Game review: Batman: Arkham City

I’m Batman.

Ok, that’s not true, but I feel like Batman and you can too with Batman: Arkham City.

After a long and rather disappointing gaming history, 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum surprised a lot of people by being a smart and engaging thriller full of twists, turns and most importantly an authentic feeling caped crusader experience. It’s no wonder then that Batman: Arkham City was one of the most anticipated titles of this year.

Picking up after the events of its predecessor, the inmates of Arkham Asylum are running wild in a quarantined sector of Gotham, now known as Arkham City, and it’s up to Batman to find out what’s really happening behind the walls of this new super prison.

This is where the authentic Dark Knight vibe really shines; instead of the confined corridors of an institution for the criminally insane, Batman patrols the gritty streets of Gotham. This is his territory and swooping down from rooftops to hand out bat themed beat-downs is a blast.

Fans of the original are going to feel immediately familiar with the game’s mechanics. The combat system returns with the same attack, counter and combo options, adding a few new tweaks for good measure. The best addition is the ability to assign any of Batman’s numerous gadgets to a hotkey, making their use in battle a snap. Batman himself is even a little more nimble this time around. Varying combat situations keep things from getting too bland and can require some Bruce Wayne–like strategizing to navigate successfully.

Spicing things up further is a large portion of Batman’s rogues gallery. The Bat’s biggest baddies — Two Face, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze and the Penguin — all make appearances and are all backed by some great voice acting. This includes work from the two men who have been the backbone of the Batman animated franchise for the last two decades. In some circles, Mark Hamill has become more revered for his voice work as the Joker than for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker, and I frankly will not accept anyone other than Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman for the rest of eternity.

As in Arkham Asylum, there are once again tons of small mysteries to solve and hidden items to find throughout Arkham City — the Riddler challenges are especially addictive. Trophy hunters and those who like a little detective work are going to find a ton to like here.

On top of all this, the game looks excellent. The dark alleyways of Arkham City are cold and menacing, and the lighting effects are superb. The atmosphere is crafted brilliantly, with a sense of danger hanging in the air wherever Batman goes. Most of the notable character models are presented with a certain signature twist exclusive to the franchise. Batman is still a little more on the body builder side of things than he should be, but it fits well with the rest of the game’s motif.

Everything is not perfectly peachy in Gotham, however, as beating up the same henchmen and random thugs with the same moves becomes tiresome quickly and, for the action oriented, portions of the game may seem rather sluggish. Also, with no real online component, those who don’t enjoy trophy hunting will not get as much value out of the title as those who do. Luckily the list of things that Arkham City does well simply dwarfs the list of things that could have been done better.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be Batman — and let’s face it, you have — Batman: Arkham City is a fantastic take on the Dark Knight and the closest thing to donning the cape and cowl that you’re ever going to come across.