Batman: Arkham City Review — The Dark Knight Repeats

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A similar “if we can, we should” mentality pervades Arkham City’s story, not always to its benefit. The game’s titular City refers to an area of Gotham that has been walled off to form a giant outdoor prison, and it’s a concept that Rocksteady exploits to toss in practically every notable Batman adversary they can think of. The appearance of classics like the Penguin is welcome, but by the time Deadshot and the Mad Hatter show up, you’ll wish for a little more focus.

The game’s most important task was to get the character of Batman right, and the developers certainly succeeded. The game mechanics do most of the work making you feel like a powerful superhero, but the writing and voice acting are also top notch. The struggles of a moral man in an immoral world might not break new storytelling ground, but Arkham City depicts the Dark Knight’s plight with maturity and nuance.

Individually, the villains also shine. Mark Hamill is superlative again as the Joker, delivering a performance of sinister, cackling camp. Other, lesser villains, like the solemn, slightly pathetic Mr. Freeze, are also well characterized. They’ll all appear to taunt you in the killscreens, speaking into the camera in well-written, well-voiced, well-animated close-ups.

Arkham City provides an engrossing introduction, acclimating players to the controls as Bruce Wayne is ushered into a floodlit jailyard, filled with hardened prisoners baying for his blood. It’s an interesting inversion of the Arkham Asylum intro, which has players steer the Joker as he begins an incarceration of his own.

Despite these extremely well-executed specifics, Arkham City’s grand story is a mess. There’s never any satisfying explanation for why the monstrous outdoor prison exists in the first place. The revelation that the prison’s warden, the enigmatic, Indian-accented Dr. Jonathan Strange, knows Batman’s secret identity is introduced without explanation and then summarily dropped.

The rest of the narrative plays out like standard video game boilerplate, sending the Dark Knight hying around the map on one poorly explained errand or another. The cloying nature of McGuffin hunting is exacerbated by Oracle, Batman’s paraplegic personal assistant, who acts as a constant source of too-convenient information and logically faulty exposition. Will video games ever outgrow the kind of lazy storytelling that requires every protagonist to have an omniscient female voice talking in his ear, telling him where to go next? Arkham City seems happy to abuse their pre-recorded privileges. At one point, the Joker even starts leaving you voicemails.

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16 Comments on Batman: Arkham City Review — The Dark Knight Repeats


On October 27, 2011 at 7:15 pm

nice review ben, however this score seems lower than about 95% of other reviews ive seen.

Ben Richardson

On October 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm

It is lower! Having checked out some other reviews after I published the above, I learned that I echoed some of the concerns voiced by Tom Bissell and Jim Sterling. So I’m feeling pretty secure in my judgment.

Jason Castleman

On October 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm

This is the first review of the game I can pretty much agree with. Huge Batman fan, huge Arkham Asylum fan, but I think they dropped the ball a bit with the second game. It’s still fun, but it’s nowhere near as good as the first thanks mostly to the story problems you alluded to. I know there was a series of comic books to bridge the gap between games but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have put some sort of intro on the game to explain where Arkham City came from and why Strange was able to arrest Bruce Wayne for no reason and not get into trouble for it. I also still don’t even understand what Protocol 10 really was and why he did it and what his motivations for ANY of this was.

The collectibles are what really bug me this time around though. The first game had what felt like a fairly lengthy campaign and then had the Riddler puzzles thrown in as a bonus. This game has a much shorter campaign and then throws in hundreds of Riddler puzzles to try to make up for it. When I spent my 60 dollars, I wanted another kick ass Batman game like Arkham Asylum. Instead I got a Batman skinned version of Where’s Waldo. The vast majority of time in this game isn’t going through the story, it’s spent trying to find collectibles. I don’t mind the old “find 50 whatever” to earn an achievement when it feels like something extra to do in a game that I enjoy. But in this game, the collectibles are the MAJORITY of the game.

So while they did a lot of things right here, I still feel cheated that instead of getting a lengthy campaign I get a million collectibles to find and the option of playing the game again slightly harder.


On October 28, 2011 at 5:02 am

Secret room in Arkham Asylum shows Sharp had Arkham city planned right in the first game. What more explaining do you need? Okay how about this, if you play the game and pay attention(as in not having the attention span of the average facebook user) they explain how Strange was put in control(hint: it includes the mad hatter and Ra’s Al Ghul) and Protocal 10 was apart of a larger plan to clean up Gotham City aka killing all the criminals in Arkham City.

