Batman: Arkham Asylum was one of the stand-out video games of 2009, drawing in substantial praise from audiences. Developers Rocksteady had surprised the industry with such a hit. Before long, public and press alike were clamouring for a sequel.
Whereas Asylum’s introduction could be accused of being a little subdued, Arkham City really doesn’t waste any time launching straight into the thick of the gameplay – even if you’re plunged headfirst into the role of Catwoman. Thankfully, Rocksteady have done a rather decent job of making gameplay as a second character almost more entertaining than playing as the Dark Knight himself. Selina Kyle’s alter-ego may lack the power and ferocity of Bruce Wayne’s darker side, but makes up for it with incredible speed, dispatching hired goons in more or less the same time as Batman himself.
It takes a few good minutes before you actually begin playing as Batman, thanks to a corker of an opening sequence that has to be played to truly appreciate. It’s therefore just as well that there’s a lot of gameplay to get through..
Asylum stood out from most superhero games in its simplistic approach compared to the sprawling map of New York City in Spiderman 2 and 3; City, on the other hand, jumps up and down with a cardboard sign saying ‘Anything you can do, I can do better’ flashing in fluorescent green neon lights. With a map over three times the size of Arkham Island, Arkham City offers up plenty of nooks and derelict buildings for the various cast of Batman villains to inhabit, and this is where the game really comes to life.
Asylum’s cracking storyline saw Batman take on a host of DC Comic villains – from Joker and his bizarre mistress Harley Quinn to Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Bane and Killer Croc. However, Arkham City steps up the adventure mode several notches, incorporating more or less every Batman villain you could think of, in various capacities. While the main storyline deals with the big guns, introducing Mr. Freeze, Hugo Strange and The Penguin to the fray, several side-missions are dedicated to the likes of Bane, Mr. Zsasz and Deadshot – Zsasz’s tale is a particular highlight, with the Dark Knight scouring this rundown area of Gotham City for ringing telephones to prevent deaths at the serial killer’s hands. The Riddler also makes a return, with a much more in depth role than in Arkham City’s predecessor, helping to give the game an incredible depth and re-playability even after every surprise twist and the game’s shocking conclusion – mostly thanks to the hard-as-nails ‘New Game Plus’ mode.
Anyone looking for a bigger, better and longer version of Arkham Asylum will not be disappointed. Arkham City has it all; an incredibly engrossing story mode, added DLC characters (with the Nightwing pack becoming available last week) and mind-blowing graphics that make Arkham Asylum’s visuals look like an early version of Pacman. One can only hope Rocksteady Studios have more in store for video game (not just Batman) fans.