Starting off with Bruce Wayne getting thrown into Arkham City, a slice of Gotham cordoned off and being used as a prison, you have to escape from Hugo Strange, suit up and get to the bottom of whatever the not-so-good doctor is up to. Eventually you find out he’s up to something called Protocol 10, but this main campaign strand is only one small part of the game, which has so much more to offer.
Essentially, City is exactly the same as Asylum only in a bigger playground. While it adds nothing completely new gameplay wise, the open world is a nice touch meaning you don’t have to do the story missions until you want to, and can just fly about the city beating up thugs and solving the riddles that have been scattered about the city. With the bigger game world, Rocksteady have room to add pretty much every Batman villain you could think of; all the big hitters are present (Joker, Penguin, Two Face) as well as some 2nd tier Batman villains (Mad Hatter, Zsasz, Deadshot) and each of these villains have their own distinct missions for you to complete. These extra side missions add hours of extra gameplay that you can complete or choose to ignore. Many times though, these missions are far more enjoyable (and harder) than the main game. The Riddler challenges are back as well, and form the biggest non-campaign part of the game. There are about 3 times as many as there were in Arkham Asylum, and they’re a lot harder as well. In fact this time, the Riddler has captured some hostages this time and it’s up to you to save them by solving a series of his puzzles. These quite often were my favourite parts of the game, having a different flavour than just punching a whole load of guys.
But punching a whole load of guys is still awesome fun, by the way.
Also, included in all new copies of Arkham City is a downloadable code for some Catwoman side missions which are intercut into the game’s plot at certain points. This adds another few hours of gameplay as well as new Riddler trophies to find as Catwoman. It’s a nice change of pace to play as another character every now and again, and certain missions as Catwoman are easily better and more fun than some of those you play as Bats.
The fighting mechanics are the same as they were before, but which some extra moves and gadgets thrown in as well all with easy quick fire button commands which enables you to use them in combat without ever losing your combo. Thankfully Batman has all of the gadgets he spent so long trying to get in Asylum, so at the start of the game you have all your tools at your disposal.
With the bigger playing area traversing the city quickly is a necessity, and there are some new gliding mechanics designed to make flying about Arkham City as fluid as possible, especially when you combine it with your grapple hook. In fact, if you perfect it you can get around the whole city without ever having to touch the ground although it is a lot of fun dive bombing from a great height and scaring the crap out of a group of thugs, before knocking the crap out of them. The city itself is beautifully realised with familiar locations scattered about (Crime Alley is there as well, and it contains a quite frankly lovely moment) as well as buildings that can be (and in most cases have to be) explored. In fact, just as with the first the greatest triumph of this game is that it really makes you feel like the world’s greatest detective. And that’s all I ask of it really.
If I had one complaint, and it’s a silly one really, it’s that it doesn’t feel as fresh as Arkham Asylum, and there are no real surprises like the Scarecrow sections (although Ra’s Al Ghul’s demon trials and the Lazarus Pit come close) but as a sequel it’s going to be hard to do that without changing everything that made the first game so special.
So, in conclusion, a worthy sequel to one of 2009’s best games and one of this year’s best as well.