We all know that first impressions are extremely important. First impressions can make or break any given situation depending on how they go. Despite the success of Batman: Arkham Asylum I still reserved judgement of Arkham City based on the track record of licensed property titles; something I covered in my blog post yesterday. As I stated then, and I'll reiterate now, more often than not a licensed title will end up just being completely terrible. After spending some time with Arkham City last night I can safely say fans of the series will not be disappointed. Without spoiling anything I'll say this; things pick up fairly soon after the end of Arkham Asylum. The inmates of the asylum and Blackgate prison are now confined to a sectioned off portion of Gotham now referred to as Arkham City. Naturally when you assemble Gotham's most wanted into one city state there's bound to be some problems and tensions definitely do run high.
Of course this requires the dark knight to drop into the thick of things to investigate. Though you're no longer confined to the spaces of Arkham Asylum. Instead a large portion of Gotham City serves as Batman's stomping grounds this time out and to put it simply, it's amazing. While Arkham Asylum allowed Batman to prowl in a small space and usually from within the confines of a building, Arkham City sets Batman loose in his natural habitat. When you take into account how great the visuals in this game are it can be stunning sometimes to just creep along the rooftops of Gotham's unique landmarks, surveying the skyline. It perfectly captures what a dystopian Gotham would look like if all the criminals finally took control and were allowed run amok.
Though it's not all peaches and cream for the villains as they go to war with one another inside Arkham City, each one trying to stake out their claim to the city and rule the city state with an iron fist. This leads to some memorable altercations with Gotham's most notorious scoundrels. But that's not the biggest part of the game as there's an underlying plot afoot that draws the Batman into Arkham City in the first place. Luckily you'll have access to Batman's full set of moves and an arsenal of toys to help you undercover the conspiracy at play in Arkham City.
In terms of gameplay Arkham City feels both fresh and familiar at the same time. For the most part the mechanics are unchanged but Batman's abilities and weaponry are expanded a bit with some new items to upgrade. Free-flow combat makes its return in grand fashion, looking smoother and more fluid than it did in Arkham Asylum if that's even possible. Generally the controls just feel tighter and that goes a long way towards the gameplay when you need precise timing and response from the buttons to amass incredible combo multipliers. It also helps when you're simply soaring through the air with your cape, gradually dropping into a dive bomb only to pull up and cover more ground. Trust me, just this activity alone can be satisfying in Arkham City.
And if you're worried that the game might have the pitfall of making Catwoman and Batman too alike when you play as either character; well Rocksteady managed to remedy that too. Both characters have their own distinct skill sets and while combat plays out similarly, getting around the environment and their actions themselves are wholly different. So yes, it feels like playing with a totally different character and not just Batman with a different texture skin and model. Speaking of Catwoman, I had my reservations about Rocksteady introducing her to the series and making her playable but wow, they really pulled it off well. Without giving anything away, lets just say she plays a very important role early on. To that effect, here's a suggestion. Download the Catwoman bundle before you start the campaign. You can thank me for that tip later.
That's pretty much what I've learned from my short time with the game. I plan to get back to it soon and you can expect a full review of the game very soon.