GOTY for many reasons, Arkham City boasts an amazing and intracate combat system,extrodinary atmosphere and personality.
The game opens with a press conference held to protest the opening of Arkham City, a new prison for particularly hanous criminals and of course all current Black Gate and Arkham Asylum inmates. The ex-warden of Arkham Asylum, Quincey Sharpe, elects Hugo Strange to be in charge of the new prison, which is actually just a quarantined section of Gotham City. Soon enough, Bruce Wayne finds himself incarcerated and victim to Hugo Strange and his hidden plot.
The first thing you'll notice is how enormous Arkham City really is, especially compared to Arkham Asylum. The term sandbox comes to mind, although it's still presented to you in a manageable setting. Some of Batman's gadgets make their return from Arkham Asylum, as well as a handfull of new ones. These can be used anytime in a manual context, and can also be integrated into combat, allowing for a lot more variation bonuses.
One of the most exciting new additions to Arkham City is the "Super Gadgets" which can only be used by Batman. After achieving a combo score of x12 or more in a row, Batman's gadgets gain devastating and more powerful properties. For example, the explosive gel's blast radius increases by 10 fold, and will usually take out every henchman in the area, not to mention keep them on the ground for longer. When you throw a batarang in combat, you can actually throw three individual ones in a row, rather than three at once in Arkham Asylum. This allows for more tactical approaches and strategy. When you use super batarangs, Batman will throw three at a time, allowing for up to nine batarangs to be deployed. The batclaw makes it's return, and even allows for a new combat variation, the batclaw slam. When used in super mode it causes an earthquake that temporarily stunns everyone in the immediate proximity. Batman also receives the R.E.C gun which sends a shocking bolt of electricity to stun a single opponent, and zaps many more in a web when used in super mode.
There are many new combat moves for your variation bonus pleasure. The throw move found in Arkham Asylum has been replaced by the "bat swarm", which is used to stun any enemy in it's wake. Batman can also disarm an enemy with a weapon and immediately destroy it with the X and Y special move. Also, if you have henchmen stunned on the ground, press the A and B buttons if you have a special move ready, and Batman will fly straight up into the air and fling as many batarangs to the ground as needed to k.o. that many opponents. Special combo moves are still activated after a combo score of x5, and the individual combo takedown is still available.
Two more exciting combat moves include wall and multiple counters. If you're near a wall or other flat structure, or a rail, and you counter an enemies incoming attack, Batman will either jump off the wall and counter, or simply slam the henchman's head against the wall in a few different varieities. Sometimes you'll see two or three henchman attacking you at once. Simply press the counter button that many times during their attack animation. In Arkham Asylum you may have noticed that Batman's regular strikes would often hit more than one opponent. In Arkham City it rarely happens, as you basically attack one enemy at a time, although it does happen on occassion.
In addition, there is also the arial attack, which is needed to disarm enemies with shields, and the super stun in which batman stuns an enemy three straight times, and sends them flying to the ground for a significant period of time. This is also needed to stun titans, although there are other ways to do that such as gadgets or other special moves. Personally I like this change because it allows you to be more aggressive with titans, so you don't have to wait for them to charge you and hit them with a batarang.
Taking out enemies with knives has also changed. You can actually counter an incoming knife attack with three straight carefully timed dodges, which results in an instant takedown, and a combo score of x3, or you can simply hold down the Y button and back on the control stick to dodge each strike, then deal with the enemy as you see fit. Armored enemies will present problems to new players, but can be taken down with special combo takedowns, or the R.E.C gadget. Another way to get rid of them is the beat down finisher which is also a new move, and possibly the more fun to execute.
Simply stun an enemy and begin to strike them relentlessly. Provided you are uninterrupted by another attack, Batman will finish the flurry of strikes with one devastating blow giving you a knockout. It takes a lot more strikes to knockout an armored enemy, and if you finish the move near a wall, you'll often see Batman shoulder check or choke slam them into the concrete to put the rose on the coffin so to speak.
Combat and Predator challenges make their return, which are unlocked by solving riddles and collecting riddler trophies. Most of the challenges are pretty basic, but a few of them will present a real challenge for those who are looking for it.
If you were lucky enough to buy the game early from GameStop, you would have been given a code to download Catwoman as a playable character. She comes complete with her own moves and gadgets, though not even half of what Batman boasts. Still, her combat style is very unique, and thrilling nonetheless. You can even play as her in the main story mode complete with sidemissions and storyline, which interweives nicely with Batman's story.
The Game of the Year Edition comes complete with all of the available downloadable content, which includes new challenge maps, Nightwing and Robin bundles, and Harley Quinn's Revenge, a new sidestory. Each character comes with a skin bundle pack, including animated versions of all four characters, and many more. Robin and Nightwing come with their own moves and gadgets, as well as new challenge maps.
There is really only one legitamate complaint about Arkham City. While the targeting system is very accurate and fair, there will be times when you'll lose your combo for no apparent reason. Also, when there is a Titan on the field and it's stunned, there will be times when you'll attempt to strike a normal henchmen, and the game will send you flying across the entire map to hit the Titan instead. Often the Titan will just be coming out of stunned mode, and you'll lose your combo that way too.
Other than that Arkham City truly is one of the best games ever made, and has possibly the best fighting system I've ever used for an action game. The storyline is sizeable, replayable, and chalk full of familiar enemies and sidemissions. You won't stop playing this one anytime soon.