Batman has a spotty record when it comes to video games. None had managed to pull off a truly great experience for the Bat fans, until 2009’s “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” Playing as Batman, going through an asylum full of criminally-insane Batman villains and being taunted the entire game by the Joker, turned out to be a winning formula. After many accolades and awards, developer Rocksteady announced they were releasing a sequel called “Batman: Arkham City.” Fans of the first game, including this reviewer, were cautiously optimistic. How could they top such an amazing Batman game?
The answer: set the game in Gotham City, add more playable characters, and throw as many popular villains at you as possible. Arkham Asylum can’t handle its inmates, so they section off part of the city to accommodate them. This time, you have Catwoman and Robin to help you, but along with the Joker returning, there are also more villains such as Mr. Freeze, Two-Face and Dr. Strange, just to name a few. The addition of so many characters makes for a compelling game and has you looking forward to what’s next.
The gameplay is the same as the “Asylum.” Batman uses the “Free Flow” combat system, which is extremely satisfying when you have to fight. When he’s fighting, there’s almost a rhythm to it, and the player is able to catch on quickly. It looks like “The Matrix” meets “Rumble In The Bronx.” Catwoman and Robin use the same method, albeit slightly tweaked to their abilities.
The graphics are top-notch, aside from a few glitches during some cut-scenes. The gritty and grimy atmospheric touch makes the city come alive as a dangerous and foreboding environment. Gotham City makes you feel as if it’s an open-world game, without truly being one. “City” is a true achievement in design.
The voice acting in “City” is nothing less than Hollywood quality. Longtime Batman voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return as Batman and the Joker, respectively, and the supporting cast is excellent. This makes the story on par and even better than some theatrical releases (looking at you “Batman & Robin”). However, this is bittersweet, as this will be Hamill’s last turn as the Joker.
“City” will keep you entertained for quite a while. The campaign itself is about 20-25 hours, but there are different challenges to keep you busy for many hours after the game is beaten. Hidden throughout the campaign are hundreds of challenges that the Riddler has created, ranging from solving his riddles to finding items. There are also challenge maps in which you have to clear enemies within a certain time limit. The only thing that I feel this game is lacking is an online multiplayer mode, but I could see why they would want to take time on the campaign, and I’m glad they did.
“Batman: Arkham Asylum” is the best superhero video game ever. The only problem is that they have set the bar so high that the inevitable sequel to this franchise has the task of topping this amazing entry.