Batman: Arkham City burdens its players in the best possible way
If you ever dreamed of playing vigilante, you need to look no further than Batman: Arkham City, sequel to 2009's critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum developed by London-based Rocksteady Studios — it's the perfect superhero simulator. The Dark Knight's previous video game outing was a walk in the park compared to what he's got to face this time around, and if you thought being Batman was going to be easy, you'll probably change your mind after ten-or-so hours with this game. Arkham Asylum excelled at what it was: an action/adventure game with a hint of open-world gameplay thrown into the mix, but things have changed since then, with a large portion of Gotham City itself being transformed into one of the largest prisons you'll ever see. Arkham City is a prison for the insane, no less, with a pretty insane gentleman in charge of it all: Doctor Hugo Strange. Now, how he got the gig and why he's making life difficult for our beloved Bats will all be revealed to you during the course of Arkham City's story, but the question is, can you handle it?
Arkham City is a living, breathing cesspool of insane criminals, the occasional mutant and super-villains most of whom would love to see Batman's head on a spike. It is also a sprawling world with high-rises, dark alleyways, derelict buildings, abandoned subways and other places where you would rather not go to on a date. In short, it's the perfect setting for a game involving Batman. However, Rocksteady's solution to expanding the scope of Arkham Asylum is to bombard the player with an insanely overwhelming amount of content, and if the open world of Arkham City wasn't enough, there are a ludicrous number of side and bonus missions. Granted, they're mostly excellent, but for someone who is looking for a more linear experience, they can prove to be quite distracting. On the other hand, if you're able to patiently plan your approach to the game's story and side missions, Arkham City can deliver a tremendously rewarding experience.
As you would expect, Arkham City features Gotham's most wanted, including the likes of the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Catwoman, the Mad Hatter, the Riddler, Bane, Ra's Al Ghul and lots more (the voice acting is some of the best you will ever see in a game).
The main quest will see you face off against a lot of these baddies, but you'll have to take the scenic route to get the chance to beat up some of the other ones. Adding to the incredible amount of story-based content on offer is the astonishingly deep character development system. Batman gains experience points from beating up bad guys, finishing missions and can subsequently level up several of his abilities and gadgets.
While it can be quite overwhelming and mind-numbingly confusing at times, every little ability and gadget upgrade you see in the ‘level up' screen can greatly influence the outcome of a skirmish, because unlike its predecessor, Arkham City can be quite unforgiving, with little room for ‘rinse-repeat' strategies.
Of course, all of this means very little without a solid fighting system, and fortunately, Batman: Arkham City's ‘FreeFlow' combat system is fluid, responsive and well, brilliant.
Batman: Arkham City is the closest you will come to playing the Dark Knight. It's visceral, dark and frightening, often crossing over from being a game to an experience; the experience of carrying the weight of Gotham on your shoulders. It's also about choices: do you go after the Joker or do you save an innocent from being butchered by insane murderers?
If you can handle everything Arkham City throws at you (as overwhelming as it may be), then you're going to thoroughly enjoy the ride, that's for sure. The game is currently available on PS3 and Xbox 360, with the PC version releasing in November.
Keywords: video games