The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Gotham City’s skyline glows warmly, showing decades of progress and
prosperity in each of its majestic towers. On this night, this
impressive view is obstructed by the massive concrete walls of Arkham
City, Gotham’s new home for its lunatics and murderers. Behind these
barriers, a section of the city has been transformed into a prison with
no rules. The inmates govern themselves. Anarchy reigns in the streets
as they vie for territory control. The city’s historic landmarks are
altered to bear the signature of the villains controlling them. The
Penguin nests in the museum. The Joker’s maniacal laugh echoes across
the docks. No sane person would dare enter this dangerous penitentiary.
For Batman and the gamer controlling him, however, Arkham City is the
ultimate hunting grounds and a place where one of gaming’s most
remarkable adventures unfolds.
Within this sprawling world,
developer Rocksteady Studios has crafted a monster of a sequel,
expanding on the size and scope of every facet presented in the series’
first entry, Arkham Asylum. A bombshell of a plot twist is revealed in
the introductory moments: Hugo Strange knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman.
From this point on, exceptional writing leads the way through a
mystery-laden plot that races along with fantastic character-based
moments. The story reminds me of one of my favorite Batman comic book
series: 1993’s year-long, villain-infested epic, Knightfall. Both
the game’s and comic’s story follow the Arkham Asylum’s inmates running
amok in the streets of Gotham and the physical toll it takes on the
Caped Crusader. This tale bounces between villains, and Rocksteady does a
tremendous job of linking all of their arcs together.
that Arkham Asylum accurately depicted Batman as a character,
brilliantly playing off of his ability to shift from combatant to
detective to predator. After playing this sequel, I can now tell you
that Rocksteady only showed us the tip of his pointy ears. A large piece
of Batman’s personality is his link to Gotham. Some of his most iconic
images show him leaping off of a rooftop or descending with his cape
outstretched toward heavily armed thugs. Players now have the ability to
experience Batman as Gotham City’s guardian and the creature that most
enemies fear is lurking in the shadows. A beautifully designed gliding
mechanic, which allows the player to swoop down and then extend the cape
to slow his descent or use the velocity to rocket back up into the sky,
makes city navigation a breeze, and it’s just as graceful and exciting
as the popular web swinging in many of the Spider-Man games. The thrill
of gliding undetected and descending like a hawk onto its prey is an
immensely satisfying action that often gives way to the game’s expanded
Detailing exactly how the combat has changed would
reveal villains and spoil sections of the game, but I can say that the
base tactics are identical to the last game and the new elements that
are added allow Batman to approach different enemy types in new ways and
also stun or down foes with a larger arsenal of moves. Batman can
counter the attacks of three enemies at once – an acrobatic technique
that involves a boot to the face and smashing the remaining foes’ heads
together – and turns most combat opportunities into an agile,
Some battles are best won through
stealth. Enemies are quicker on the trigger now and can also throw pesky
landmines into the environment. Detective Vision isn’t required nearly
as often this time around, but is just as fun to use. In addition to his
base set of moves, Batman can now use environmental objects to
electrocute foes, an act that is hilarious and effective.
biggest difference between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City’s gameplay is
the structure of the world. Arkham Asylum is a linear game with
Metroid-esque backtracking and secret-finding. Arkham City is an open
world littered with missions and events. When the game begins, Batman
stands on a rooftop facing his objective. It’s at this point players can
veer off of the critical path and explore to their heart’s content. The
side content offers more gameplay than the critical path and is spread
across a variety of different avenues ranging from standard side
missions to tasks that specific villains want fulfilled. The Riddler is
also up to his old tricks, offering a whopping 440 different challenges,
some of which can actually kill Batman. All of the side content is
nicely designed, giving players plenty of reason to invest significant
time. At one point I had six side missions to complete, five canisters
to blow up, a political prisoner screaming for help, an unknown masked
vigilante watching me from a distant rooftop, a major villain initiating
a deadly game through a ringing cell phone, and a handful of Riddler
challenges staring me in the face. When I completed the game, I was told
that I only went through 42 percent of the content. At this point, I
also unlocked new game plus, a mode that gives the player all of the
weapons and upgrades he or she ended with and offers a more difficult
challenge through altered enemy types.
Did I mention that Catwoman
is a fully playable character? Her arc intertwines with Batman’s, but
only accounts for roughly five to ten percent of the story. The switch
between these two playable characters is often handled after a
cliffhanger moment, almost imitating the end of a comic book. Catwoman
features her own move set; she uses her whip and claws to navigate
Gotham in a different way (which isn’t quite as enthralling as Batman’s
means, but is still fun), and Rocksteady also made sure that players
would spend time exploring with her through hidden Catwoman-only Riddler
The size of the game is daunting. I still have a ways
to go to reach 100 percent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I have
invested over 60 hours so far. Throw in the new game plus and a dizzying
number of combat challenges for both Batman and his feline friend and
this game could be one of the biggest and most enjoyable time sinks of
Arkham City not only lives up to the standards set by
Arkham Asylum, it bests its predecessor in every way and stands tall as
one of Batman’s greatest moments in gaming.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.