I really liked Arkham Asylum, thought it was one of those games where every detail has been polished until it sparkles, that provided some clever and innovative gameplay, and that, above all, managed to make every aspect somehow quintessentially batman. Certainly disarmed, knocked the absolute crap out of, snapped the wrists of and left handcuffed any direct-movie tie-in games I can think of (yeuch!). It’s sequel, well, I dunno, still a great game in many ways, still has some great design, some interesting gameplay, good voice acting and good feel, some excellent set pieces, but it somehow didn’t seem as tight and effective as its predecessor. I daresay some of that is just familiarity – the basic gameplay mechanics, the fighting, even a lot of the adversaries, are pretty much the same – and they’re never going to have quite the same punch second time round. Some of it is maybe in the setting – a few city blocks converted into a massive prison worked well at times but didn’t have quite the atmosphere of the crumbling asylum, and there wasn’t the same level of head-fucky investigation of batman’s own psyche, there wasn’t that nasty little edge of madness the first game had. Some of it was in the shape of the game – they’d gone for more of an open world approach than in the more linear and scripted Arkham Asylum, and I don’t think it worked as well. It all looked nice, but I’m not sure there was much gained – most of the actual action occurred in more limited single locations anyway, and the city really only served as a set of high towers to swing between in getting from one set piece to another. Some of it was in slightly muddy plotting – where Arkham Asylum felt tight as a drum, Arkham City had too many villains competing for attention, some of whom would drop in and out without much introduction or explanation. In the end it all just seemed to peter out a little.
Still an enjoyable, atmospheric way to spend a few hours, but less so than Arkham Asylum for my money.