The game starts out with Bruce Wayne holding a political rally to protest the opening of a new facility called Arkham City, which is under the control of Hugo Strange. Apparently they folks at the top of the Gotham totem pole have decided to take all of the prisoners of the Arkham Asylum (an asylum that probably has more breakouts than any other asylum in comic book history) and put them in a new heavily guarded city within Gotham. While the rally is going on, Bruce Wayne is abducted by operatives who turn out to work for Strange. You are then taken into the City and almost as immediately as you were captured, you are able to escape up the side of a building. After that, you are reunited with your Batsuit and the real fun begins. Overall the opening seems like an excuse to put you in a more open city than last time, but because of great voice acting and the fact that the opening is short, you really don't notice the imperfections in the story telling. And honestly, most characters are so well acted, that they make up for the lesser acting of others. (like the playable Catwoman or Two Face)
Better even than the voice acting is the city itself. It looks phenomenal. There is some texture loading, but the city looks dark and dreary and even though you can move very quickly through the city, you really want to take everything in. The phones that ring without an answer, the snow that falls on top of the iron structures, and my favorite part of the city, the radio chatter. The reason the radio chatter is so interesting is that it's not actually over the radio, but is instead a gadget that Batman has that allows him, and by association you, to amplify voices of thugs in the streets of Arkham. The gadget is working all the time, so you don't have to do anything but fly through the city to hear Joker's henchmen talking about how the people running the Asylum aren't feeding them, whether or not they find Harley Quinn attractive, or just talking about how damn cold it is. It adds a lot to game and never gets old for me, even when conversations get repeated. To tie it all together, the game also has a musical score that is very similar to that of the Dark Knight's score. In fact, it's almost identical in some parts, which isn't a bad thing.
The presentation is impeccable.
Batman Arkham City is an open world action adventure game where just like it's predecessor, you start with very basic equipment and slowly gain gadgets over time. which allow you to gain access to formerly restricted collectables and locations. The genius of Arkham City is in the combat. Combat is seperated into two different categories. There is stealth combat, where the player is hanging from ledges and sneaking around through vents to try to isolate well armed enemies and take them out one by one. In these sections, the enemies are wearing heartbeat sensors that alert their boss, whether it be the Joker, Penguin, or Two Face, when you have taken one out. The boss then alerts the other goons in the room that one of their buddies has been taken out, which can lead to some very satisfying moments when the bad guys go to investigate the scene, just to find that Batman put an explosive charge on their incapacitated friend. The other category is open combat, where Batman fights enemies out in the open, using only his fists, gadgets, and the apparent second set of eyes that he has in the back of his head, which allow him to counter enemy attacks no matter where they come from. The way it works is simple; (and familliar to those who played Arkham Asylum) you attack with one button, dodge with another, and counter with a third whenever that tell tale symbol pops up above an enemies head, making the game all about pure reflexes and skill.
There is also a second playable character in the game. You can only play as Catwoman if you buy the game new, or if you purchase it as an add on off of the store. If you do, than you will be treated with an optional play experience that will lengthen the game without a sacrifice in quality. While playing as Catwoman, you have many of the same abilities that Batman does. You can move across the city with ease and Catwoman has apparently has taken the same Krav Maga classes that Batman has, which allows her to kick at least as much ass as the caped crusader. She also has her own version of detective vision called thief vision which is the same, except for the eye strain that the odd red tinge that it puts on the screen can cause. But you also have new abilities, such as the ability to climb on ceilings, use her whip during combat, and make cat puns as you kick ass and steals stuff.
"Thank god I'm not being played by Halle Berry this time!"
Of course, with the game having a much more open world approach this time around, I was a little worried that it would be a pain to get from mission to mission. Fortunately it's amazing just how easy it is to get across the city using only your gadgets. Only in the Infamous series, have I found movement in an open world game to be this intuitive and easy. You glide with your cape and use your grappling devise and it's impossible range to cling to buildings from out of midair. This is all combined with an excellent leveling system that has you upgrading gadgets at a steady pace, that never makes the game too easy or too difficult. All of your progress carries into the challenge maps as well and you're going to need it. The challenge maps test the player's skill in both stealth and open combat. All the gameplay is extremely well done. For once, I don't have a bad thing to say.
The campaign is only about twelve hours, but side missions can very easily double that. Add on a new game plus which lets you play the game a second time with all of your upgraded gear from a previous playthrough with added difficulty measures, some of the funnest and most challenging collectibles I've ever seen in a game, and the challenge rooms which test you against other players in both stealth and open combat. This game can easily take about thirty-five to forty hours of your life away.
One of the best games of the year for sure. Batman Arkham City gets a...