After the overwhelming success of 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum, British developers Rocksteady Studios went full force on its sequel; Batman: Arkham City. Offering a bigger and more diverse open world, more random crimes to stop and more villains to take down.
I Am Vengeance
The game starts out in a prison city right in the heart of Gotham that is made of ruins of "Old Gotham" which its founder, Hugo Strange, claims is a more secure facility than the titular asylum of the previous game. The story then kicks off with a bang as Bruce Wayne is protesting against the prison's use stating it's a danger to the citizens of Gotham, however he is captured by TYGER Security and thrown into the very prison he's trying so hard to oppose. There he meets Hugo Strange who informs Bruce that he knows Bruce is Batman and about his plans for "Protocol 10". After the processing of the new prisoners, Bruce calls for the Batsuit in order to find out what Protocol 10 is and to put a stop to it.
Some Men Want To Watch The World Burn
What happens next is roughly 25 hours of the best superhero story you'll ever play. It's easy to tell how much passion Rocksteady has for the Batman IP and the characters that it includes. In the main campaign alone you'll meet characters like The Riddler, The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Penguin And Mr. Freeze. The story is brilliantly paced with each character feeling perfectly utilised and no one overstaying their welcome and conversely, being underused. The characters in this story are masterfully brought to life by Batman: The Animated Series voice actors Mark Hamil and the late Kevin Conroy. Arlene Sorkin unfortunately does not reprise her role as Harley Quinn after retiring in May 2011 but she is instead voiced by the excellent Tara Strong who has played the character on and off for 10 years since the game's release. The secondary characters also feature stellar performances with Maurice LaMarche as a very "chilling" Mr. Freeze, Nolan North as Penguin and Grey Griffin as Catwoman.
Scared? You Should Be
On top of the perfectly executed story, the gameplay is also some of the most crisp and fluid in recent memory. The Freeflow Combat System which was first introduced in Arkham Asylum returns for Arkham City with plenty of improvements including mid combo gadget deployments, Area of effect takedowns and blade dodge takedowns which all give players a greater sense of control over the fight and makes the overall combat experience much more rewarding. On the flip side, players have the option to take a more stealthy approach with a variety of maneuvers and other advantages at their disposal including inverted takedowns, smoke bombs, vents and vantage points. However this won't be easy as in stealth sections, enemies will be equipped with alarms so that once an enemy is knocked out, their allies will know who's been defeated and where they are. They can also take hostages which must be dealt with using a silent takedown from behind otherwise the hostage is executed and the entire encounter must be restarted.
FEEL Like Batman
However, it's not all about punching bad guys in the face. Batman didn't earn the title of "The World's Greatest Detective" just for beating up criminals. In multiple sections through the game; particularly in missions involving two of my personal favourite Batman villains, Deadshot and Hush, the player will need to analyse and track clues as to locations of victims and possible suspects.
But Wait There's More
This fancy Game of the Year Edition includes even more content on top of the incredible base package. To kick it off, there's the Harley Quinn's Revenge story DLC set after the main game where the player controls Robin in investigating the disappearance of Batman. There are also multiple DLC characters included. These being Catwoman, who has 4 missions included in the main story campaign; fan favourite smart-mouth Nightwing, who ironically for this game doesn't actually talk and finally Robin who was also featured in the main campaign voiced by Troy Baker. Nightwing and Robin both include extra challenge maps for the Riddler's Revenge game mode which acts as a score attack mode composed of Predator and Combat maps and leaderboards for each. Nightwing includes 2 maps, one predator and one combat, each taking place in Wayne Manor. Robin also has 2 maps in which he chases Black Mask through his meat factory and through a train in a side scrolling beat-em-up style combat map.
All of this amazing content combines to make one of the best, most comprehensive Batman experiences money can buy. With the fluid combat system, top notch storytelling, brilliantly immersive world and stellar voice work. This is a must buy for any Batman fan.