Despite Batman Arkham Asylum being one of my favourite games of 2009, it has taken me months to buy its sequel; Batman Arkham City. This was purely down to not having the money to buy it, but when Steam announced their latest sale with Batman Arkham City being on offer for around £6 how could I possibly refuse. Well I didn’t. In fact I even downloaded a few of the dlc’s as well (the Nightwing, Robin and Harley Quinn packs); I spent a little over £12, what a bargain.
Well, it took about 8 hours to download the 16gb game and dlc’s but considering it was peak time in the middle of a sale it could have a been a hell of a lot worse.
I have to say I couldn’t be more impressed with Batman Arkham City. Well ok I guess I could but not by much, and here’s why…
The story of Arkham City follows on one year after the events of Batman Arkham Asylum. Quincy Sharp, the warden of Arkham Asylum is now the mayor of Gotham City after he took the credit for stopping The Joker from taking over Arkham Asylum in the previous game. He turns a large area of Gotham City’s downtown slums into a large open prison called Arkham City, closing the other asylums down claiming they are no longer suitable for containing the colourful array of sickos and psychopaths Gotham has to offer. Bruce Wayne, who tends to have his head screwed on right, rather sensibly objects to this plan only to be thrown in Arkham City by mercenaries hired by Hugo Strange, the man in charge of the new prison. With Hugo Strange preparing for something called Protocol 10, Batman needs to find out everything he can about what’s going on as well as making sure Hugo doesn’t reveal to the world Batman’s alter-ego.
Arkham City hides more of Batman’s villains than Arkham Asylum ever could. The Joker and Harley Quinn return, as does Bane, The Riddler, Victor Zsasz and Poison Ivy. They’re joined by The Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Talia Al Ghul and Calender Man. Not to mention Deadshot, Mad Hatter, BlackMask. Look, there are more faces from the Batman universe than you can shake a batarang at, and the above list doesn’t include Catwoman, Nightwing or Robin who are all playable characters (dlc dependant of course).
Ok, so you know the story and you know the characters but what’s Batman Arkham City actually like? Well, it’s kinda like the first one… except bigger, much bigger. The map alone is five times bigger than Arkham Asylum.
It’s nice to see that the gameplay hasn’t been completely rewritten either as some sequels feel almost compelled to do. The basic game-play fundaments of Arkham Asylum continue within Arkham City but instead of receiving an overhaul they’ve just had a few tweaks. Here are the ones I’ve noticed…
You start the game with all the gadgets you had by the end of Arkham Asylum. Yes, as soon as you get your Batsuit from Alfred, it’s already loaded with Batarangs, a grapple gun, explosive gel. It was a good decision. With the only other choices being to leave those gadgets out or have Batman accumulating them all again; I think they chose the best path.
Catwoman, yes Catwoman. In Batman Arkham City there is an intertwined storyline involving Catwoman who has her own set of moves, trophies and challenges to complete. With her whip and bolas, and the ability to crawl on ceilings and up walls she provides a break from the game-play of the bad-moody Batman.
Harley Quinn has a new wardrobe. Yes, alright I know it’s incredibly fanboy and rather sad of me, but the risqué nurses uniform of Asylum-Harley has been replaced with a red leather basque and pants combo. What? It’s a good change.
Combat has been injected with a few new moves and animations. The same minimal button system exists as it did in Asylum; one button to attack, one to counter, one to stun etc. but you’ve got more ways to kick evildoer or criminal-scum ass.
Smoke bombs are one of the new gadgets to be introduced into Arkham City. Been spotted? Failed a stealth attack? Drop a smoke bomb and get the hell out of there while the thugs are still stumbling around.
Side missions are a plenty. If you’re not racing across the city tracking phone calls from Zsasz, you’re helping Bane destroy barrels of Titan, or rescuing innocents from the inmates.
You enjoyed finding those Riddler trophies in Arkham Asylum? Well in Arkham City there are 400 of them to find. Collect them and unlock concept art, and the like. Plus, if you can’t get a trophy now you can scan it into your map and come back for it later.
But everything has its downsides, right? Though admittedly this has less than most, but there are still negative points nonetheless.
Saving the game cannot be done manually. The game is saved automatically when you enter a new area or complete a challenge. At certain times, you may have to just turn it off and lose some of your progress, unless you can keep playing until you see the ‘circle of saving’.
I struggled on where I should put this as it’s both good and bad. The detective mode is now worse for navigating. In fact with detective mode on you can see enemies but walls, floors etc are a confusing mass of lines. Though I’ve read this was done deliberately, owing to the fact that a lot of people spent most of Arkham Asylum in detective mode. Like I said, it’s difficult to place this one, but there are more goods than bads so I put it here.
In short, Batman Arkham City is every bit as addictive and compelling as Arkham Asylum. It’s bigger and better with a lot more to do. With the Steam offer on until July 22nd, you still have time to pick one up ridiculously cheap. If not, hunt it down in the sales or second-hand shops or just splash the cash dammit, it’s worth it.
Oh, and if you are a PC owner, I recommend playing it with an xBox 360 pad. It might just be because I played Arkham Asylum on my xBox 360 but Batman Arkham City lends itself more to a pad, than a mouse and keyboard.
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Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife and his player 3. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.