Like with Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City was not what I was expecting. I thought I would like a sequel that featured more Batman: Arkham Asylum, but in a “city” like environment. I believed it would contextualize Batman better as the hero of people and shed light on how Batman operates in a real world setting. Unfortunately I found Arkham City’s open world direction did more harm than good.
Batman: Arkham Asylum bore a resemblance to a Metroidvania game where certain areas and items were clearly off limits until I unlocked a certain ability. The Riddler’s trophies were like Metroid’s “missiles” and were tucked away behind these gates for me to uncover later. Arkham Asylum felt meticulously crafted and designed with some progression path in mind.
This was not the case with Batman: Arkham City.
Now the criminals of Gotham were housed in a sectioned off chunk of Gotham City — dubbed Arkham City — where they’re allowed to mingle and fight amongst themselves. There may have been some well thought out plan that allowed this to happen, but I didn’t care dig into it.
I only cared about the gameplay ramifications and how much longer it took to get around this hub. The villains, the story — the meat of this game — were still housed in buildings, but instead of the buildings being just across the courtyard, they were now several blocks away from one another.
They gave Batman the ability to glide and dive with his cape as a means of travel. They even gave him the ability to launch himself up towards the skies with a grapplling hook upgrade. But as enjoyable as it was to glide around, I felt it wasn’t enough to make up for the added filler in the world.
The Riddler trophies were a clever way to integrate both collectibles and the Riddler himself into Arkham Asylum. In Arkham City, they’re a distraction. There are far too many of those green question marks and their integration into the world was nonsensical considering what was happening around him.
Some of the puzzles and challenges to unlock those trophies were clever and if I had all of Batman’s gadgets, I would have been fine with these “riddles” because they demanded more than punching through a wall. But the reality was me discovering trophies and pondering if I had the right tools to get the job done or should I flag it for future retrieval? I eventually gave up on all that junk and focused on the other side missions. They weren’t that much better, but at least it didn’t remind me of those awful collectible flags in the Assassin’s Creed games.
I actually found some of the side missions made good use of the larger scale and allowed the Caped Crusader to flex his detective muscle. Dropping down on some punk who was roughing up a political prisoner was very Batman-esque. The same could be said about the crime solving side missions with all his Bat-gadgets; it was as basic as in Arkham Asylum, but I found it was a necessary change of pace.
The stalking of prey from gargoyles and vents returned as well. They tried to discourage the Dark Knight from swooping down from the gargoyles, but it was still incredibly easy to plot out my attack routes with the help of the “Detective vision”. I thought they were reworking it so that we couldn’t rely on it like a legitimate wall hack, but I continued to do so.
I was able to get right back into the fluid and rhythmic combat that Arkham Asylum was known for. I’m not certain if they made it a bit more accessible or all that experience from the last game made it easier, but I was able to dispatch Two-face mask wearing punks in no time. Navigating through a crowd of people with some wielding rifles while others were nearly impervious to the Bat’s (or the Cat’s) direct assaults made for interesting battles.
Yes, Catwoman was in Arkham City, but she was not as integral to the story as I would have liked. She played one significant part towards the end, but it felt forced. With how well realized her moveset and abilities were, I felt she should have had more screen time.
Arkham City ran well enough during combat sequences at 1080p, but the open city caused too many framerate hitches that I decided to drop to 1600 x 900 in order to maintain 60 FPS as much as possible. I didn’t enable any of the DX11 features, but I tried to maintain as much of the higher settings as possible. Arkham City was a looker and I did what I could to keep it at its best.
The soundtrack behind Batman: Arkham City wanted me to think of the critically acclaimed Dark Knight movie. But despite what they were trying to convey, I did not see Arkham City in the same light — the predecessor, Batman: Arkham Asylum, was the better game. Arkham City had all of Arkham Asylum’s strengths including the fantastic fights, the incredible voice acting and depictions of some of comic’s most iconic characters. However the decision to dilute the experience with open world elements was its undoing for me; it kept it from reaching the greatness of the first. Fortunately coming in second to the best superhero game ever isn’t too shabby of a position to be in.
For more information on Batman: Arkham City, visit the official website.
2010 PC Rev. 1.1 was used to play Batman: Arkham City.