The first game is one of my favorites. In fact the only game I think I’ve played more than Arkham Asylum may be Final Fantasy 7. This game though, it improves on the first in nearly every way possible. I will try to refrain from spoilers, but be warned a few might make it in here.
Plot: This really is one of the darkest Batman stories I’ve come across. I’m not kidding when I say that. A city full of all of Gotham’s most dangerous criminals including Two-Face, Joker, and the Penguin among a lot of others. Through the game things grow darker, more serious, and we see Batman teeter on the edge a few times in terms of his moral code. Not only that, but the body count climbs high in this game; including in it many deaths that they would never be able to get away with in the comics. At least through all this Batman has more than just Oracle helping him out this time. The final fight itself wasn’t as hard as last game’s, but the ending is none the less amazing and gripped at my heart. As a note, I do suggest you play with the Catwoman extra content installed. It adds to the gameplay and the story, not to mention she gets to deal a bit with some villains Batman doesn’t too much.
Character Design: This is kind of interesting, I thought. Robin I mentioned in the comic tie in (while he is Tim Drake) seems almost a mix between Dick, Tim, and Damian in his design. Two-Face I first thought I was looking at Tommy Lee Jone’s Batman Forever Two-Face, yet after a moment it seemed his scaring was designed after Aaron Eckhart. Catwoman is strongly taken from the comics though, and many others out there range all around the place in terms of what seemed to influence their look. In terms of Batman and Catwoman at least both can get extra skins in various ways. These skins can be used in the challenge map, but after beating the game once you can actually use in the game itself! I’m just not sure yet if you can alternate between costumes during storymode and if his other outfits will get damaged as the story goes on.
Voice Actors: Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker from the DCAU. The two are simply amazing in their roles and work well together. Tara Strong who played Barbara Gordon in the DCAU does a pretty good Harley Quinn, though she fell a bit short of hitting Arleen Sorkin’s level. As a note, I find it a bit odd Sorkin did not reprise the role since she voices Quinn in the DCAU, DCU Online, and the first game Arkham Asylum. Grey DeLisle who played Catwoman in the recent Batman Year One movie reprises that role for the game, and I have to say she seemed to perform this role better than in the movie. There are a lot other voices, all of whom do an amazing job in this game.
Gameplay: The game play is fantastic. They took just about everything from the first game and expanded on it. In the start of this game you begin with just about every item you had at the end of the last one. Some devices even get improved on such as the line launcher, while you also get a lot more items than the last game. Combat is greatly improved as well. For one Batman just has more moves so you won’t look like you’re doing the same dozen or so attacks over and over. Enemies can also attack two or even three at a time, but this game has allowed for multiple counters to happen at once. I could go on a lot more about combat and his gadgets, but I’d be missing a big thing then. That would be the environment. Asylum took place on a rather small island with limited ways to travel from one area to another. This time you have a city to run across. The area is just a lot larger than last, but you are allowed to roam in nearly every direction. Moving from one point to the city you aren’t stuck to one or two entrances – unless you are entering one of the various buildings you have access to in the game. Riddler Challenges are much more frequent but nicely done. Instead of oddly random maps laying around to show where things are, you actually have to find people working for the Riddler and interrogate them. Through the city you’ll find people who really don’t fit in with the crazed killers too that at times will need protection from thugs. There is also a lot more to do in this game compared to the last one.
Arkham City Comic tie-in: There is a comic that connects the first game to the second. I would suggest people read it for there are points covered in the comic that get addressed in the game. It also shows exactly how Arkham City gets started which is good. If you haven’t read the comic though, don’t worry about it. Some of the issues will get explained (though in less detail) as the game progresses so it won’t really hurt if you haven’t read it. Just makes a good bridge between the two.