Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham City [PS3, 2011]

Batman: Arkham City [PS3, 2011]

Batman: Arkham City
System: Playstation 3 (also on Xbox 360 and PC)
Genre: Action/Adventure/Stealth
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Release Date: October 18, 2011

It was just last month that I finally played through Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady’s breakout hit from 2009. That game totally blew me away and removed any pre-conceived notion I had about superhero titles lacking in quality. After completing Batman’s first PS3/X360 effort, I immediately picked up last year’s sequel, Arkham City.

Whereas Arkham Asylum focused primarily on a plot against the Joker, Arkham City showcases several prominent villains. After former warden Quincy Sharp is elected mayor of Gotham, his first order of business is to clean up the streets. His solution? Turn the slums of the city into a maximum security prison — its own metropolis, blocked off from everything else. Naturally, this is a terrible idea, as that means all sorts of evil masterminds are put together in one location. All hell breaks loose, and it’s Batman’s job to restore order against the likes of Hugo Strange, Two Face, the Penguin, and the Joker, among many others.

The biggest difference between the two games is Arkham City’s venture into a larger open world. The city is five times bigger than the asylum, and it allows Batman to have free reign in a massive urban environment. With the ability to use a grappling hook from building to building and rooftop to rooftop, you really feel as if you are Batman himself. The sheer freedom that the city provides is awe-inspiring, and it helps to be controlling such a badass character.

Batman: Arkham City [PS3, 2011]

The core gameplay is the same as before, a strong mix of combat, stealth and exploration. The combat system still uses the same attack/countering method that is so simple yet amazingly well-executed. Batman has some new gadgets this time around, many of which help during battles. Smoke pellets can be dropped to disorientate enemies and allow Batman to more easily escape harm’s way. A taser gun can be used to shock enemies, and it also restores power to generators. There’s even a new freezing gadget that can be used to toss ice grenades. All of these new toys are used throughout the game, often at critical points.

Stealth is largely the same as before, but the exploration aspects have drastically increased. If you couldn’t get enough of Riddler’s challenges before, you will love Arkham City even more. This time around there are a whopping 440 trophies to acquire, and all of them are scattered throughout the huge in-game world. There are also an increased amount of side missions, many of which introduce other villains not otherwise found in the main story. The Riddler himself has a side quest that has Batman stopping Saw-like puzzles to save innocent victim’s lives.

What’s great about all of these new quests is that once the main campaign is completed, everything is rolled over into a “New Game+” mode. That means that you can pick up all of the side quests you missed the first time around, but with all of Batman’s upgrades already included. I loved having this functionality, as I am the type of gamer that usually tries to finish the story first before digging into the supplementary features.

Batman: Arkham City [PS3, 2011]

Also carried over from Arkham Asylum is the expansive Challenge mode. This feature pits Batman in a series of increasingly more difficult combat sequences, with the goal being to string together awesome combos in order to achieve a high score. A new twist to this mode is the ability to tweak the settings in order to make combat even more challenging (or easier, if you are so inclined).

Yet another new addition to the game is the ability to play as an entirely different character, Catwoman. Unfortunately, she can only be used if you buy the game brand new, or if you are willing to cough up $10 extra for used copies. This is a seriously shitty move on the part of the publishers, as Catwoman was clearly already built into the game and therefore should not be considered as something akin to downloadable content. I had considered paying the $10, but from what I have heard, her campaign is very short and only lasts about an hour. That’s not worth it to me, and I am disgusted that it is not included as part of the main package.

Still, Catwoman or not, Batman: Arkham City is an incredible experience that is an absolute must play, especially for those that loved its predecessor. The dark, gritty visual style is back and better than ever, and the soundtrack feels like it could easily belong in one of Christopher Nolan’s terrific Dark Knight films. With a staggering amount of gameplay depth, this will last a LONG time. An easy contender for 2011’s Game of the Year.


12 thoughts on “Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham City [PS3, 2011]

  1. GregHorrorShow says:

    I’m surprised you enjoyed it that much coming straight in off the back of Asylum. Just goes to show how strong the game is. I thought it was excellent.

    And I agree on Catwoman – I can stomach online passes but not a pass for single player content that’s already on the disc.

    • Eric says:

      Yeah, I had about a week or two in between games, and that was more than enough to get me excited to play Arkham City so soon. Both are straight 9/10s for me — each great in its own way.

      Did you get to try out the Catwoman stuff?

  2. rtm says:

    The Catwoman in this game is so sultry. I watched the trailer of it or whatever on my hubby’s computer. Overall I really like the look of this game. If I were a gamer I’d definitely buy it!

  3. jsicktheslick says:

    Solid review, my friend. I have yet to play this one: it’s still sitting on my shelf since Christmas. I can’t believe there are 440 Riddler trophies! I actually managed to get them all in Arkham Asylum, but 440 is a bit too daunting on the surface. I think the graphics help the game out a lot too. They just look so astounding and really create the dreary mood that this game and the first captured so well. Again, great review.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks dude. Yeah, I think 440 trophies is a bit much, but then again, Arkham City is a lot bigger than the asylum. It can be a bitch to find some of them without a guide, though. Hope you’re able to play this soon!

  4. 3guys1movie says:

    I have not had a chance to play this yet. However, my brother in the 3 guys played the crap out of this game before the latest call of duty game was released. He had nothing but good things to say about it. That reminds me I have to borrow this game from him.

  5. John says:

    It sucks that Arkham City was affected by the proliferation of EA’s project ten dollar dlc plan, especially considering it was dlc affecting the single player and not the multiplayer. But you’re really not missing much.

    It’s interesting to switch from Batman to her every now and then, but sometimes, Batman’s story was so intense that I didn’t want a break!

    • Eric says:

      Glad to hear I didn’t miss anything important with the Catwoman stuff. I would have liked to play as her, but I wasn’t ready to spend another $10 for minimal content. It’s too bad WB had to go that route…

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