I love Halloween. You get to dress up like a fool, eat sweets, get drunk and play party games with other oddly minded people. It’s great! Well, for Batman every day is Halloween and if he’s not rubbing bat-balls with the sexy cat woman, then he is probably knocking lumps out of a schizophrenic animal/vegetable/mineral themed villain. It is very fair to say that if you loved the wonderful Batman: Arkham Asylum then you will pop an underwear-bulging hard-on for Batman: Arkham City because it’s bigger, broodier and pretty bad ass.
Arkham Asylum was very faithful to the Batman lore. It portrayed comic book heroes and villains with a very dark and mature tone that sets the world of the caped crusader very much apart from its kiddie interpretations. The game was totally ‘Gothic’ and dark, it had great depth in every way. The story was rich, the enemies were vicious, the gameplay mechanics were solid and well executed, and the level design was some of the best yet in a single player title. In short – It totally rocked. In Arkham Asylum we saw Batman duke it out with the Joker for control of the nuthouse. It’s no spoiler that Batman wins in the end, but the legacy of that encounter is the basis of the story for this sequel.
Batman: Arkham City has taken all of the best aspects from Arkham Asylum and built upon them with excellent results. Instead of now being confined to one small island, we are released into one big island. The plot sees ‘Hugo Strange’- Doctor and Madman, setting up a giant prison in Gotham City, he has collected almost every nut job and criminal available and is allowing them to kill one another in various turf wars within the walls of the prison city. You start out as Bruce Wayne giving a demonstration speech about closing Arkham City when you are kidnapped by Hugo Strange’s men and brought into the Arkham City facility where it looks like bubba and his pals are going to ride Bruce to gonorrhea and back. Bruce of course being Batman, quickly disappoints any prisoners with a twinkle in their eye. Once you go through the nice movie style beginning and get kitted up as the Bat, you have to find out what Strange is up to and you have to wade through an army of enemies to do it.
The story has many aspects to it and a plot that Agatha Christy would enjoy. Although the main storyline missions don’t feel very long, there are enough side stories to more than make up for it, along with a cast that would make any Hollywood director jealous: Joker, Penguin, Two Face, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy, Deadshot, Victor Zsasz, Calendar Man, Ra’s al Ghul and his smoking hot daughter Talia al Ghul. Then there’s a nod and a wink to many other characters, such as Scarecrow and Croc to name but a few. You also have allies that pop up in the game, like of course Catwoman (who is a playable character), Vicky Vale, Azraell and the boy wonder Robin – who is surprisingly inoffensive (On a side note, when I first heard of Robin’s appearance in the game, I nearly popped an aneurism, because I hate the Dick! But he actually looks quite cool and seems like a tough guy in this, and not a moany boy-bitch). His relationship with the Dark Knight seems to be riddled with tension giving you the feeling that they don’t really get on – No ‘Holy Batman’ crap here! – Well done Rocksteady!
The city itself is having a power struggle between The Joker, Penguin, and Two Face – each trying to kill the other. As you follow the story it becomes apparent that it has great depth and that there are a lot of unexpected surprises. If you have ever read the graphic novels ‘Arkham Asylum’ and ‘The Killing Joke’ then many aspects of the game’s plot will feel familiar. If you haven’t, then prepare for a few shocks and surprises. It’s very involving and with top-of-the-range voice actors (Mark Hamill for one), it is all totally believable and rich. The side story of Catwoman is a bit weak, but it serves a few purposes, one of which is plot-related and can lead to an alternative ending for Batman. Another is just so you can control the vixen as a playable character, which isn’t bad, and of course it is a bonus for girl gamers. Did I mention how hot the chicks in the game are? Well they are! I now have a fantasy of fondling Harley Quinn, Catwoman and Talia al Ghul together in a hot tub with a bottle of baby oil for after. Holy Orgy!! But that’s not in the game… unfortunately.