In 2009, Rocksteady shocked everyone with Batman Arkham Asylum. I don’t think anybody expected that game to be as fun and intuitive as it was but Rocksteady really hit the ball out of the park and set the bar for action/adventure games that followed. With the rousing success of the first game, of course it was no surprise that we were given a sequel to possibly the best super hero game to date. Arkham City keeps everything that made Asylum so great and takes them to a full city. Whether or not you prefer this type of game to what the original offered, you will most certainly agree that it’s still as amazing as the first.
The story takes place some time after Asylum. This time, Bruce Wayne makes a public statement for his opposition of the new Arkham City, a section of Gotham City meant to house Gotham’s most dangerous criminals. Not long after, he is arrested by TYGER mercenaries and imprisoned in Arkham City. This operation is run by Doctor Strange. After a narrow escape, Wayne escapes and gets his gear from Alfred via an airdrop, and now Batman must stop Strange (and the Joker) from unleashing “protocol 10” and wreaking havoc on Gotham. The whole story is told very well and the pacing is very consistent. This is surely one plot that will keep you guessing with no giveaways. The writing is well spread out, and unpredictable which keeps your interest level high without giving away too much information on what will happen next. The story is interesting from beginning to end and no character feels out of place, and to top it all off, the ending will leave you stunned.
For a ruined section of Gotham that is overrun with thugs and criminals, Arkham City is a rich environment. Once again, Rocksteady took their time and nailed the look and feel of the world of Batman. Roaming the streets or jumping from rooftop to rooftop, you really get the sense that there is nothing cheery about this crime ridden city. The lighting is especially fantastic, even for a game based on a series that is usually full of dark street corners. Even with all the darkness surrounding you, it doesn’t disturb the large draw distance and nothing gets lost in your vision. Much like Asylum, each detail of the visuals is complete fan service, and it both looks and feels fantastic.
The control scheme, whether you’re exploring the city or in combat with thugs, is pretty much the same as its predecessor, as is the combat system. However, you know what they say; “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. Arkham City takes everything great about Asylum’s intuitive controls and design and adds even more variety. The combat utilizes the same strike button system as before, push X to punch and use the counter button whenever you see someone about to strike you. Like before, you are also rewarded for keeping your combo up by performing simultaneous hits in each brawl. Gaining enough experience from these fights causes Batman to level up and allows you to upgrade your armor, moves or one of the many tools of your choosing.
Outside of fighting, Batman is given back his tools from before like the batterang, explosive gel, decoder, etc. In addition, we have some new gadgets this time around like freeze blast (freezes enemies), smoke pellet (use to escape easier), and a remote control baterang. Each gadget gets their fair share of use in and out of combat. This large variety also gives players plenty of opportunity to play in their own style in combat or just traversing the city.
Much like many open world games, there are also several side quests to take up, usually dealing with one of Batman’s main antagonists like Bane or the Riddler. You may get a call about some activity happening in the city and of course, it is up to Batman to investigate and catch the culprit. Most of these one on one scenarios with each villain is often continuous throughout the story, so it may seem a bit annoying to stop what you’re doing to go investigate each suspicious activity that gets reported. However, it actually serves as a nice distraction from the main story. On the other hand, some of them are a miss in their execution. Sometimes they just pop up at random parts of the story and often times they have you doing the same thing you did last time. Other than that, side missions were a welcome addition and they allow characters to make an appearance without being shoehorned into the main plot.
So in conclusion, is Arkham City better than Asylum? Worse? Even? You may prefer one play style over the other (metroidvania of Asylum vs the open world of City). But, whichever you prefer, everyone can agree on one thing; both games are fantastic. City manages to live up its predecessor as well as take everything the previous game did so well and successfully transport it to an open world, while still playing fluidly. The story and art style alone is pure fan service for Baatman fanatics of all ages, and the combat is as intuitive and fun as ever. Much like Asylum, Rocksteady sure knows how to make a super hero game right.