sticky climbing mechanics” a similar problem that I had with Assassin’s Creed. I also found the horseshoe design to the city annoying as I had to take a very indirect route to get from point A to point B but I can see the purpose it served and did make the city feel larger than it was.

Batman Arkham City lives up to every expectation I had. The game has a compelling story, great characters that are well voiced and a fantastically dreary backdrop in Arkham city. With a seemingly endless supply of Riddler trophies that make the shards of Infamous look sparse in number, added to the vast number of challenges that you can play through as multiple characters there’s a ton of value to this game. A second play through is offered once you finish the game, allowing you to keep all of your gadgets and upgrades but promising that the bad guys are going to be ramped up as well. The ending was surprising, and a little hard to believe which makes me think that we’ll see another Batman game in the future……is it too late to reserve my copy now?

Score: 10/10