Batman Arkham City: GOTY

Batman: Arkham City is getting a Game of the Year treatment and if you haven’t played the game yet then you need to do yourself a favor and run out and grab this, now.  Arkham City is a rare bird in that it has been able to improve on an already near perfect foundation.  Batman: Arkham Asylum was an outstanding adventure title that surprised a bunch of people.  It was large in scale and story so much so that when the sequel was announced I thought there was no way it could be topped.  Well I was wrong.  In Arkham City you again take control of Batman but this time you find yourself in the super prison known as Arkham City.  Arkham City is broken up into zones controlled by villains such as the Joker, Two Face, and Penguin.  On top of that the prison is being controlled by Dr. Hugo Strange and his paramilitary goon squad.  It makes for one giant powder keg situation and it’s up to you to keep a super villain civil war from breaking out.

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Its complicated.

The first time you suit up as the Dark Knight in this game you are standing on a ledge overlooking the super prison and as I rotated my camera 360 degrees and took in the cityscape all I could think was “Holy shit. This place is massive.”  I’m not gonna lie to you, it was a little intimidating.  Not only is the city surface expansive but there are places under the city that you get to explore as well that only add to its size.  Arkham Asylum seemed like a big game but when it comes down to it a lot of the fighting took place indoors and a lot of time was spent back tracking from one building to the next.  So while you may have done a lot of traveling on foot it wasn’t nearly as big a world as it seems.  Especially when compared to Arkham City’s massive size.

Not only is the game environment much larger this time but the game content is larger as well.  Arkham Asylum was packed full of goodies that made my Batman pants grow tight.  There were secret Arkham family files to be found and listened to and there were the interview tapes with the Joker and other baddies that just added an extra layer of depth to the game.  On top of that there were those pesky Riddler trophies to collect.  All of this is back and better than ever, especially the Riddler trophies.  Some of the Riddler trophies require you to solve a puzzle in order to retrieve them.  Some of the puzzles will cost you your life if you aren’t careful so tread lightly.  But the trophies aren’t the only way that the Riddler makes his presence known.  The Riddler has kidnapped a bunch of Arkham City workers and is holding them hostage.  You will have to solve riddles to find their location and once you find it you will need to put your skills to the test to save them from death.  They are each being held in a Saw type of death trap and one wrong move will end their life and possibly yours.  Speaking of bad guys, this game is a Whos Who of bad guys. I don’t want to give away who’s in there but man does the Caped Crusader have the kitchen sink thrown at him.  Rocksteady has done a remarkable job of working in the villains as some of them are involved in the main plot while other are simply there because of where the games takes place.  Each villain serves a purpose with the exception of one villain.  But this villain is more than just eye candy as talking to him at certain points in the game will give you some great back story into this villain’s character and why he’s in Arkham City to begin with.

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Court is in session!

I finished the main campaign on the hardest setting and that took me about 16 hours.  When I was done my progress meter said I had only completed about 30% of the game.  Why?  There are a ton of side missions that pop up as optional side quests while you are playing.  If you don’t get to them don’t worry because you can free roam the city after the campaign and finish them up as you see fit.  I think when all is said and done you can expect to put 40+ hours into the game if you want to get the 100% completion mark.

What’s so good about this game is that Rocksteady didn’t make the game all about the changes.  Instead they just added some subtle things here and there that enhanced the experience.  In the previous title you had a counter attack you could use while in combat.  When a baddie attacked they would get a symbol over their head.  When you saw that and pushed the “Y” button you would perform a block/punch/kick combo.  To improve on that you can now counter attack up to 3 bad guys at once.  The results are pure awesomeness as you watch Batman use bad guys as a pommel horse to help him perform face breaking kicks and skull crushing punches.  The Batsuit and your combat combos can all be upgraded multiple times now.  But don’t be fooled, the bad guys have been improved as well.  They are now a bit faster, attack in larger numbers, and can now use broken bottles or knifes as weapons.

