Where Arkham City
takes its big step forward, though, is in its scope. Warner Bros has touted the game area as five times the size of that in AA
That's perhaps a little disingenuous ? in AA
most of the game area was playable both inside and outside the buildings, where in AC
many of the buildings are shut off. So, while there might be a lot more square metres of game real estate, a lot of that is scenery rather than areas packed full of gameplay.
Still, we certainly shouldn't sniff at Rocksteady's achievements here.
Where the Asylum felt tight and claustrophobic, Arkham City feels like a vast tangle of broken architecture. While you could technically describe AA
as an open-world game, AC
has a much more potent sandbox feel to it. It feels like there's a lot to explore, and navigating and traversing the prison area is a lot of fun.
The length of the main story is in the ballpark of 17 or 18 hours, but there's tonnes of content beyond that. Side missions are varied and plentiful. Being on a review deadline, I only got chance to dip my toe in, but if you want to be a completist about Arkham City
I'd say you're probably looking at upwards of 35 hours of gameplay.
These hours also include Catwoman as a playable character (dependant on you having a first-hand copy with a download code or buying a code from your online service of choice). Her movement and her moves are very different to Batman's.
She is (predictably) cat-like and more low-tech than Batman. Rocksteady has done a pretty good job of making her movements suitably feline without lapsing into Halle Berry-esque exaggeration. Catwoman provides a nice note of difference that breaks up the rest of the game. Catwoman can come back next time if she likes.
Paul Dini returned for writing duty and, once again, has done a bang-up job. Given Dini's work on Batman: The Animated Series
and the use of voice talent from that show ? Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (The Joker) being the key figures ? the game has the feel of a twisted, darker version of the cartoon.
This is no bad thing - many a Batman
fan cut their teeth on that programme and this is a man who knows his way around the characters. Kevin Conroy still feels like too polite a Batman for the visual tone of the game on occasion, but there's an anger and brutality in his performance that wasn't there before that goes some way to counteract that.
As a Batman
fan, I like the fact that the Arkham
franchise has established its own continuity now. While you might have argued that the first game could, at a push, fit in with the comics continuity at some point, the very existence of Arkham City
demonstrates that's not the case in the sequel.
The series' story has followed its own path and, not having to pander to established comics or movie canon, it lends it more gravity. That's not to say things are wildly
different from the comics ? most of the back stories more or less dovetail with the comics as of a few years ago ? but there's a sense that AC
could go anywhere and stands on its own.
Visually, Rocksteady has upped its game. The graphics are on a par with the previous title, but the dev has risen to the challenge offered by AC
's variety with some brilliant design choices.
New locations like the Steel Mill and museum (which is a bit reminiscent of BioShock
, in places) look great, while the decayed, broken grandeur of Arkham City as seen from the rooftops reeks of atmosphere.
Arkham City is a very worthy successor to Arkham Asylum. It builds on rock solid foundations to create an experience that is bigger, tighter and smarter than its predecessor. It's all the Batman with none of the bruises.
SPOnG Score: 96%