The Dark Knight rises in emphatic form

Occasionally a game will be released that makes you feel epic, blows everything out of the water, changes the genre for good and becomes the pinnacle of a series which very few can beat. Batman Arkham Asylum was that game.

Batman Arkham City is in a completely different league, a league of one; perfection.

Welcome back to the madness that is Bruce Wayne’s world. Thrown into the madhouse of scum and villainy that is Arkham City, here Batman will have to fight numerous law breakers his emotional past, previous friends and villains and learn to stretch the limits that he’s is defined to.

After a frantic introduction, Batman is left in the unexpectedly beautiful world of Arkham City, a new facility designed to keep the scum out of Gotham City. Here Rocksteady have created a living and breathing city. Reminiscent of Empire City from Infamous. The City breathes life and vitality along with gloom and Gothic undertones that are forever present. Snow peaked skyscrapers, blown out churches, industrialised steel works, casinos and ancient museums surround a heartbeat of law breakers, lunatics, maniacs and political prisoners who all have one goal to take over and become the new leader of Arkham City. Rocksteady have seriously outdone them selves with the visuals in this game. It’s absolutely mind-blowing and would certainly be up there with the best visuals of this generation.

One of the new characters for this game is Hugo Strange who makes his welcome return to the big screen, an eccentric doctor he continues to promote his weird and destructive plan for Arkham City, Protocol 10. He controls the majority of security around the city and removes everyone who gets in his way. He’s the main reason that Batman is even here and Batman’s main quest is figure out what Protocol 10 is and stop it before the night is out.

A number of new cast members have been included; these include a number of fans favourites, Harvey Two Face, The Penguin, Mr Freeze and Ra’s al Ghul. Along with these, fans can expect see and hear from The Joker, The Riddler, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Rocksteady have seriously spoiled us here and not only that, each character is quietly and effectively entwined with each other. A number of these villains command small armies such as the Joker and Two Face along with Penguin and all too often as Batman is swooping and gliding he’ll come across them fighting for sections in the city. Others continuously cross paths and of course they all want to see the end of Batman.

As well as all this, if you have access to Catwoman, you get to occasionally play as her. Allowing you access to riddler trophies otherwise inaccessible and a few of her own story mission which effortlessly blend with the main campaign. She is a totally different kettle of fish. Batman likes to swoop, glide and use his raw strength to take enemies out. Catwoman prefers to crawl in small spaces, climb upside down on ceilings and congregated steel containers to finish off her prey. She feels much more nimble but also weaker and is a great addition to the game and she feels far more than just a simple add on. She also has a way with words; if anything can be made sexual you can guarantee she’ll be there.

Arkham Asylum was a complete surprise when it was released back in 2009, the combat was truly inspiring and critics loved how real it felt playing as Batman. He felt powerful and wrestler like one minute and the next elegant and graceful. And thankfully Rocksteady have continued this but improved it significantly. Yes Batman is still built like a wrestler and glides like an Angel but the focus on gliding is considerably more noticeable in Arkham City. In Asylum the game led you on narrow story and gliding was sort of second best to the quality that was the combat system. However in Arkham City Batman glides effortlessly, soaring above the villains waiting to pick out his target like an eagle over a river. That feeling you get when waiting on the edge of a building listening to the conversations of the mentally unstable before taking your chance and pouncing is truly magical.

Rocksteady have also improved the gliding sections throughout the game by adding a few new weapon upgrades and a new dive-bomb system which allows Batman to gain extreme height if used effectively and also allows new ways of taking out your enemies.

I won’t spoil the incredible number of new weapons at Batman’s disposal in order to collect those Riddler trophies, progress in the game and take out your enemies. However I will say that you’ll have a blast figuring out how to use them and what’s the best weapon for the situation.

The free flow combat system is retained and is simply brilliant and allows a nice easy flow from one punch to another. It’s so astounding that you’ll rack up the combo’s without even noticing.

Much like the previous instalment, there are certain sections in the game which require you to take down numerous enemies silently, through the use of silent takedowns along with ledge and inverted takedowns. There are also a number of new surprises along the way. As per usual the armed enemies that Batman will encounter should be give a wide berth as they will deal extreme damage however you will also encounter knife wielding lunatics, shield wielding cowards and many enemies will now pick up environmental hazards to throw at you. Just another thing to pay attention too while beating the crap out of dozens of crazed lunatics at once.

Bosses are just as big as before and thankfully they are not all just Titan induced monsters that they were in the previous game. Most require a simple understanding of the combat system and some trial and error to figure out. However others will require you to think harder and make use of all the tricks available to Batman.

Another great addition to this game is the side missions that Rocksteady have thrown in. Yes they don’t need to be completed but they bring a nice little rest bite from the main story and open up new chapters in the Batman universe. These range from solving the Riddler puzzles of which there are 400+, to saving people’s wives and destroying containers of a toxic substance. There is plenty to see and do in Arkham City.

Even after the completion of the game you will have access to the challenge maps which can be brutal if you’re not prepared. Then there is all the extra stuff you may have missed during the game and to top it off, a new game + mode is unlocked which allows gamers who love a challenge, another run through with all their weapons and gadgets unlocked but the enemies take more to dispatch and hit a hell of a lot harder.

If I had to criticise something it would be that Arkham City although is blows Asylum out of the water, it never left me speechless. The first game came out of nowhere and blew the superhero genre into a new millennium. It built the foundation for Arkham City and possibly the future of the  Batman series, and how can you possibly beat a founding father. Answer is you can’t but if you could Arkham City would be that answer. Its open world allows for exploration, its story is deep and emotional and will leave you wondering who Batman really is and whether he will ever break his only rule. It’s graphically a gorgeous sight to behold and has one of the best combat systems to be found in any game. The voice acting is top notch and well who doesn’t love feeling like the Bat. That’s the best part of Arkham City; you’ll never feel as close to Batman as you will while playing this game. Rocksteady should receive credit for creating perhaps game of the year or possibly game of the generation. It’s simply a flawless accomplishment.

Game Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

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