Rocksteady Games created an instant classic with Batman: Arkham Asylum and people went insane at the mere mention of a sequel. It still stands as one of the few games based upon a comic book character that is worth buying. The gameplay brought nothing new to the table because it took elements from other games and put it together in a combination that truly made players feel like the Dark Knight. Depending upon the situation, you might have to hide in the shadows to silently take enemies out one by one. In other areas you would have to decimate a large group of criminals single-handedly. The boss battles were not difficult but they required you to think on your feet in order to survive. All of this captured the action and excitement previously reserved for the movies and animated shows. Now Arkham City aims to score another hit as players don the cape and cowl once more.
YOU NEVER PLAYED “ASYLUM?” Despite eighteen months having passed, Arkham City technically picks up right where its predecessor left off. In case you are new to the story, the Joker escaped from Arkham, only to be quickly and all to easily captured by Batman. Upon returning him to Arkham, Batman and Commissioner Gordon encounter the Joker’s true plan. Batman quickly secures Gordon and ensures he will get to the bottom of things. Now trapped in the asylum with a criminal population he is largely responsible for, Batman faces what would seem like a hopeless situation if he were not, well, Batman. Tackling the likes of Poison Ivy, Bane, Zsasz, Killer Croc and Scarecrow, along with several hundred other inmates, Batman has his work cut out for him before he is finally able to stop Joker’s plot to make Titan, a stronger, permanent variant of Bane’s Venom steroid, enhanced by Poison Ivy’s plants. Joker planned to make an army of Titan goons and take over Gotham; he even takes the deadly formula himself in hopes of stopping the Bat. Some of the more memorable moments of Arkham Asylum include:
Poison Ivy using vines to destroy half the island after being infused with Titan
Batman sucker punching a supercharged Bane with an 80 MPH Batmobile
Surviving Killer Croc
Batman serving a Titan-enhanced Joker a C4-laced Shoryuken
If you haven’t played this game, you should stop reading now and go get it.
Hugo Strange taunts Batman
A PRISON CITY? After the events on Arkham Island, the asylum was deemed a failure. As its replacement, the entire northern section of Gotham City was walled off and Arkham City was born. Professor Hugo Strange is named the warden and he enlists a private firm known as Tyger Security to “police” the city. Despite the massive reduction in crime in Gotham, many oppose the prison, calling the new Arkham inhumane. Knowing that something is wrong just with Strange being the warden, Batman uses his alter-ego and funds to bring down Arkham City. Strange sends Tyger to apprehend Wayne and throw him into Arkham, where Strange threatens to tell the world he is Batman if he opposes him. Wayne escapes after fighting Penguin and his goons and dons the cape and cowl atop Axis Chemicals. The story goes much deeper than even what the cutscenes explain. You have to solve all of Nygma’s riddles if you want the real story. You would think I have told you a lot about the game, but you would be wrong. While you do play during the events I have described, all of what I have covered here comprises the opening credits of the game. It’s gonna be another really long night for the Caped Crusader.
THE BAT, THE CAT & SOME BIRDS Playing as Batman was awesome in Asylum, and Rocksteady knew that they would have to put in some real work to top their previous hit. The solution they came up with made fans go even crazier the moment the Catwoman trailer hit the net. It wasn’t just that there was another playable character in the game, she was kicking ass just as stylistically as Batman and even more so in many ways. Then the developers also divulged that Robin/Red Robin, aka Tim Drake and Nightwing would also be playable although only on the challenge maps. So we go from one to four awesome characters in the new game and the new additions are not just skins for Batman; that is a whole other added bonus. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses and fight differently.
DARK KNIGHT Obviously playable throughout most of the game, Batman has the most moves of any character. His gadgets range from the familiar: batarangs, grapnel gun/batclaw, cryptographic sequencer, line launcher and gel explosive, to the new: smoke pellets, freeze grenades, mine detonator/gun jammer and remote electrical charge. You have more control than before over his movement – gliding is now assisted by power dives; you can literally make it from one end of the city to another if you use the cape properly. He has a host of new takedown styles as well, a favorite being the high speed rooftop takedown where you snatch an enemy peering over a roof and slam him. The freeflow combat has been improved as you are rewarded with heightened reflexes the more its you chain. The enemies are more varied and more clever now also, so you need it.
