Darkness Engulfs Us All
Gotham City has seen better days. After the lunatics (led by the Prince of Lunatics, the Joker) took over the asylum in Rocksteady's rendition of the Caped Crusader, Batman: Arkham Asylum, it was clear that all was not over. Just minutes after Joker's incarceration, Two-Face initiated a bank robbery and provoked the possibilities of a sequel.
Now that sequel, Batman:Arkham City, is swooping down on us like the titular character himself. A year has passed, and Warden Sharp has taken credit for the imprisonment of the Joker, and has found himself a nice job at City Hall as mayor. Seeing that Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary are unfit for the job of detaining dangerous criminals, Sharp creates an open-air prison of gigantic proportions and gives the villains free roam of the facility, as long as they do not try to escape. Batman, ever vigilant, keeps a watchful eye over the criminals both inside the prison, and the ones running it. With a new open-world playground and a host of new enemies, is Batman:Arkham City a challenge to its brother's throne as the King of Superhero games?
Swooping All Day, Beating All Night
If games were judged purely on the amount of content available to the player, Arkham City would be up there as one of the best. With a lengthy story mode, a large variety of side-quests featuring Batman villains and the Challenge maps, plus the Riddler's challenges and trophies, there is plenty to do in Arkham City. With downloadable content featuring the likes of Nightwing, Robin and Catwoman, there sure is a hell of a lot more to come from the game as well. Yes, that's right. New in Arkham Cityis the ability to play as the feline femme fatale herself, Catwoman, as a sub-plot of the main story mode. With a unique moveset and movement style, Catwoman feels miles away from the muscle-bound Bat, adding a new dimension to the game. As usual, however, Selina courts plenty of controversy, with her appearance forming part of the controversial 'offline pass'. To re-access her story missions and access additional skins, you have to use the code included with the game bought new, or purchase access to them. This is a potentially risky move from Rocksteady and Warner Bros, as now you're excluding single-player content rather than just multiplayer content. That said, it's enjoyable enough to not grate on public opinion too much.
After all, it doesn't prevent you from completing the story and its sub-plot. After being captured by the psychiatrist nutjob Hugo Strange and his Tyger PMC, Bruce Wayne finds his alter-ego as the Batman in danger of being revealed by Strange if he tries to stop the mysterious 'Protocol 10'. Imprisoned in Arkham City, Batman has been thrown into the lion's den and has to fight his way through a menagerie of villains including the Penguin (voiced by Nolan 'Every Game' North in a convincing, if slightly grating, Cockney accent), Mr Freeze and, of course, the Joker. That's barely scratching the surface in regards to the amount of treacherous villains you'll meet, both in the plot and the side quests. If you're a Batman fan, Arkham City really is the ultimate place to pretend to be the Dark Knight.
Batman's adventures in the open-air hell that is Arkham intertwine with the escapades of Catwoman, colliding on several occasions and resulting in a potentially game-changing choice being made in the final third of the game. Once the story mode is over in about 12 hours, your adventures in Arkham City don't come to a grinding halt like in the first game but instead allow you to free-roam around the dystopian metropolis. You can then collect Riddler trophies (which return in a large-scale fashion, with 400 to collect as Batman alone), complete remaining side-quests or simply just roam the city keeping the streets covered in unconscious thugs. It's up to you - after all, you are Batman. However, Batman himself is of the belief that a crime fighter's job is never done. Luckily, so do Rocksteady. Once you've completed the story mode and amassed an wide array of gadgets, you can start a 'New Game Plus', where you repeat the story mode with all the gadgets you've previously acquired. Simply allowing you to face the same enemies as last time, however, would be too easy; instead you are now confronted with tougher enemies, adding to the challenge.
Truly one of the best games ever, improving on Arkham Asylum in every way. The ultimate superhero title and the closest mere mortals will ever get to being the Dark Knight himself.
Minor problems with difficulty of Riddler challenges and the sheer array of moves means some may lay forgotten and cause frustration and annoyance when their use is required.