2009 Batman: Arkham Asylum was hailed by many as the greatest superhero game of all time, but Batman: Arkham City arguably takes the genre to new heights with the introduction of a stunning open-world setting and more fully-realised characters.
Without giving away any major plot points, its premise sees different parts of the city claimed by villains vying for power, with each section of the world displaying a distinct personality. At about ten hours in length, the main story feels a little less focused than Arkham Asylum's tight plotting, perhaps due to the fact there are so many characters competing for top billing, from heroes like Robin, Catwoman, Alfred and Vicki Vale to villains such as the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, the Riddler and the Joker.
Nevertheless, your journey through the campaign, from one brilliant set-piece to the next, is always engaging and remains a finely crafted experience rather than a sequence of loosely organised encounters, while the opening and conclusion serve as highpoints that will have Bat-fans frothing at the mouth.
Batman himself was the star of Arkham Asylum, but Gotham City takes centre stage in the follow-up. The open-world environment is much larger than the original game island asylum, and each location, from an atmospheric museum and a dilapidated subway station to the gothic streets and skyscrapers of the city exteriors, is presented in even greater detail.
Stand on a rooftop and gaze out at the city before you and youl be floored by the architecture. Each building look unique, and gliding, leaping, climbing or rappelling across this urban playground offers as much exhilarating freedom as any open-world game to date.
Revolving around stealth, acrobatic combat and exploration, the core gameplay elements of Arkham City remain unchanged from its predecessor, with highly effective systems that are as simple to pick up as they are difficult to master. The free-flowing combat is still a game of timing as you leap from one target to the next, countering and chaining moves together to beat your way through crowds and increase the strength and speed of attacks.
You have plenty of new gadgets this time round too, including a freeze gun, a smoke bomb and a remote electrical charge that can zap henchmen, each of which can be seamlessly used in battle alongside more traditional attacking moves. Your improved arsenal is a necessity given the large groups of enemies you face, who now carry shields, wear armour and take aim at you with knives and electric rods of their own.
Batman: Arkham City is fleshed out with a heap of side-quests and collectibles separate to the main storyline, which can be played as you go through the campaign or tackled after its conclusion. Answering a ringing payphone, entering a building on a whim or approaching mysterious figures in the shadows can set off all manner of optional, yet extremely substantial and satisfying quests featuring their own characters and sub-plots, from destroying weapons of mass destruction to tracking down serial killers.
Batman: Arkham City offers a wealth of content and everything is polished to perfection, from the gameplay mechanics to the beautiful open-world setting. Playing as Batman is never less than a pleasure and the game offers one of the most impressive depictions of Gotham City in any medium to date. Quite how developer Rocksteady can go about improving on Arkham City has us stumped, but itl be a pleasure finding out.
+ The best superhero game ever.
+ Fantastic open-world setting.
+ Tonnes of things to see and do.
- Story is a little less focused than Arkham Asylum.
- Bosses battles could have evolved more.
- Can this be bettered?