CAT BURGLAR Catwoman does not have near the arsenal of her brooding knight in armor, but she is quite possibly more dangerous. The classic whip is used in several ways. Where the Bat mostly glides across the city, she swings. And she cannot scale a building quite as quickly as he can, but with her claws, she get to places he cannot, even climbing on ceilings in places. Her combat gadgets are her whip, bolas used to trip enemies and caltrops which stick in their feet. Despite having the least physical strength of the four characters, Ms. Kyle makes up for it with blinding speed. Anyone who is used to the freeflow combat will tell you how pissed they get when they are in the midst of a combo and they went to strike the next criminal instead of hitting counter, thus losing the combo due to a punch to the head. This is almost a non-issue with Catwoman. She is so fast that I have been surrounded by two or even three enemies about to strike and they cannot touch me even when I have chosen the wrong action. She is easily the favorite for normal (lieutenant and titan-free) freeflow combat.
WORLD’S NEXT GREATEST DETECTIVE Tim Drake makes the bad guys look stupid in more ways than just beating the stuffing out of them. He figured out the true identity of Batman and (the original) Robin when he was only seven. It’s a shame that his only appearance in the main game is during a cutscene. Players only get to use him during the Riddler challenge maps. The use of the bo staff makes him a bit slower than Batman, but it also makes him the strongest fighter in the game. When he hits a criminal, it sounds really nasty. If you did not get Robin as part of your game, you definitely want to pick him up when his DLC becomes available.
LAST OF THE FLYING GRAYSONS The very first partner of Batman, Dick Grayson is highly experienced and having been the star child of an acrobatic family, he is possibly more nimble than Catwoman. Take wrist launched wing-dings and his escrima sticks, you have someone with strength and skill on par with Batman that moves much faster. And let’s not forget that Dick’s Escrima sticks are are also tasers. All I know is the next Batman game needs to either have this former sidekick playable or hell, give us a full game in Blüdhaven!
FANATIC OF THE B WORD Had to mention this because I think people are being ridiculous. There is a big stink about the criminal population of Arkham City referring to Catwoman as a bitch just about every chance they get. Let’s take a “realistic” look at the situation. This is a city full of prison inmates. Robbers, rapists, murderers, etc. And these are inmates from Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary. No one here is a “white collar criminal. They also probably have not had their hands on a woman in a while, to put it cleanly. Toss in Catwoman, a very sexy and shapely woman dropping in on them beating the crap out of them. She even kisses some of them while beating them up. Now add that all up and ask yourself, what would these guys call her? “Bitch” is about the safest word that can be used because I am positive they would call her much worse. So my message to everyone that has an issue with the b word: “Grow up.” The game is rated T and bitch is an acceptable word under that rating, regardless of how frequently it is used.
BEAUTIFUL UGLINESS Arkham City is nasty; it is full of broken-down buildings and abandoned subways. One part of the city has even sunken into the ground where it fell on top of an older city. Still, the level of detail in the game is awe-inspiring. As Batman, you will probably soar above it so fast that you miss it, but if you take the time to truly complete the game, you will have the chance to truly appreciate what the artists put in to the game. From Catwoman’s walk to the scene in crime alley, there is so much to see. Take time between missions and pick up some Riddler trophies. Read the billboards and street signs. Get the most out of your game and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
ARE WE AT THE MOVIES? From the moment you see the start menu, this game gives you reason to tweak the settings on your home theater. The theme music sounds like something you would hear in a theatre. The voice acting continues to be top-notch as Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles. Warner Bros. always hires incredible talent to voice their characters and there is no surprise here. Many of the voices featured in the game have been seen in other WB projects like Nolan North and Khary Payton, aka Superboy and Aqualad in the current Young Justice series. Let's face it, the game is a treat to the senses.
BONUS! While this game’s predecessor was fantastic, it was a bit light on the extras. The collector’s edition came with a crappy plastic batarang and there was not much else to look forward to other than challenge maps. This time around, we get three additional characters, more maps than before and a lot of fan service. The collector’s edition for this game features a statue of the Bat made by Kotobukiya. There are skins galore for Batman and while they do not add any extra abilities, they are collector’s items that Bat-fans will not want to miss.
I got lost playing this game. I enjoyed it so much that I think I only stopped to sleep and use the bathroom. There were no “is this part over yet” moments in the game. I definitely recommend playing the first game before this one. It is not an absolute requirement unless you like to enjoy the story like I do. Between the success the game has already enjoyed and the way the story went, I feel certain that there will be a third entry. I am also hoping that Rocksteady makes a Nightwing game, but we will just have to wait and see. Batman: Arkham City is easily one of the best games to release in 2011. This is one of those no-brainer decisions. Everyone should play this game.
Slick's Nit-Picks: Batman: Year One (mytakeradio.com)
Slick's Nit-Picks: Young Justice, Episode 116 – “Failsafe” (mytakeradio.com)