Where superhero games are concerned, there is always the expectation that the game will fail; as history has proved, not all superhero games really deliver the experience that fans expect and crave as seen in movies and comics, but two years ago Rocksteady changed this stereotype and fear, giving hope to fans of superheroes everywhere when they released Batman: Arkham Asylum; a title which redefined the action-superhero genre with a selection of great graphics, innovative combat, story and gadgets which make you want to go down to B&Q.
As the sequel to a game with more awards than you can shake a Batarang at, Batman: Arkham City had a lot to live up to; from the moment Asylum was released, with the fans hype preceding the development and excitement booming, Rocksteady studios had to work hard in order to please the masses of fans waiting for a true and worthy sequel. And fortunately they did!
Batman: Arkham City delivers a solid action experience partnered with a great story, visuals and voice acting to topple any top Hollywood film. From the moment the game starts the player is gently dropped into the canon of Gotham City and its mysterious storylines, following Bruce Wayne as Batman and a true ensemble of his nemeses over his career as the crime fighting detective.
The plot follows our caped crusader a year after the events of Arkham Asylum, with various story plots branching off from the first game. Other than a cheeky location change across the water to the local slums, having knowledge of the first game isn’t key, which is great for new players to jump in, but for players who did play the original, they will recognise an array of relating themes and characters from the previous title!
Without throwing down any considerable spoilers, you find yourself right at home as Batman within the city, delivering well deserved punishment to the inmates of Arkham City who get in your way, whilst unravelling the story and secrets that the City has to offer. All the while you slowly improve your arsenal of gadgets and doodads, straight from the DIY cabinet at the Batcave.
With a large selection of Action games out there already, it’s hard for some to really break the mould and stand out, and it’s a pleasure to say that Batman does just that; following up from its predecessor with even smoother fighting gameplay featuring a simple yet diverse system, from a standard melee moves to countering, and all manner of combos in between. To the unknowing eye the fighting system used is so smooth it could provide a unique experience every time and could even be mistaken as a cutscene. Rocksteady have been smart and kept Asylum’s great fighting gameplay and just added to it; improving upon some jittery points, introducing new moves, gadgets, and enemies to play against.
The game brings you into the story and helps you understand each of Batman’s enemies, associates and Allies with the mini-bios for everyone you meet, and unlockable stories from Riddles that have been solved. If that’s wasn’t enough, Rocksteady went the extra mile and threw in a large amount of 3D Character trophies for you to stare at, and concept art to explore.
The first Batman game provided a huge amount of game time, yet Arkham City gives the player even more bang-for-your-buck. It takes a considerable amount of time to complete the main story, regardless of the difficulty level and even after completion there is so much content to play through. There is an entire section for challenges, both singular and campaign based, which can be played with Batman, or if you have the DLC, Robin and Catwoman! If that isn’t enough to wet your Bat-Appetite, the story mode is available in a ‘plus’ form after completion, which is playable with all of your unlocks in a different skin, with new enemies and the difficulty ramped up. This is there for you hard-core players and Batman fans alike, who feel that simply completing the story isn’t challenging enough!
As you progress through the game’s story, it becomes quite clear that a turf war is in progress between all the big names in the Batman universe and you are caught in the middle, while on your own mission of discovery. This is quickly pushed aside as you become entangled within the troubles of others. In terms of gameplay and action, the game cleverly introduces you to new moves and gadgets from the trusty ‘Wayne Tech’ screen as you level up, or through the story, and in order to get used to them, what better way to learn than from fighting one armed bandits wielding sledge hammers, or genetically mutated TITAN Criminals! All your experience with your new ‘Bat’ tech slowly enables you to confront the supercriminals as you uncover the plot behind Arkham City.
Graphically the game delivers hard punches with great cut scenes and advanced detail on clothing, faces, and the environment. It swaps between cut-scenes and engine graphics seamlessly, with only a minor change, which truly demonstrates the power of the engine; however, my one minor issue with graphics would be fires, which lack detail throughout the game, but it is something only someone who pays attention to small things would notice.
As a final verdict the game scores incredibly high, with a content packed campaign, and a great story complemented by visuals which do justice to the franchise and its characters. As someone who doesn’t really enjoy Superhero games, Arkham City and I hit it off from the word go, as I was pulled into the story and role of a crime fighting genius. With this game you will find yourself up late at night trying to progress as much as possible. It’s great for fans of the first game or new players, with an easily accessible campaign, and a gentle learning curve on the fighting and gameplay. With extra content already available and with more DLC planned this will be a keeper. It would be criminally insane to miss out on this game, so get to it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Guest written by: Jon Evans