In this follow up to Arkhman Asylum, Batman does what he always does, which is to continue his fight against crime. To those of you who know the lore, this won't come as a surprise, but the fact that Batman never directly kills anyone is an interesting bit of trivia that comes to light in this sequel. Having never thought about it before, I suppose it explains why he is continually plagued by the same adversaries time and time again.
The story begins with Bruce Wayne, in concert with Commissioner Gordon, publicly protesting against the use of Arkham City as a high security prison. This project has been initiated by a partnership between Sharp, the mayor, and Dr Hugo Strange, an old villian from Batman's past and one who has deduced his dual identities. As Wayne addresses the media outside the the massive walled perimeter, he is seized by TYGER mercenaries and finds himself incarcerated in the very place he objects to. During processing, he escapes into the city and has Alfred airdrop his Batman gear and equipment. Now he faces an entire population of free roaming criminals who bear long standing grudges.
Led by old nemeses such as the Penguin, Joker, Two Face, the Riddler and many more, different factions have formed and staked out portions of the city as their territories. There are a number of side quests involving all of these characters, but the main story revolves around two main plots. The first involves Joker who has been infected by the unstable Titan formula, (Arkham Asylum) which will soon kill him without finding a cure. After tricking and infecting Batman with his tainted blood, Joker reveals that Gotham City hospitals have also been poisoned. As Batman's health declines, his main goal is to find Mr. Freeze who is purported to be working on the antidote. The second goal is to discover the secret intentions of Hugo Strange, who has initiated some mysterious project he calls Protocol Ten.
A large part of the game has you collecting Riddler trophies and solving Riddler challenges. These are scattered and hidden throughout the entire city. When you have reached a predetermined number of solutions, Riddler's story progresses to the next phase and additional challenge maps and side quests are opened up. There are four hundred of these and many are quite challenging and require upgrades in gadgets to complete. As in Arkham Asylum, this makes the game a bit unbalanced as you can finish the main quests and have nothing much left to do except collect trophies to get the final Riddler quest. I don't particularly care for this device in games as I always like enough story to carry through right to the end of the main plot. Finishing quests after the tale is all wrapped up and the credits roll gives me a feeling of displacement that doesn't feel quite right. So, in fair warning, although it's free roam, once you decide to enter the Steel Mill to go after Joker, you will have little choice but to see the main story through to its end and will not be able to easily do anything else. After all the credits roll, you can go back in to finish quests as well as have an option for the New Game + mode.
Another addition to this game are segments played as Catwoman. She behaves quite differently than Batman, so you have to learn her combo moves and how to use different gadgets. Catwoman's story takes a different turn to Batman's, although they occasionally cross paths where you can change back and forth to the character you wish to play.
This sequel fleshes out what was already some good concepts in the first game. As usual, the graphics are great and combat and puzzles remain quite challenging. Between the story quests, the Riddler challenges, the challenge maps and the extra content, such as concept art, there's a lot to keep you interested. The area of play is also considerably larger than in Arkham Asylum and there are more side quests.
Regarding the controls, it can initially be quite confusing as they throw a lot at you early on. Combat can be somewhat of a nightmare trying to remember what triple key or double tap combinations to push for combo moves, although, you can turn on the prompts. I'm not sure on whether to decide that there's a little bit of overkill going on here as it can result in a lot of button mashing. Detective vision also returns, but has been revamped due to the temptation to leave it on continuously in the previous game. There are now checks and balances to prevent that.
The game has checkpoint saves and only one save slot, so back up save points elsewhere. This saved my bacon when I ran into a game breaking bug with GFWL not updating the game. This took me a month to resolve, but fortunately the developers have now programmed out GFWL and replaced it with Steamwoks on all Batman games. Anyone who previously owned these games and added their key to Steam received the Goty editions for free. However, you cannot transfer your previous saves without a workaround. ( See game issues) I have not replayed the Goty edition I received, so I can't comment on the DLC, but In terms of enjoyment, it's safe to say that the Batman games to date rank pretty high.
I haven't played Batman Arkham Origins yet, but it has a different developer and there seems to be some mixed feelings about it. It is the first in the series to have a multiplayer mode and the story is a prequel to Arkham Asylum.