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Yooooouuu looook marvelous!

The gadgets that you loved from Arkham Asylum have returned and some have had a few minor tweaks added to them.  One of the best upgrades though comes from the use of the Batclaw and your cape.  You can now use the Batclaw to slingshot yourself into the air and then use your cape to soar around the city as if you were Superman.  It’s a bit tricky to get the hang of but there are some Virtual Training spots around the city that allow you to practice so you can perfect the maneuver.  Once you get the hang of it you will find it’s a very quick and awesome way to travel the city.

Meow.  Hello Catwoman.  That’s right, Selina Kyle is here.  The game now lets you play as Catwoman for a few chapters and man is it fun.  Rocksteady could very easily have put a Catwoman skin over Batman and let you play it that way.  But instead they give you a new way to play and approach the game.  Catwoman is faster than Batman, isn’t as strong, has a different skill set, moves differently in combat, and when exploring the city has a different way of getting around.  Instead of soaring through the air you can scale objects like…well…..like a cat.  This all makes for a very unique take on the game and offers folks a nice break from the Caped Crusader.

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They never had a chance.

This is a fantastic game to play that offers a really good and fluid combat system, the ability to play it how you see fit, a ton of side quests, 400+ Riddler Trophies, the return of the Challenge Rooms, and it is all backed by a A++++++ story that is filled with twist and turns.  Do not miss this game.

GAME OF THE YEAR CONTENT

Included on the GoTY disc is 3 pieces of old DLC for the game as well as the new DLC titled “Harley Quinn’s Revenge”.  The old pieces of DLC offered some nice treats but it’s probably content that only a diehard Batman fan would appreciate.  You were given some new challenge rooms and the ability to play them as two of Batman’s greatest sidekicks in Nightwing and Robin.  It’s a real to credit to Rocksteady that they took the time to craft 4 heroes to play as in the challenge rooms (Batman, Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing) and to give them their own identity.  Each one of them handles differently in terms of power and speed and each has a unique fighting style, their own set of gadgets, and special combo moves.  I just wish that Nightwing and Robin could be used to roam Arkham City once the main campaign was finished up.  It’s a small complaint for sure but it would have been a great addition.

Well, hello Nightwing.

Aside from the extra characters Batman has also been given a closet’s worth of Batsuits to change into.  I think my favorites are the Dark Knight Returns outfit and the Batman Beyond outfit.  They don’t offer anything in terms of special armor upgrades but are merely window dressing.

What to wear, what to wear?

The newest piece of content is a new chapter in the story titled “Harley Quinn’s Revenge”.  This is the first use of episodic content in Rocksteady’s Arkham universe and it is exceptional.  Here’s you’ll spend time as both Batman and Robin as you work way through the story.  As Batman you are looking to put an end to Harley’s reign of terror that she has unleashed since the apparent death of the Joker.

Payback's a bitch.

This leads to the possible disappearance of Batman and forces Robin into action.  The story is a seamless transition from the main title and picks up where the original story ends and only adds to the overall experience.  Being able to play on Robin gives the game a nice fresh take on things and adds a lot to franchise.  Robin’s moves and gadgets remain unchanged from the challenge rooms so if you played those before trying this out then you will be familiar with Robin and know what he’s capable of.  But not to worry as slipping into the roll of Robin is an easy transition if you haven’t used him before.  The only bit of bad news is that Robin is limited to the expansion story and you cannot use him in the world of Arkham City the way that you can use Batman or Catwoman.  It’s a small complaint for sure but it would have been really nice to see how Robin could handle the brutal world of Arkham City.  The good news is that if you already have the game and don’t want to spend the money to buy the GoTY edition you can also pick up all this content ala carte.  My hope for this title is that Rocksteady continues to deliver top notch episodic content to add even more depth to an already deep experience.

Game Details:

Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360
Singleplayer 10
Multiplayer N/A
Replayability 9
Graphics 9
Audio 9
Overall 9