Batman: Arkham City is a near perfect combination of heroic storytelling, good graphics and flawless gameplay.
Arkham City is a violent and dark place; but it is here where many extraordinary things happen. The plot is fresh and exciting, the atmospheric graphics are absorbing and glorious and the gameplay is addictive and thrilling. Everything from the variety of enemies, to the flawless combat and cinematic soundtrack is purely tremendous. It truly does sets the bar high for licensed games, and is one of the best licensed games ever made.
As far as the plot goes, Arkham City does a excellent job at crafting a memorable and unpredictable tale with a shocking conclusion. Hugo Strange knows Batman's true identity, and to make matters worse many of Batman's worse enemies are freely roaming the streets of Arkham City including The Joker. The story follows a undeniably exciting path starring many of Batman's most memorable, fearful opponents and does a great job at introducing familiar characters. The pacing is quite good too, but some parts drag on a bit long. Luckily, every time I started to grow tired of a part it would normally end.
The game is about ten hours long, but it's easy to get distracted in Arkham City, a place full of content. There are Riddler puzzles and challenges placed all over the city, and they can sometimes be difficult. They aren't overwhelmingly so, but it all adds to the fun. The side-quest are also decent, and features appearances from more of Batman's most feared villains. Obviously, the game has trophy support and also a intense Challenge Mode where you get points for pulling off brutal combos, and defeating waves of enemies.
Finally, the game has a good amount of replay value thanks to a New Game+ where all gadgets and upgrades you acquired in your previous playthrough return, but the difficulty is far more tedious and a few gameplay changes makes it far more interesting, like the disappearance of the counter alert symbol.
Arkham City is a atmospheric, beautifully fascinating city nothing short of absorbing. It feels ultimately dangerous and even mysterious. While exploring, you may notice various areas that make this city feel as if it was once peaceful, and busy. The city isn't necessarily massive, but it is spectacularly detailed and graphic, where prisoners walk the streets, attacking who ever they see and snow falls continuous onto the city. Icy bridges lead to locations like a police station, and a museum which are astonishingly detailed to a unbelievable point.
The graphics are colorful yet dark, and very comic-like. Some blurry textures are noticeable, but overall it's a excellent looking game. Water-effects are also quite good, and animations are fluid, stylish and realistic. In my time with the game, I didn't experience any frame-rate drops and pop-in textures which is amazing for a game of this size, especially since there are a lot of things happening on screen at one time.
The soundtrack does a great job at crafting a cinematic experience, delivering most strongly on the epic action segments. Sound effects in general are perfect, and a few subtle details add to the atmosphere such as distant sirens, and gunshots. The voice-acting is also top-notch, with my only complaint being some lines repeating among enemy A.I.
The gameplay is considerably the greatest thing about Arkham City, blending puzzles, combat and sneaking into one single masterpiece. Starting with puzzle-solving, there are over 400 Riddler puzzles lying around Arkham City. You have to complete puzzles in the main story also, using many of Batman's most iconic gadgets including the Batarang. These are normally easy, with the only exception being the number of gadgets in the game. It's easy to forget you have some of them, and when they are required to get pass a certain point it may not occurred to you what to use.
There's also Detective Mode which was also used in the predecessor, Arkham Asylum, a useful feature Batman often uses to investigate different environments. These aren't necessarily puzzles, but makes full use of Batman's detective skills. Detective Mode also highlights enemies and other useful clues.
Combat is exciting, responsive and hard-hitting. Melee combat is handled through a simple system which never feels too complex. By pressing one button, you can counter opponents and attack them with another. Many combos are available, and add more involvement in taking down enemies. You can also quickly use gadgets in combat, which makes it feel cinematic and cool while still being useful.
The variety of enemies is vast, and each one requires different techniques to take them down. A enemy with a stun baton for example requires you to get behind him, while an armoured foe makes use of Batman's cape. This helps with the pacing too, because every time the gameplay became dull a new enemy type was introduced.
Other opponents have guns, and this adds a stealth element to Arkham City. Batman can be taken down in just a few shots, so bravely waiting out in the opening raises the possibility of being killed. By using various tactics, you can attack enemies from above, behind and even below. Taking out all enemies while remaining entirely silent is interesting, and unpredictable but very exciting.
And this brings me to one of the most surprisingly good factors of Arkham City; the A.I. Shockingly, when you get spotted by enemies they don't ignore your presence after a certain amount of time, and go back to their everyday lives as criminals. Instead, they split up, mostly in groups and search for you. This makes things sometimes difficult, but admirable due to the realism. The A.I also works perfectly together in melee combat, attacking in groups and even using different weapons in the area. This opens up possibilities for more combos of course, but it also makes it far more intense.
As you play through you game, you earn points and can level up. You can get new gadgets, combos, sneaking bonuses and finally, suit upgrades. This enhances the experience even more, and adds even more content.
Getting around the city would normally be difficult, but a fun transportation system is in place. Batman can use his cape to glide through the air, and also use a grappling hook to reach rooftops at a press of a button. It's very convenient, and is a easy, yet perfect system for Batman's transportation.
Arkham City sets a new height for licensed games. It stays true to the character it's based on, while creating a different, fantastic story. The graphics are dark and mysterious, blending with engaging gameplay and wonderful, magnificent heroic soundtrack worthy of the masterpiece it's assigned to. Even if you don't like Batman, it's worth a try for the marvelous gameplay alone. Everything about Arkham City is simply, ridiculously breathtaking, and is personally, the greatest superhero game created so far. It truly is heroic.