First game was also about the same length. You can beat them both games main story lines in about 7-14 hours, not including side missions in Arkham City and all the riddler trophies in Arkham Asylum.

Have you even beaten the game yet? The collectibles are apart of the side mission you stupid . There is nothing dictating that you have to get all the Riddler trophies or do the side missions, you can play through the main game without doing any of the side missions.

It was your money to begin with(actually judging by your crying mommy and daddy probably bought it for you) so you have no one to blame but yourself. You made your bed, now lie in it and stop being a little .

JosephPS3 Herman Cain 4 Pres

On October 28, 2011 at 5:31 am

Great review Ben. I agree with Jason Castleman (cool last name lol Your name could be a character in the Batman series). I think Ben’s review was probably the most balanced and well stated of many I’ve read. Its actually a real review with detailed examination and contemplation.

I agree with everything except the final numerical number. I agree 100% with the final bullet point summary but I think I give less weight to the negatives and more weight to the positives. I play the game in 1-2hour increments and interrupted in between other games I’ve been occupied with. So whats too repetitive to you for me is something I look foward to experiencing again. But I totally see your point. It definitely is repetitive. I probably would have given it a 85/100 but wouldn’t be able to argue for a change in anything else.

Anyways, great review Ben. Always look forward to reading what you have to say.

Jason Castleman

On October 28, 2011 at 11:20 am

I was wrong. This game is a 10/10. Perfect game in every way. Thank you, Aids, for your thought provoking and intelligent comment. Only a pure genius like you could’ve made me change my mind. I will never play another game again. Arkham City forever.

JosephPS3 Herman Cain 4 Pres

On October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm

@ Mr. Castleman.

I learned to just ignore Aids. I see his name and I don’t even bother to read what his moron has to say. After awhile you just realize there is no point in trying to debate this thing because it would be like trying to debate with a pile of pigeon crap. There just is no point.


On October 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Great review. wish you would have taken points off for the DLC raping. They already announced that there will be story dlc coming out, they will probably explain the story their after ou get raped out of more money.

The Truth

On October 29, 2011 at 7:28 am

I’m enjoying the game but there’s a lot of truth to this review.

Andrew Brink

On November 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm

i actually did not play arkham asylum, so i thought this game was big. the storry was beautiful.
people keep saying the game was too short, but i thought it would end after defeating ra al guld. i was pleased to see that there would be a boss battle, but i think clayface was too easy.

p.s. clayface ending… sword batman was so great.

Andrew Brink

On November 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

i meant Final boss battle.

solomon grundy was my favorite charater.

jason go cry to yer momma

On November 15, 2011 at 2:34 am

as far as i’m concerned and all other players of batman arkham city and arkham asylum.. this game is the best fighting game ive ever played.. this is incredibly fun, challenging, with ultra stealthy capabilities.. sorry jason “odiotic ” castleman but i rate this game a 5 stars out of 5!!! eat now your doggie poop you piece of ty liar phoney reviewer of games.. i think you forgot to flush the stinkin toilet thats makin you looney and goin crazy writing stuff you claim expertly done from your brain made of doggie poop. before writing stuffs pls flush first the toilet ok or just eat your own poop too.. oh thats nice! good boy!


On November 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Too short main story and the first game seemed to follow metroid design a bit more, whereas this one seems to follow a little of metroid but more of gta design. In any case, still great game and even more so when you consider some of e utter crap out there, and the fact that this is only studio to EVER make a top notch batman game, and if you remember the countless batman games over the years, you will more than appreciate this game. Though, despite how good the two games may be, if the next one is this short on the main story I will pass on it.


On November 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Just wanted to add, games should not be made as being 70% collecting stuff and doing optional things and then only 30% story etc. It should be at least 70% story I think.


On November 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

I must admit that I love this game, one of the only games in a long time that I have actually tried completing 100%. I also disagree the fact that it was a lame story but must agree that it can be repetitive on some missions.

Either way Aids is a . That something we can all agree on.


On November 14, 2012 at 11:56 am

That said that aids is a penis in not so nice words :)