Review: Batman Arkham City

Batman. We all love him, even if he is a bit of a cheat superhero. He’s been in comics, movies and tv shows- but we’ve never really had a chance to BE him. Until a tiny British developer called Rocksteady released a game that would not only break the mould, but would also rocket them to international success.

Arkham City is Rocksteady’s sequel to the phenomenally good Arkham Asylum. I’m going to assume that everyone reading this has played Arkham Asylum… and if you haven’t, where have you been? Go play it now- it’s one of the best games of 2009, you owe it to yourself.

'Say hello to my little friends!'

City starts about 6 months from the first game left off. Joker’s recovery from the Titan Formula hasn’t gone well, and he’s in pretty dire shape, and Hugo Strange has turned half of Gotham into a giant outdoor prison. In a bid to finally get one over on Bruce Wayne, Strange captures him.  To nobody’s surprise, Bruce dons the Batsuit, and goes to find out what the hell is going on.

I’m not going to reveal the story any further, but what I will tell you is that it’s darker and way more serious than what you got in Arkham Asylum. This being a super-prison, you won’t go far before you bump into some of Batman’s old rivals- some we’ve seen before, like Penguin and Mr Freeze, and some more obscure ones that you’ll probably need to look up afterwards.

Like any sequel, City builds on what we saw the first time round. It doesn’t change much of the gameplay, but you get more gadgets – most of which you get from the start this time. The real way it changes is through the sheer size of the game. This isn’t a tiny little island anymore; this is a chunk of CITY. As well as the main mission, you now have side missions you can do, which usually involve one of Batman’s many enemies, and sometimes end with new gadgets. You also, unsurprisingly, have to face-off against The Riddler again.

If there's one thing Batman likes doing, it's bashing heads together.

Remember how The Riddler’s treasure hunts weren’t essential in Arkham Asylum? Well, now you have to save hostages by doing as many challenges as possible. Now that you have to do every challenge to finish the mission, it’ll feel like more of a chore. You’ll almost feel like not bothering and just leaving the poor sods to die.

Catwoman is a downloadable extra, and she sticks her nose in between chunks of story to do her thing (i.e pissing off everyone and stealing their stuff). If your version of the game doesn’t come with a free code to unlock it, it’s not really worth buying. The maximum game time for it comes to under half an hour, and it doesn’t add much to the overall game.

Once again, it’s the voice actors that make this game. Mark Hamill takes his final bow as The Joker, and honestly he has the character down to a tee. Harley Quinn is hysterical and stupid – as she should be, and while Mr Freeze doesn’t crack any ice-related puns, he’s not a bad representation.

*insert witty comment about a cat having claws*

The only thing that really lets this game down is the atmosphere. Arkham Asylum had bags of character, and is still one of my favourites. It was dark, but very funny in places – it didn’t take itself too seriously. What City gives us is a pitch-black story, where the wit only occasionally has the floor, and from someone who prefers Tim Burton to Christopher Nolan, it feels a little too much given the absurdity of what Batman does. He’s a big, muscly bloke who wears tiny bat ears in the evening. There’s nothing serious about him beyond the fact he’s an orphan, and you’d have thought he’d have got over that by now. Batman isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, I know, but it doesn’t try and hide the fact one of its main villains is a clown, and another is basically a very attractive shrub with legs.

If you liked Arkham Asylum, then you should still give this a go. It has some minor issues, but if you wanted more from the first game, you’ll still enjoy it just as much. If you like your Batman to be broody and bad-tempered, then you’ll love it more than I did.