'Batman: Arkham City': Get into the Game
Fight! Fight! Fight!
The game's fighting mechanics do a good job of threading the needle between quick-think strategy and outright button-mash insanity. You may find yourself obsessively chasing after longer and longer combo strings. On a less scientific note, does this picture look incredibly uncomfortable or what?
The Cat Takes the Plunge
And speaking of plunging, how about that neckline?
The War on Thugs
One of the joys of Arkham City is seeing all the different supervillains' minions in their matching weirdo attire. Those two clown-faced fellas in the background are members of the Joker's gang. Also, note Catwoman in the foreground, paying homage to Entrapment. (Does anyone else remember Entrapment?)
Brings a Knife to a Batfight
The various goons spread throughout Arkham City don't seem too tough at first, but they get bigger and better weapons over the course of the game. Fortunately, when one of the knife-wielding thugs attacks, you're alerted by the five lightning bolts over his head. Just like in real life! (Also, note the makeshift car-door shield that Goon #5 is holding in the upper-right hand corner. It won't be much help.)
Arkham City is bigger than Arkham Asylum in almost every way. The big exception is the "Detective Mode" mechanic, which gives Batman a vaguely Terminator-esque infrared computer display of his surroundings. The developers felt that Asylum's Detective Mode showed the player a little too much. The compass is gone, and the overall look feels much more abstract. It's a good lesson in how limiting the player can make the game a bit more fun.
This Is Gonna Hurt
Who knew Mr. Freeze did such a good Billy Zabka impression? Where Arkham Asylum kept the villain count to a relative minimum — no Two-Face, no Penguin — Arkham City digs deep into Batman's extensive Rogues' Gallery. It's a nice trip through Bat-mythology, and a good reminder that — as we recently argued on The No Doctor Cop Lawyer Show — the Caped Crusader has the best supervillains in the business.
Man on the Street
The game follows a relatively linear narrative, carrying Batman through the titular walled city-state that houses Gotham's nastiest criminals. But the game also offers plenty of opportunity for exciting tangents and subplots. Also, there are an apparently infinite number of henchman lurking around, just waiting to learn a valuable lesson about obeying the law from Professor Batfist.
The Arkham series takes place in its own specific continuity, ladling in references to the Batman comics mythology and the iconic '90s cartoon. But since Arkham City lets the player take control of Catwoman, the game feels like a subtle opening salvo in the year-long lead-up to next summer's The Dark Knight, with a leather-and-goggles look that's more Anne Hathaway than (sigh) Halle Berry.
A Man of Many Faces
One of the central joys of Arkham City is seeing just how well the design of Batman incorporates several different incarnations of the Caped Crusader. You've got lots of Nolan-era grit — Batman's costume gets steadily more torn up as you advance in the game. But Bats' massive body owes more to Frank Miller's towering, two-tons-of-muscle. But as voiced by Animated Series vet Kevin Conroy, this Batman has a strong, Don Draper timbre that feels lovingly retro compared to Christian Bale's Smeagol rasp.
And You Thought It Gave You Nightmares?
Luke Who-walker? Mark Hamill has been voicing the Joker in various shows, films, and videogames for almost 20 years now, and he returns to the character in City. Following the conclusion of Arkham Asylum, the Joker is suffering from the effects of the mutagenic Titan drug that briefly transformed him into a megasized monster. Sick in body, sick in soul... he's just a really sick guy.