Batman Arkham City – The greatest superhero game ever made


Tiger Media Network

Starting with 2009’s “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” the “Batman: Arkham” series quickly became one of the most defining and beloved superhero game franchises of all time. With its great story, excellent characters and voice acting, innovative “free flow” combat system and excellent stealth mechanics, “Arkham Asylum” absolutely defined what a superhero game should look and feel like, and brought Batman back into the video game spotlight following some absolutely terrible releases. 

Following the success of “Asylum,” developer Rocksteady decided to up the ante for the next installment, going for a much larger open world and perfecting the combat engine, as well as putting more emphasis on Batman’s traversal and detective abilities. This led to 2011’s “Batman: Arkham City,” and there are really no words to describe how big this game turned out to be. “Arkham City” was a massive improvement over its already excellent predecessor, building on the blocks of “Asylum” to create an excellent superhero experience that still stands the test of time. There’s no wonder it’s often in the discussion for some of the greatest superhero games of all time. 

However, I am here to argue that “Batman: Arkham City” is not one of the greatest superhero games of all time; It is THE greatest superhero game ever to grace the market. Featuring an amazing story and larger cast of characters, amazing voice performances, fantastic combat and stealth mechanics, and a large open world that is infinitely fun to explore, all of it comes together to create not only the best superhero experience ever, but one of the best gaming experiences period. 

Release and Addt. Info:

  • Released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in October of 2011, and for PCs in November of that same year
  • Developed by Rocksteady and published by Warner Bros. Interactive.
  • A massive and expensive marketing campaign was used to promote the game
  • “Batman: The Animated Series” Writer Paul Dini was once again heavily involved in development
  • Remasted in the “Return to Arkham” collection, alongside “Arkham Asylum,” for PS4 and  Xbox One in October of 2016
  • Followed by the prequel “Batman: Arkham Origins” in 2013, and sequel “Batman: Arkham Knight” in 2015. 

Following the events of “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” the titular asylum was deemed ineffective and promptly shut down. Because of this, Arkham City was built, a massive prison complex encompassing the slums of Gotham City, cut off from the rest of the city, headed by the sociopathic Dr. Hugo Strange. While protesting the prison during a press conference, Bruce Wayne is publicly arrested by TYGER guards, Strange’s private security force, and thrown into Arkham City, where Strange promptly reveals he knows Bruce’s secret identity as Batman. Now trapped in the facility, Batman wastes no time in suiting up, aiming to stop Strange and take down Arkham City. 

Batman, of course, also encounters the Joker, who is suffering from a fatal illness after being exposed to the TITAN formula in the previous game, which he also infects Batman with, leading to his search for a cure, all while uncovering the mystery behind “Protocol 10”, Strange’s master plan. Batman also faces various other members of his Rogues Gallery, including the Penguin, Two Face, the Riddler, Mister Freeze, and Ra’s Al Ghul, among others. The game also stars Catwoman, who presents her own moveset and parallel story next to Batman. 

“Batman: Arkham City’s” story is just one big reason why this game is such a masterpiece. There was really never a moment of this game where I didn’t enjoy the story. The overall mystery of Protocol 10, and uncovering the truth behind Arkham City itself is an amazing journey throughout, only propelled by the excellent cast of characters. Of course, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return to deliver their absolutely phenomenal performances as Batman and the Joker. However, this time, Batman is able to shine with various other villains. Hugo Strange is an excellent main villain despite being more of a background presence, and even those who don’t get a ton of screentime, such as Penguin and Two Face, are a delight to watch; Penguin, in particular, is one of my favorite additions, in large part due Nolan North’s incredible voice performance. Troy Baker’s role as Two Face is also worthy of praise. 

Speaking of great additions, Mister Freeze is one of the best inclusions, from his design to his voice actor, Maurice LaMarche. Hearing that robotic tone to his voice when he puts on his helmet never fails to send chills down my spine. Ra’s Al Ghul is also another new villain that more than deserves his place, with an excellent performance from Dee Bradley Baker and an adversarial/respectful relationship with the Dark Knight. 

The supporting cast is also great across the board. Catwoman’s flirtatious, carefree attitude is contrasted perfectly by Batman’s quiet, brooding manner, with yet another fantastic vocal performance from Grey DeLisle. Then there’s Talia Al Ghul, whose complicated feelings for Batman make for some really great moments between the characters. This was also the first “Arkham” game to include Alfred Pennyworth, and what a great addition he was. His well-mannered but constantly sarcastic banter with Batman was a high point for me, and I was more than happy to see him return in future “Arkham” games.

