PS3/Xbox 360 Review: Batman: Arkham City

Look out! It’s the Bat!

Batman games were never that good were they? Then almost out of nowhere Arkham Asylum came along and took us by surprise, when we all thought it would be just as bad as the games that came before it. Rocksteady were a small and almost unheard of team of developers, which have been transformed into gaming elites through transforming Batman into an enjoyable gaming experience. But with such a rapid improvement, should we be expecting the Dark Knight to rise further for the sequel or fall?

Well, expectations were high for Arkham City and I can honestly say that Rocksteady have nailed it. I was anxious about ditching the asylum in favour of an open-world experience, but it doesn’t lose that same feeling I got from playing AA. But it actually improves drastically over the original and is a gigantic game in comparison with plenty of cameos to please true Batman fans. The story begins with Bruce Wayne being taken captured by Hugo Strange, the head warden of Arkham City…a whole island given to the criminals of Gotham. It isn’t long before Bruce escapes and dons the Batman suit, but Hugo’s upto something and if that wasn’t enough you need to deal with the Joker’s antics, not to mention a whole bunch of villains along the way. I won’t spoil it for you, but it truly is a gripping tale and I can’t wait to see what Rocksteady do next from here.

The gameplay from Arkham Asylum remains intact with the sequel when it comes to Batman’s combat skllls and gadgets. Luckily this isn’t a Metroid situation where you are stripped of all your gadgets, but instead you just get nice upgrades for them over time. There is so much to do in Arkham City that it’s incredibly easy to get side-tracked on your way to completing the main storyline. There are side-quests where you will try and hunt down a killer who has stolen your identity, the Riddler also makes more of an impact with hundreds of trophies and riddles to solve so you can save hostages, and don’t think it’s the end of the Titan formula just yet…

The island is literally covered with collectables and you can interrogate Riddler’s informants to make them pop up on your map, but some you won’t be able to get till you get the right upgrade and if you get the Catwoman DLC there are some for her as well. The official guide is a great help for the solutions for getting each trophy and solving each riddle, as well as pointing you in the right direction when it comes to the side-quests which are quite obscure. One requires you to go to certain points and hope that a character is there watching you, but I wouldn’t have known to look out for him if it wasn’t for the guide.

The main game will take around 10+ hours to do, but there’s a New Game+ option which carries over your upgrades and stats, but increases the difficulty to Very Hard, so expect pain as the game is challenging enough even on Normal. Combat can be overwhelming at times, especially with the new types of enemies that require different combos to take down and to avoid their attacks. Its fine when there are just thugs with baseball bats and the like, but it gets tricky when they add in riot shields and knifes that I found quite difficult to counter.

Outside of the game, the Combat and Predator challenges return in Riddler’s Revenge. There are quite a few more of these than there were in Arkham Asylum and they are a lot tougher, especially with the campaign levels that put together a combination of the two modes and even adds elements including a time limit, which is a real pain when it comes to the Predator challenges! So expect these to take up a lot of your time, but I’d only try them when you are fully upgraded or you will struggle all the more.

Arkham City looks truly stunning. It’s a great time to be a Batman fan when the game looks this good, not to mention seeing so many villains make an appearance and decent contribution to the story, side-quest or otherwise. The character models are superb and the framerate is consistent for the most part, while the voice-acting is incredible and the soundtrack is gripping. There isn’t any real difference in terms of performance between the 360 and PS3 versions, so it’s fine whatever version you choose.

The Verdict

Batman: Arkham City is a gigantic game with a lot of content and there’s more on the way. It surpasses its predecessor in every conceivable way and is easily a big contender for Game of the Year. I gave Arkham Asylum the award back in 2009 and who knows, its sequel may just get it again in 2011…