Ok, so I FINALLY received Arkham City in the mail on Friday, and was able to play it a little bit over the weekend (although I am still in the middle of a pile of homework, so I wasn’t able to spend hours and hours on it, as I would have liked). Currently I’m in the museum and trying to get my hands on the Penguin. I’ve just destroyed his three radio signal jammers and making my way back into the building (for those of you who are playing the game, you probably know what I’m talking about).
There’s a ton that is awesome about this game, but I feel as though I have to compare it to its predecessor, Arkham Asylum. There isn’t a whole lot different between the two games, but because Arkham City was so amazing, this isn’t really a bad thing. Arkham City allows you more freedom to explore a larger, more diverse space than the asylum in which you were trapped in the first game. For me, this is both great and frustrating at the same time. I am terrible at navigating my way through virtual spaces—I get turned around frequently, have a tough time seeing holes or geographical clues on my old 26″ television, and am a nervous gamer.
The latter point is troubling in Arkham City, a game that requires a lot of stealth. Because I feel as though I must sneak around without being seen (which is only partly true), it takes me FOREVER to get from one side of the map to the other, or through a building with a number of doors and corridors. My nervousness also forces me to play most of the game in detective mode, which takes away from the beautiful, realistic detail that is present in the city. I know that the reliance on detective mode was a point of feedback that Rocksteady received after Arkham Asylum, but I haven’t seen anything so far that suggest they have tried to address this.
My biggest complaint about Arkham City so far is that it lacks a similar kind of progressive narrative arc that made Arkham Asylum so interesting. In Arkham Asylum, you found items like interview tapes and secret etchings that provided bonus narrative further revealed the fascinating characters encountered in the game. There are side missions in Arkham City (so far I’ve encountered two significant missions that involve Bane and Victor Zsaaz), but they don’t really build throughout the game. In fact, I could have completed both challenges right away, but I’ve instead decided to hold off on doing so, and simply complete them as I run into them accidentally. Neither challenge really enhances the characters involved. For the typical gamer, this is probably not a problem at all, but for a big-time Batman fan like myself, this is a drawback. However, I reserve the right to change my mind once I complete these missions once-and-for-all. I may be proven wrong in the end.
What do I like about Arkham City? Pretty much everything else. The opening was really cool, and the main story arc is pretty good. In the end, it’s a great Batman movie. The combat and action is good, and the environment—complete with chatting gangsters, surveillance choppers, and friendly bums—is awesome. The city architecture is realistic enough to pull you into the game, but creepy and gothic enough to make it authentically Batman. I haven’t explored the amusement park section too much yet, but I’ve flown by a few times and I can’t wait to get in there and explore. There is something ultra creepy about amusement parks at night, and it’s the perfect lair for the Joker.
I also really love the playable addition of Catwoman. She moves through the city completely differently than Batman, and her secondary story arc is a great touch. I also have access to the Robin character (having bought my copy of the game from Best Buy), but haven’t encountered him yet. He may even be available only in the challenge maps, though I hope he pops into the campaign portion of the game at some point.
There’s lots left to explore in the game yet (I think I only have 3 or 4% of the game completed), so I have yet to formulate a complete opinion of the game. But has it met my expectations so far? Absolutely. This game is awesome, and a great sequel to Arkham Asylum, which blew my mind the first time I played it. I can’t wait to finish up my homework (which may not happen until December) so I can get back into Gotham.