There are many things that “Arkham City” expanded and improved upon from its predecessor, starting with the world. While “Arkham Asylum” featured a much smaller, interconnected series of buildings and islands, “Arkham City” features a much greater open world, allowing players to freely explore the prison city. Because of this, much more focus was put on Batman’s gliding and grapnel gun. While you could glide in “Asylum,” it was typically only in short bursts, and you could easily get around on foot. In “Arkham City, on the other hand, gliding is your main method of travel, and it feels so fun to pull off. 

Batman can use his cape to glide great distances, and when used in conjunction with his “dive bomb,” where he plummets to the ground at high speeds, you can cover some very big ground. It only gets better when you unlock the grapnel boost by completing certain challenges, making it entirely possible to go for miles without ever touching the ground. Arkham City is an excellent open world to explore, and just gliding around the facility is so much fun. On top of that, the City feels much more lively than the Asylum, with the conversations of various thugs being heard as you traverse the city. These add so much to the world and atmosphere of the game, and some of the conversations you come across are also pretty funny. 

The combat present is just as satisfying and brutal as before, but with much-needed tweaks and improvements. Firstly, there are Batman’s gadgets. In “Asylum”, the only gadgets Batman could use were his Batarang and Batclaw, which, while fun to use, suffered from the same clunkiness as everything else. Here, not only do you have the aforementioned gadgets, but you can also use Batman’s Explosive Gel, creating an explosion that knocks enemies to the ground. There is also the new addition of the Freeze Blast and the Remote Electrical Charge, both of which are perfect for crowd control. Then, there are some new combo moves, including the beatdown, ultra stun, and so on, which are essential to dealing with some enemies, and insanely gratifying as Batman beats the daylights out of some poor thug. Plus, that satisfying feeling of delivering a slow-motion punch or kick to the last man standing never goes away. Seriously, I can’t praise this game’s combat engine enough. 

Then, there are the boss battles. The bosses in “Arkham City” are the stuff of legend amongst fans, and this game truly delivers some of the best in the series. This is due to both the higher villain count and Rocksteady realizing there should be more variety in fights aside from just “dodge and attack.” There are plenty of standouts, including a fight against the hulking zombie Solomon Grundy in Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge, the absolute trip that is Ra’s Al Ghul’s boss, and a pretty challenging final boss against the shapeshifting Clayface. However, the best boss fight in the entire game is easily Mister Freeze. Not only does his design and voice make him extra intimidating, but it makes excellent use of all of Batman’s tools, as with each attack you use against, Freeze adapts to your moveset and forces you to change tactics. It’s a genuinely phenomenal boss fight, which really shows what the game has to offer. 

Other highlights: 

  • Phenomenal graphics and art style 
  • An amazing soundtrack 
  • Plenty of post-game content, including combat and stealth challenges
  • Great DLC, including new costumes and expansions, such as the excellent “Harley Quinn’s Revenge.” 

While I do think “Arkham City” is as close to perfect as you can get, there is one aspect of this game that always kills my enjoyment: Riddler. The Riddler trophies have become a mainstay of the “Arkham” series, and no matter what interpretation, there are always the most annoying parts of the game. “Arkham City,” overall, features some really good side missions outside of the main story, including ones with Deadshot, Bane, Victor Zsasz, the Mad Hatter “Tea Party” mission, and of course, the excellent “Identity Thief” missions, featuring Hush. However, gliding around Arkham City and collecting these stupid green trophies is nothing more than anything, in no small part due to just how many there are. “Arkham Asylum” featured a total of 101 Riddler trophies, which may seem like a lot, but a majority of them were easy to find and usually just required a specific gadget. 

In “Arkham City,” including the Catwoman exclusive trophies, there are 440 Riddler trophies to collect in total. And these aren’t just a simple case of snatch and grab; each trophy comes with its own puzzle. Some are beyond easy, while others have solutions so obtuse they are impossible to get without a guide. The rewards you get for collecting them, such as Character trophies, concept art, challenge maps, and additional worldbuilding with the “Arkham City Stories,” are really cool and interesting. Still, it doesn’t make collecting them any less painful.

Other criticisms:

  • As much as I like Catwoman, her gameplay just isn’t as fun 
  • Much like Asylum, it is very easy to get lost

That being said, “Batman: Arkham City” is still an absolute masterpiece. From its phenomenal characters, intriguing narrative, fantastic open world and satisfying combat, “Arkham City” has held up incredibly well 13 years later and manages to capture the magic of playing as the Dark Knight perfectly. The game stands as not only the greatest superhero game ever created, but also one of the best games ever made, period. Whether you’re a Batman fan or just want a fun action game, “Batman: Arkham City” is absolutely worth your time. 

Nick McCoy is a senior at Fort Hays State University, studying digital media and journalism. An avid gamer and music listener, he reviews video games and songs and hosts the radio show “The Understanding of Nick” for KFHS.