I think it’s fair to say I’m a fan of Batman. Long Halloween and the Killing Joke are a couple of my favorite comics and I have the Dark Knight practically tattooed onto my brain. For some reason though, Arkham Asylum never quite clicked with me. Maybe I was a little hung up with the seemingly random x-ray vision that Batman had or maybe the nerd in me is still raging about Harley Quinn’s redesign. I recognized that Rocksteady created a fabulous game but it just wasn’t for me. I was hard pressed, however, to see if Arkham City would swing past me again or if this would be a Dark Knight to remember.
The story begins with Bruce Wayne protesting over the creation of Arkham City – a prison literally built into the center of Gotham City. He is promptly arrested by Hugo Strange, the man behind the prison social experiment, who reveals that he knows that Wayne is really the Batman. After getting harassed by the Penguin and some prisoners, Wayne contacts Alfred and changes suits into the Batman. Not wasting any time, Batman flies off to go and fight evil doers. After saving Catwoman from Two-face, Batman confronts the Joker, whom he finds out is dying from the Titan serum from the events of the previous game. The Joker poisons the Batman with his blood and reveals that he’s also been sneaking his infected blood into Gotham’s blood banks for months, knowing that this would force Batman to find a cure for his disease. Hugo Strange then starts a ten hour countdown to Protocol Ten – something that the Batman has to figure out what it is, and stop it before it can be enacted.
One thing that Arkham City does that surpasses over its predecessor is the ability to glide through Gotham City. Granted, it’s a limited portion of the city, but it’s definitely quite impressive. Gliding silently around town and listening in on criminals as they talk about your exploits makes it so sweet when you nab them from the shadows and frighten their buddies. The open world really gives a great feeling about what it’s like to be the Dark Knight, seeing the city from his eyes. I was kind of bothered by the false sense of urgency that the storyline pushes on you, however. Between trying to cure and incurable disease and stop an unknown protocol happening in the course of one evening, you’d think everything would move quicker. It took me longer than necessary to realize that it didn’t matter how long I took with each mission – the overall threat was plot related and would solve itself as I played more missions. I took this moment to play some side missions I was sorely neglecting, opening up the game to way more exploration than the main storyline.
Okay, normally I wouldn’t do this, but I’ve got to point it out for this game and stand on a soap box. I’m kind of fed up with the concept that female characters in comic books and video games need to be turned into sexual objects. The idea that women are sexual – yeah, I get that. But I find it embarrassing when the design of a character is such that it just screams “look at me! I’m a cheap attention ploy!” Poison Ivy doesn’t need to wear a shirt that doesn’t fit and panties made of leaves for guys to go “oh yeah, she’s hot.” Neither does the camera have to get an ass shot of Talia every chance it gets. Every male character gets some sort of personality with their uniform that displays their character without saying a word. The women? They get corsets and tight pants. It just seems really unnecessary to me and takes away some value from the game I might not otherwise have cared about.
I have a hard time explaining to people exactly why I enjoyed Arkham City. It’s not that it’s a bad game–far from it. I just don’t quite understand what it is I like about it. The plotline is kind of ridiculous-–even for something based off of comic books-–and gets unnecessarily complicated towards the end. The female character designs range from ridiculous to unnecessary, and Killer Croc just looks stupid. Plus, I was so overstimulated by “things to do” that at one point when I had to struggle to keep focused on the storyline, just so I wouldn’t lose track of where I was. Overall, though, I had a pretty great experience. The interactions between Batman and the Joker are always fantastic and reminiscent of the Killing Joke. Beating up bad guys with the kung fu ninja skills of the Batman is always satisfying. I guess even the biggest “WITF” moments were outshined by ten more “OMG” times.
I’ll do my best to summarize this game in question form; did you like Arkham Asylum and also Spiderman 2? Then this is the game for you. Do you like pretending to be the Batman and also sometimes Catwoman? Go and get yourself a copy. Are you the goddamned Batman? Then you probably don’t want to play this game as you are a fictional character. Basically it comes down to this; Arkham City isn’t a perfect game… but it’s fun. It’s ballsy, good, beat ‘em up and tie ‘em to a gargoyle fun. If nothing else, you’ll be going as the Batman for a long Halloween.