Believe it or not, I was one of the few people who didn't totally love Arkham Asylum. I thought it was repetitive, flawed, and the writing just led the player in the wrong directions.
Nothing feels worse than seeing others praise something that you feel let down by. Especially when you voice your complaints and the people who loved it still agree with you.
I told them all that I thought Killer Croc was a huge waste of time and buildup. I kept telling them that the bosses were a huge failure, to the point where a great villain like Bane got treated like an enemy that becomes normal two hours later in the game. And then they bullshit their way into a final battle with the Joker that uses every gaming shortcut in the book.
|Lets just eliminate everything that makes him an interesting character.|
The one thing Asylum did well was that it made you feel like Batman every once in a while. And for those brief windows of gameplay, it felt pretty awesome. I keep saying, if you compare Arkham Asylum to other comic book games, of course it's superior. But as a game, it just falls short of the acclaim it was receiving at the time.
It's been three years, and Arkham City is now officially a game of the year candidate, and I have no problem with that whatsoever; because this game is amazing. Rocksteady Studios and Paul Dini have crafted the Batman universe and placed it in your hands to explore.
Asylum was a free roaming game. You were allowed to backtrack wherever you wanted almost at any time, but it wasn't nearly big enough to be considered a 'sandbox' game. City, on the other hand, is pretty huge in comparison, and it gives you enough liberty and side quests to keep you busy for weeks.
You can always tell when a sandbox game is good around three in the morning. You know, you're about to go to sleep and you tell yourself 'five more minutes' and I'll turn off for the night. Suddenly the sun is coming in through your window and you realize that one sidequest just killed your last three and a half hours of sleep. And Arkham City has given me enough sleepless nights to be considered one of the best sandbox games I've ever played.
The fighting in Asylum was something I did like, at first. It can get quite repetitive; the key word there is can, because it doesn't have to. Not much has changed for the sequel, if you find one thing that works and you keep doing it you will get bored. But the game gives you enough options to spice up the combat, and I encourage you to do so; I mean, you're The God Damned Batman (I had to say it once), you're supposed to kick petty thug ass with style, and it's very satisfying to do so.
The boss battles are much improved. I won't spoil which ones. Because that would be mean. Let me just say that the game has enough surprises in it to keep you invested even after the story is over. If a character is mentioned more than once during the game, odds are he's in there somewhere. You should expect the unexpected.
The story is just flat out brilliant. I can't say enough good things about it. Paul Dini worked enough obscurity and detail into this to make even the most hardcore Bat-fans giddy. There are so many intricate details in this world that you will be constantly asking yourself when something is an easter egg, a thing yet to come in game, or just him pointing out things to expect in the sequel. And yes, there will be a sequel, unless there's a whole part of the game I haven't found yet (a guy can only hope).
I'm not going to review the story. I already told you it's spectacular, and you just need to experience it for yourself. If you really need to know, go read it. But I can't urge you enough to play through it, every Batman fan should. If you're not much of a gamer, just play it in the easy setting, it's not a difficult game. You just need to go through this.
I will say that part of what makes it so great is the voices. Vereran Bat-voice Kevin Conroy returns, and again does a great job. But without a doubt the showstealer, as always, is Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill as the Joker. He just gets extra creepy at times. And as the story escalates the relation between Joker and Batman he just gets outright terrifying (make sure and sit through the credits if you don't believe me).
If I had to nitpick at something I would say that the inside environments aren't nearly as big or intricate as they were in the first game. Batman is constantly stuffed into small areas for sneaking around, whereas you were constantly climbing giant elevator shafts in the Asylum. I kinda liked that, and I could have seen at least one giant elevator shaft puzzle. But it's really just me trying to find something wrong.
Of course, the other big thing that AC changes is the fact that you not only get to play as The Dark Knight; Catwoman joins him, with her own sections of the story as downloadable content, and they add perfectly to the story. Unlike the Joker DLC from the first, she controls differently to the Bat, yet oddly similar. Her gadgets are different, her methods of movement are different, and she seems to be slightly quicker.
|And she just makes me feel... sexy.|
This is officially the best time to be a Batman fan. Between the Nolan films, and the Rocksteady games it's hard not to be. I was asked the other day which one of the two universes I prefer, and It may shock many, but I can't pick against the games. The world is too huge to even compare. I really do think Dini has found the secret formula to writing comic book games. Marvel needs to fess up and get with the standards if they want to stay afloat, because Spider-Man: Edge Of Time doesn't stand the slightest chance.
I've been saying for months that this will be the best month in the history of gaming, I just didn't expect Arkham City to be this big a part of it. I can't express how overjoyed I am that this game is this good. I will go as far as to call this an experience, more than a video game.
More than anything, it just gives me huge expectations for the third. Let me drive the Batmobile. Please.