I often look back fondly to my days as a Masked Avenger of the Weak. A Protector of the Innocent. A Dark Knight, if you will. Those cheerful (sorry, 'grim') hours when, if Christian Bale had come up to me and - in his best gravel-throated growl – proclaimed ''I'M BATMAN!' I'd have said, 'clear off mate, I'm Batman'. That was what Batman: Arkham Asylum gave you – about as close an approximation of what it'd be like to be Batman as you're going to get without ordering a costume online and doing a Kick-Ass.
I loved Arkham Asylum.
Arkham City has some big shoes to fill. It's OK though. It has big feet.
As the game opens Mayor Quincy Sharp (formerly warden
Quincy Sharp of Arkham Asylum) has chucked a lot of money into buying up Gotham real estate and throwing up a really big wall around it. Inside those walls is where the former inmates of Arkham and Blackgate prison live now. There are no guards in there. No cells. Just a bunch of lunatics running feral, having turf wars and scheming away. To make matters worse, it's being run by rogue psychiatrist Hugo Strange.
The level of madness in there is directly proportional to the level of success of Batman has in the outside world, and judging by the roll call of sociopaths behind Arkham City's walls, the Caped Crusader's doing a pretty good job. Among others, you'll run across the Joker, Two-Face, Mr Freeze, Deadshot, The Penguin, Poison Ivy and others. Kick-Ass would get eaten alive in there, digested, shat out and then eaten again.
Gameplay takes much the same form as in Arkham Asylum
. The basic formula of the last game was most certainly not broken and Rocksteady has not attempted to fix it. As you investigate what Hugo Strange is up to in Arkham City, you're led from one twisted situation to another which will demand either straightforward fisticuffs or stealthier, tactical play.
The game utilises the same freeflow combat system as before. Rather than being about memorising strings of combos, it's all about timing and movement. The basic combat buttons are [X] (I played the 360 version) for a strike and [Y] to counter. Button-mash and you'll be vulnerable to attack. Keep moving while remaining sensitive to incoming blows and you'll keep ahead of the curve. As you progress, toughs with added toughness such as armour, shields and blades pop up and your repertoire of moves is updated to compensate, but the list of moves never comes close to overwhelming.
Technically speaking, it's not that different to the last game, but new animations give it enough freshness to keep things interesting. Plus, it wasn't broken to start with.
Then there are the stealthy situations, for those moments when you just aren't bulletproof enough. (That's pretty much any moment when someone's pointing a gun at you). These sections were the real strength of the last game.
Rocksteady could have opted to keep this series about brawling and have easily gotten away with it. Having to take to the rafters, switch on detective vision and use it to track your enemies and plan their downfalls accordingly is much
more satisfying, though. The same sorts of moves are available to you as in the last game, but the AI's a lot smarter.
I was able, for a lot of the game, to get away with lurking around the ceiling and periodically either swooping in for a glide kick or dropping for an inverted takedown.
, however, your enemies are much more likely to cling together and respond quickly to a fallen colleague and much less vulnerable as a result. This sounds like a small tweak, but it has a big impact on how you play. I was finding it necessary to use a much wider range of tactics and make much better use of the environment to distract enemies. The result was that I felt like a better Batman, which is what we all should aim to be in this life.
The bosses still have a slightly nasty tendency to be of the 'charge at you head on' variety, but Rocksteady has brought in some variation, too. The bosses are also relatively few and far between. It's a problem, but it's not a massive one.