Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City Cover
Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
Genre Face smashing sequel
Score 9  Clock score of 9
Buy from Amazon

I beat Batman: Arkham City well over a week ago, but due to a weekend vacation, work, and the flu hitting my entire family, I’m only now getting to its review. This has given me time to think heavily about the game, and in some ways find as many flaws as ways to praise it, not sure if this is a healthy game reviewing technique or not.

As the sequel to Arkham Asylum, one of the most successful and highly regarded licensed games ever, expectations were through the roof. Arkham City was released in October of last year to brisk sales and excellent reviews, skyrocketing creatorRocksteady Studios among the upper echelon of developers.

Nate covered the game’s first hour when it was released, and later named it his Game of the Year. I just named Arkham Asylum my Game of the (Other) Year as I beat it early 2011. As I’m still ailing from the effects of the flu and its corresponding medicine, I’m going to try and keep this shorter than usual.

A couple things stood out about Arkham Asylum: its elegant battle system, legion of bad guy, and Metroidvania exploration. Arkham City ups the ante in every way by doubling the number of gadgets, giving every single one of Batman’s rogues their 15 minutes, and letting you roam a multiple square mile city instead of just flying around a mental institution.

I recently saw a screenshot of Arkham Asylum’s D-pad gadget menu and thought, “how quaint, there’s all of 8 items to select.” City gives you 12 selectable gadgets and most of them have secondary features to boot. This doesn’t always make for smooth gameplay, however, as it can sometimes be a struggle to remember which direction to push (possibly multiple times) to equip one item or another. A few important ones are mapped to a two-button combination that is supposed to be useful in battle, but I challenge you to continue your 15 hit combo while simultaneously remembering how to shoot your batclaw.

The huge number of gadgets certainly does open up the Metroidvania possibilities, and while most of them are used for retrieving Riddler trophies, there are certainly some fun additions that make exploring Gotham’s underbelly that much more exciting. It’s a huge success when the most tedious part of the game is spraying walls with explosive gel.

You know how some movie-goers ripped on Spiderman 3 or the newer Batman movies for including too many bad guys? Well, Arkham City manages to dig even deeper into Batman’s rogue gallery by essentially including any antagonist who ever gave their mom a sour look. As a gamer who doesn’t read comics, I was unfamiliar with a few, but I have to believe this was bad guy overload for anyone. Everywhere you look, Batman’s mind is getting attacked, or someone else has captured so-and-so, or this guy is just chilling out in a cell below the courthouse. I understand that in a city populated by criminal scum, that the big bads will take over, but when you have so many big bads, the Big Bad is deeply diminished. Or was he the Big Bad? Or him?! I couldn’t even tell you who this game was supposed to be about, honestly.

But most of the plot malfunctions slip away as you fly across Arkham City proper, which is almost completely unlocked within the first few minutes. Soaring and gliding your way across the skyline, dropping in on unsuspecting bad guys, collecting Riddler trophies, performing daring maneuvers over open water, it’s all so... awesome. I’m not sure if there’s any other word for it, everything is seamless and the flight controls are deadly simple in a game that seemingly requires 30 buttons and three hands. Even my three year old kid loves flying around, Arkham City makes Skyward Sword’s “flying” into a joke.

In between all the flying there’s a proper point A to point B story, that doesn’t really hold up upon even medium-distance examination. But you’re The Batman, who’s going to stop you from teaming up with Mr. Freeze, beating him up to a pulp two minutes later, and then hugging it out and looking for his missing wife?

Overall: 9

Arkham City retains the fluid combat from Asylum, tosses in even more bad guys, and lets Batman loose on an entire portion of Gotham City. It’s a supremely successful sequel to an already stellar game, that is really only hampered by having too much of everything. This is why suggestions of “Arkham World” scare me. For the next Batman, how about a proper GTA-fication of Gotham? With villains that actually get screen time, actual damsels in distress instead of political prisoners, and a proper look at the Batcave, is that too much to ask, or maybe too little?