Nananananananana nananananananana PART 2! Leading up to the launch of Arkham Origins later this month, we’re looking back at the previous installments in the series. Last week we focused on Arkham Asylum, this week; Arkham City.

The recap (I’ll keep this as short as possible): Arkham City takes place about a year and a half after the events of Arkham Asylum. Since then a section of Gotham has been closed off to form a super prison to replace Arkham Asylum. The prison is overseen by the mysterious Dr. Hugo Strange and his TYGER guard. Arkham City begins with Bruce Wayne being incarcerated in Arkham City, meeting Dr. Hugo Strange who admits to knowing Bruce is Batman, and then leaving Bruce to his own devices inside the city (why you would release Batman after admitting to knowing his secret identity is beyond me). From there Batman begins his investigations around the city to learn more about the goings on in the new Arkham and the mysterious Dr. Strange, encountering beloved characters such as Two Face, Penguin, Catwoman, and the Joker. After a run in with the Joker, Batman is incapacitated, awaking to find the Joker is dying from the after effects of the Titan formula (remember that from Arkham Asylum?) and has transfused his blood into Batman so that they’re either both going down together or Batman is going to find a cure. The game continues with Batman finding the true mastermind behind Arkham City, stopping Protocol 10 and 11, and finishing with a dramatic climax that I doubt anybody expected! That’s as compact as I can make the plot, but I’ll expand on parts as I go.

Arkham City - Gliding

So, how does Arkham City compare to Arkham Asylum? Well in my opinion, I think Arkham City took the good and bad from Arkham Asylum and made it better. Firstly, they threw Batman into an open world environment. While Arkham Asylum was a big place, the player is limited to certain paths, in Arkham City the player can move from roof top to roof top or glide throughout the City with ease. Yes glide. One of my favourite added abilities in Arkham City was the glide. I loved jumping from the highest point I could find (maybe the ferris wheel), diving straight down, picking up as much speed as I could then pulling up, spreading the cape and gliding around the City looking for some thugs in need of a healthy dose of Bat-justice.

Speaking of Bat-justice, combat in Arkham City keeps the same simplistic style of Arkham Asylum and still makes you feel badass. Rocksteady added more combo animations, double counters to really make you feel like the Batman, as well as adding new gadgets and abilities into the game that allow for some pretty cool combat mix-ups. The Grapple Hook, Batarang, and Explosive Gel all make a comeback, with some new companions such as a Freeze Grenade, Remote Electrical Charge Gun, Smoke Bomb, and Batclaw. I spent many an hour playing the game by gliding around the city, dive bombing into a group of thugs (one of the awesome features of being able glide), usually landing on one and knocking the others back, following this up with a Freeze Grenade to freeze the other thugs in place, leaping at the first unfortunate fellow and using the Beatdown ability to pummel him senseless, and then from there I would freeflow as I saw fit. Boss fights also greatly improved for Arkham City. There are no repeats, each fight is different, some of which really test your skill as the Batman. I loved the Mr. Freeze encounter. Having to use nearly all of Batman’s different stealth take downs was a beautiful touch, and gave the player a chance to try out some situational take downs that aren’t as easy to pull off in the open world.

Arkham City - Combat

Side missions are a big thing in Arkham City and my God are they well made (yes that includes the Riddler trophies / challenges, they’re a lot more interesting this time)! I don’t know about you but for me and several of my friends, we played to a little after the first TwoFace encounter and then got caught up in side missions. For days the conversations would be “So, how far have you gotten in the main story?”, “Just passed TwoFace, but man, I did this awesome side quest with Hush in it…”. The side quests were so well put together, I forgot I wasn’t even playing the main story! I normally wouldn’t spend too much time with the all the side quests in a game, but I couldn’t help myself with Arkham City. It’s just incredible game making to be able to captivate a player like that. Some of these side quests opened up a lot of possibilities as to what could have been in the next Arkham game, but since Arkham Origins is set before Arkham City, I guess we’ll have to wait to find out if the side quests lead on to bigger and better things (open world Gotham City and Metropolis with Superman thrown in perhaps? Or maybe some Robin / Nightwing gameplay?).

Before I finish up, can we talk about the ending? I assume if you’re reading this, you’ve already completed the game, if not then STOP READING! If you’re still reading then you’re about to pass the point of no return and find out the ending of the game. Joker is dead. I for one did not see that coming, and still haven’t decided if I loved or hated the ending. It’s fitting that Joker would be the architect of his own demise and even though he is the antithesis to Batman, and in letting him die, Batman would have saved countless lives, he still would have saved the Joker. I guess what it all comes down to is that they’re both locked in an ideological battle with each other, Joker who believes society is lying to itself and that morals and ethics are thrown out the window when people are pushed to their limits. And Batman, who believes in justice and the good of people, and that society can be cleansed if the taint of crime is removed. Joker wants nothing more than Batman to break his moral code and kill him, proving that he’s right and that even the most incorruptible of people can be broken. Batman refuses to do this, and needs to beat Joker sticking to his code, to prove that it means something and that he really can make a difference. It’s the case of the unstoppable force meeting the immoveable object, and killing the Joker off was a bold decision by Rocksteady. In a way, it seems as if Batman almost feels defeated with Joker’s death. His silent walk from Arkham City at the end of the game, carrying the Joker in his arms is such a powerful scene, and leaves me wondering what’s going through his mind. Was this a victory or defeat for the Batman? I’m not sure if Joker will somehow make a return in the future, but it’s not totally impossible (Lazirus Pit anyone?)

Overall Arkham City improved on the already spectacular Arkham Asylum, and I can only hope that the guys at Warner Bros. Games Montréal can do justice to series Rocksteady have developed thus far. I’d love to hear your opinions, so feel free to leave some thoughts in the comments below. Oh, and for those worried about Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill not returning for this game, check out the below clip and cast those worries aside!

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