Why Batman: Arkham City's Story Fell Flat

By Jared Scott on September 24, 2012, 5:06PM EDT

2011 was and still is known as the year of blockbusters titles. Many gamers dreamed of the hours they would spend engrossed in the newest AAA titles such as Uncharted 3 and Skyrim. But I did not show interest in these games. I did not share in my friends' excitement over giant open worlds and witty Nolan North banter. I simply desired one thing: to turn on my PS3 and to become Batman in the streets of Arkham City. Imagine my surprise that after all the hype, after all the DLC, after days of play, I felt nothing but relief that I was not the one who bought this game.

"How can this be", I asked myself? "After the weeks spent playing Arkham Asylum, the reminiscing with college friends, the dozens of Batman comics I purchased to better appreciate the mythos, why am I so unsatisfied?" After far too much time spent ranting to my poor, little brother who bought the game (I did apologize), my epiphany came. I now realize that it is the poor use of characters, the lack of immersion, and a misleading DLC called Harley Quinn's Revenge that are responsible for this injustice.

One of the first aspects that brought my attention to Arkham City was Hugo Strange starring as the co-villain. Hugo Strange, the crazy psychologist who discovered Batman's identity single handedly. Yet somehow, this creepy, but rather intriguing villain had only five minutes of face time in the entire game. For the rest of the adventure, he occasionally said something to the effect of, "Ten hours to Protocol 10". Half-way through the game I forgot he even existed, let alone that he was even important. Speaking of Protocol 10; what a huge let down. Strange wants to destroy the city's villains in one blow? Ra's Al Ghul is the mastermind? Saw it five years ago...in Batman Begins. And Two-Face, the tragic hero turned villain, was reduced to kitty litter by an annoying Catwoman...twice. Months before Arkham City's release, Catwoman was teased as an essential character to the story but was only in four short levels, mostly unrelated to the story. To add insult to injury, the majority of her dialogue was limited to "This kitty's gonna play" and "I promise to be a good kitty". The only redeeming moment of her story was finding out Poison Ivy wanted to kill Catwoman because she forgot to water the plants. Not only was it believable, but it was hilarious. Sadly, the large cast of Arkham City's villains lost their opportunity to shine.

What immediately felt out of place in Arkham City was a lack of danger. Five minutes after donning my cowl, I realized that I was an overpowered man in an underpowered world. I was no longer in the dungeon-island of Arkham Asylum, but in a relatively safe playground. Surrounded by armed thugs? No problem. Just zip line to any of the surrounding 10 story buildings. In the previous installment, you rarely had the comfort of zipping away unless you hugged the edges of the map. So many times in Arkham Asylum, I worried about another fear toxin head trip where the Scarecrow often destroyed me. I nearly soiled myself every time Killer Croc jumped out of the sewage, chasing me on tiny platforms. And every moment spent down in the mad hospital halls, I knew, deep down, Joker was watching. Arkham City didn't make me feel like I should be afraid of anything.

I still held on to hope. I knew waiting at the end of this sad excuse of a campaign would be the Harley Quinn's Revenge. I was excited to hear Robin converse with Oracle about how Bruce hadn't been the same since Talia and Joker died. I quickly ran to Batman's rescue and freed him only to hear him say, "What took you"? I quickly diffused the bombs and braced for a redeeming conclusion. Batman left without a word as if nothing happened. What about the mourning Harley Quinn, the DLC's namesake? She says she misses Mr. J. Well so do I, but I don't go around charging people money so they can hear about it! This unjustified DLC hammered the final nail into the coffin containing my hopes for a good story. Developer Rocksteady, hast thou done?

Believe it or not, I don't hate this game. In fact, I recently played a few Riddler campaigns earnestly obtaining medals. This game does have its fun, some-what redeeming qualities outside of the main campaign. However, as someone who values story over all other elements, I can't help but feel betrayed. Arkham City, though still fun, missed the mark. Now if you excuse me, I'm off to play a better DLC called "Sazh: Heads or Tails".

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