‘Batman: Arkham City’ Impressions – One of the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told
WARNING: I will be posting MAJOR SPOILERS about the entire Arkham City experience, including the ending. If you have not beat the game yet, do NOT read further and go play!
Still there? Okay then, so Arkham City is fantastic. Literally everything about it is great. The story is exciting, the side quests don’t feel like side quests, and the combat is swift and smooth.
Since I pre-ordered the game at Best Buy, I have three playable characters to mess around with: Batman, Catwoman, and Robin. Each plays completely differently from the others and make for a unique experience and style of play just depending on the character. Batman is the most average, he is both strong and quick and has all the necessary gadgets for stealth. Robin brings characters in close and kicks their butt with his staff. Catwoman moves very quickly and stealthily but isn’t very strong. I personally had the most fun playing as her.
As for Arkham City itself, the place is gorgeous. There is so much to look at and explore, especially with Riddler trophies all over the place. The environment is one of the most immersive I have ever seen in a video game.
But the best part of the game is easily the story. The opening sequence sees Bruce Wayne being taken by Hugo Strange for starting a campaign against Arkham City. Then, the player takes control of Bruce Wayne as he escapes from the guards. It is a fun way to start the game just to see yourself playing as the millionaire playboy rather than the superhero.
Once the game gets rolling and you are in Arkham City you get your first encounter with our arch-nemesis. Joker fakes his death for a split second only to inject you with his own blood, which if you remember is toxic from the Titan formula in Arkham Asylum. The linking of Batman and Joker’s fates is the emotional core of this story. The writers have a firm grasp on their relationship as we see with the idea that these two could die together and therefore must work together.
There are many other great point of this game as well. The characterization of the Penguin in the game is my favorite interpretation of the character ever. The boss battle with Mr. Freeze is a major highlight and forces you to think about how you are going to fight more than any other part of the game. Ras al Ghul’s segment is similar to the Scarecrow in Arkham Asylum, but not too similar as to step on any toes. It is a true trial for Batman and we get an awesome boss fight with the Demon’s Head.
The climax of the game is pretty much a bloodbath and one of the best ending that I have seen to any particular Batman story. First, we are handed the twist that Strange is working for Ras, who then kills the doctor and them himself. It only makes sense that Ras al Ghul would want all the criminals of Gotham City in one concentrated area just to blow it up.
Then of course, we get to the final confrontation with Joker, who is holding Talia captive. The reveal that the supposedly cured Joker was actually Clayface and the subsequent boss battle were excellently constructed. Talia’s death was sad but not as difficult as what happened next.
Joker’s struggle for the cure was disturbing. Watching Batman contemplate whether to give it to him or not, his reasoning being that with Joker dead less people would likely die, was shocking. The only rule Bruce has is what separates him from the villains he fights every day. Joker, who sees himself on the same level as the Bat attacked him thinking he wasn’t going to be given the cure. The struggle caused the vile to drop, leaving Joker without a way out of his disease. His final moments he spends laughing at Batman telling him he would have given him the cure. Then he dies. Joker dies, and Batman carries him out to the swarming police cars. The shocked look on Harley’s face is heartbreaking. Batman’s refusal to talk to Gordon is solemn. Joker could not have went out any better way. The fact that Batman appeared to be upset over his death proves Joker’s point: that he needs Joker just as much as Joker needs him. Simply amazing work from the game’s writer Paul Dini.
The end credits are quiet. That is except for one last missed call from the Joker where he sings Batman a love song in a very drawn out and disturbingly solemn manner. There is no end credits scene teasing his return. Joker appears to be dead for good in this series.
Arkham City is not only the best Batman video game of all time, but it also rivals some of the greatest Batman stories ever told. I remember feeling the same way after watching The Dark Knight for the first time. Same goes for when I read The Long Halloween and The Dark Knight Returns. They are all Batman stories that take the source material and expand on it in a way that is shocking and effective. Arkham City has joined the ranks as a classic Batman story that no fan will ever forget.