Graphics: this game looks about the same as AA. That is to say, fantastic. The animations are amazingly smooth, the character models look great, the environments are varied and well designed, everything about this game looks spectacular. The framerate rarely ever falters, either, which is pretty mind blowing considering how good looking it is. I have only ever run into about three framerate drops in my time with the game. Also, I think the environments are better in this game than in AA. Arkham City is, well, a quarantined part of a city and it is really convincing. Everything is trying to show its former glory, but the decay and neglect that have been delivered unto them by the inmates shows through. Overall, this is another amazing looking game that is also very polished. 10/ 10
Sound: Just like the first, Batman AC features some spectacular sound quality. The voice acting is absolutely top notch (the new actors for characters like Penguin, Two Face, Catwoman and Alfred the Butler are perfect.) And, just like last time, Mark Hammil steals the show as Joker. The sound effects are also very well done; punches feel like they pack a lot of power, breaking bones sound extremely painful, guns are great, etc. The music is also very well done, with a cool orchestra playing in the background. There really isn't a bad sound in the game. However, like the first game, the music never really comes into the forefront. 9/ 10
Story: Ever since the Arkham Asylum incident, the prisoners of that place have been relocated into a quarantined section of Gotham City, dubbed Arkham City. (Surprise surprise.) This is an immoral and dangerous practice; the inmates are basically left to fend for themselves, and it's a lawless place. Three Super Villains have taken pieces of the city for themselves and formed gangs. (Two Face, Penguin and the Joker.) There are gang wars, often resulting in many deaths. To top it all off, people who are speaking out against this super prison are being thrown into the city themselves. Bruce Wayne is at the forefront of this ant Arkham City movement, and gets arrested during a public speech he was giving. After being thrown into the prison, being taken hostage by Penguin and his gang, he fights his way to the (relative) safety of a rooftop where he calls Alfred to send him his Batsuit. After getting it, he sets out to find out what exactly is going on in the city. There are many interesting turns, one of which is Joker forcing Batman into helping him find the cure for his Titan caused illness. (Joker is in a really bad state right now.) The story is very enjoyable, and there are some great characters being put to use here. For instance, the Penguin is a bad guy that you love to hate. He is cruel, unrelenting and a complete scumbag. The fact that you hate him shows how well done the characters are. Aside from the main conflict, there are many side stories involving other characters from Batman's past, but I won't give any away for the sake of spoilers. There is also an extremely dark atmosphere in the game. Like in the first game, the violence onscreen is basically bloodless, but there are many references to some really heinous acts being committed. For instance, in Penguin's "collection" of trophies (people he has killed) you see a skeleton that you are told is a person who tried to steal from Penguin and ended up spending four hours in a hot oven. There are many, many references to disturbing acts such as these. Overall, the story is quite enjoyable. 8/ 10
Gameplay: There are many changes and tweaks made to this game, and it pays off; this is a better game in just about every way over its predecessor.
For one, the environment is much more well done, I feel. The city is pretty sizeable, and allows for much more freedom than in the first. There are also many more interesting places and things to see, with some neat little Easter eggs. (You can actually visit the area that Bruce Wayne's parents were killed at.) The environments are a lot more fun to explore and the movement is also better. Using an upgrade called the Grapnel Boost that you get fairly early on, you can propel yourself into the air with your grappling hook and glide around, covering a lot of distance in a little bit of time. This is a really neat way to get around, and is much more interesting than all the running around you did in the first game.
There are also new gadgets to get, as well as some new uses for the old ones. One of my favorites is a Shock Gun, which fires electric projectiles. This can be used to power up generators, or on enemies to make them spaz out. Returning ones, like the Batclaw, also have new uses. For instance, during stealth sequences, you can use the Batclaw to potentially pull an enemy over the side of a railing, instantly incapacitating him. Or, in the case of the Remote Controlled Batarang, there is a new upgrade that allows you to throw a Batarang that loops back around to hit an enemy. New moves like this make the gameplay really open ended during parts where you're in combat or you're sneaking around. There is never one solution to how you can take out a group of enemies. For the Riddler Challenges, your moves will be put to the test. There are some tricky puzzles, and you'll have to dig deep and think carefully about what to use.
Speaking of Riddler, there are numerous changes to finding his Trophies. They are almost never just lying around out in some hidden area. More often than not, they are set up in contraptions that require you to use your wits. In the first game, finding the Trophies was more like an elaborate scavenger hunt. In this one, it is an elaborate set of mini puzzles. Aside from that, there are new challenges to do, mostly movement based ones. For instance, one of them requires you to glide 150 meters without use of the grapnel boost. Another requires you to trip three enemies by sliding into them. (That's another new move for you to do.) These add some welcome variety. Also new are the Riddler Hostages. After finding or beating a certain number of Riddler challenges, you will get an Enigma Cube. He will give you a riddle, and you must put together the word that completes it by turning gears in the cube. This will give you the location to a Riddler Hostage. When you arrive at the scene, you must save the person who was kidnapped from an elaborate death trap. These are also pretty tricky, but can be overcome with some ingenuity.
However, Riddler isn't the only villain running around Arkham. There are numerous sidequests for you to undertake that involve some super villainy outside the main story. These are varied and fun. For instance, in one of them, you must track down a killer by running to a ringing telephone somewhere in the city. In another, you must trace a bullet's trajectory from a crime scene to find out who is murdering political prisoners. In another, you fight in a creepy psychological realm. These all have welcome variety.
The boss battles are also improved from the first. In the first game, there were only really three types of battles. In this one, each battle is unique and more well done. Each one has a pattern for you to learn. The key to overcoming them is to find out what they are vulnerable to.
There are also more combat options for you to choose from. All of the moves from the first game are here, with all new ones added in. For instance, one move allows you to, after building a big enough combo, disarm and break a weapon an enemy is holding. You can also counter multiple attacks at once. (Which looks pretty damn cool.) Most of the new gadgets you get can be quick fired during combat as well. The same precise timing is required, and it's very satisfying to build up a large combo. Once you get into a steady rhythm, you will really feel like Batman.
The stealth sections are also made more complex. As the game progresses, enemies get new tricks, such as sniper rifles and night vision goggles. These really add a new layer of strategy to the game, making for some great set piece battles. As mentioned earlier, your gadgets can also be used to help you dispatch your foes. Like combat, there are numerous ways to take down your foes in these situations.
In addition to the lengthy campaign, there are new Challenge Maps and Campaigns to do. The Maps play like the old ones, and they are just as addictive. Earning Medals will most likely become your obsession for a little bit. The Campaigns are a series of challenge maps that allow you to add Challenge Modifiers to it, really making for some unique challenges.
The gameplay is a significant step up from what was already a great formula. 9/ 10
Batman Arkham City is a sequel done right. There are numerous improvements and additions, both big and small. The Riddler Challenges are much more fleshed out, the combat is more open ended, as well as exploration. This is on top of having some awesome graphics, great sound, and a great story. Batman AC is one of the best games of 2011, and is most definitely worth your time and money. So long and thanks for reading.