Batman: Arkham City Vs Arkham Asylum Comparison
Batman: Arkham City is a huge prospect. Moving from the dank, claustrophobic warrens of Arkham Asylum and expanding the award-winning template into a grander setting was never going to be easy for Rocksteady Studios.
But after sitting down with the developer and playing a large portion of Batman: Arkham City first hand, it’s abundantly clear that the studio has delivered on all fronts. From the highly polished visuals and dark atmosphere, to the slick combat and inventive gadgetry, there is a lot to love here.
To give you a better idea of how far Arkham City has gone, we’ve taken a look back at Arkham Asylum and compared the key areas of both games. Long story short, Arkham City is a major step up, but read on to find out why you simply must check it out at launch.
Characters and Villains
Batman is one of the most recognisable cultural icons of our time, and Rocksteady Studios really did the dark knight justice when it created Arkham Asylum. When you played as Batman throughout the campaign, you really did feel like you were behind the cowl.
Arkham Asylum’s plot explored Batman’s traumatic past, the death of his parents and his approach to doing the right thing. In short, the characterisation was perfect. With a broader scope, Batman: Arkham City expands on Bruce Wayne’s persona further, thanks to the inclusion of Hugo Strange and Catwoman.
Hugo Strange knows who Batman is, and it will be interesting to see how the maniacal doctor uses this to blackmail the player throughout the campaign. It will undoubtedly create a larger, more intimidating cat and mouse game than Batman’s pursuit of Joker in Arkham Asylum.
Then you have Catwoman, one of few villains that can stir up sympathy in Batman. Rocksteady has already told NowGamer that it didn’t want to lean too heavily on the romance side of their relationship, but that the mutual respect between them will play a key role across the campaign.
Batman will turn a blind eye to some of Catwoman’s criminal dealings throughout the story – which is something that goes against everything he stands for – but it will most certainly get your involved in the odd tension between them both.
Best of all, you have the wonderful Mark Hamill playing Joker again, and he does so wonderfully. As crazy and as enjoyable as ever; this is an even darker, much angrier Joker, who certainly isn’t to be taken lightly. Batman’s persona is spot on, as is Nolan North’s completely insane Penguin.
Rocksteady clearly has the utmost respect for the source material, and has interpreted the massive cast with care. Needless to say, if you’re a Batman fan to any degree, then you will relish in the exemplary work Rocksteady has achieved in Batman: Arkham City.
Story and Atmosphere
Batman: Arkham City does that classic thing that all superhero movie sequels do, in that it tries to cram more villains into the mix in order to make the plot a more attractive prospect. While movies like Batman & Robin suffered from villain overkill, among other ridiculous inclusions, Rocksteady Studios has avoided stretching Arkham City’s plot too thin.
In Arkham Asylum, Batman apprehends Joker, takes him to the asylum and then all hell breaks loose, triggering a tense cat and mouse game between the two. It was dark, atmospheric and as faithful to the original source material as can be. Most importantly, it felt like part of the Batman canon.
But by broadening the setting to the Arkham City penal colony, Rocksteady had a bigger challenge on its hands to keep the vibe in line with the Batman atmosphere.
Thankfully, the developer has pulled it off perfectly. If anything, the massive, dangerous sprawl of the city is more intimidating than the creepy corridors of the asylum, thanks in part to the armies of criminals waiting to kill Batman on sight.
The plot is also as twisted as the original, and plays on the dark overtones of the setting. Arkham City opens with a Catwoman mission, as she goes about stealing objects from the game world. This angers Two-Face, who takes Catwoman down and attempts to publicly execute her to gain kudos in the criminal underworld.
Batman swoops in at the last minute to save the day however, and rescues Catwoman in the nick of time. His intervention triggers a massive chain of events that leads Batman to his old nemesis Joker, as well as a massive ensemble cast of villains, including The Riddler, Mr. Freeze and Penguin.
Lurking in the background however, is Hugo Strange, the maniacal doctor who is overseeing the Arkham City project. He also knows Batman’s true identity, and using this as leverage, has started a grand plan that will rock Gotham to its very core unless stopped. Excited yet? You should be.
It’s no secret that Batman gets his hands dirty from time to time, and with an increased presence of goons this time around, you will need to brush up on your fighting skills to survive Arkham City. At core level, the combat mechanic is exactly the same as it was in Arkham Asylum, but with a few new additions that help keep it fresh.
The secret to racking up big combos is to jump between each enemy with single strikes, and countering incoming blows when necessary. Once you get a decent flow going, Arkham City’s combat almost becomes rhythmic, and the pay off comes when you stun enemies enough to unleash devastating finishers.
You can now hit two enemies at once if your positioning is right, as Batman smashes heads together and swipes at multiple enemies with his serrated cape edge. Cape stuns also open up QTE attacks, such as spamming the attack button to deliver a barrage of kidney punches to larger goons.
It’s weighty and satisfying as all hell, underlining your role as Batman by making you feel absolutely badass. But you need to remember that fighting enemies with firearms head-on is suicide, and is best dealt with using a stealth approach. Speaking of which, stealth and navigation has taken a real step up too.
Gameplay and Controls
Stealth is initiated by stooping to crouch, and from there you can move around silently, lurking in air ducts, zip-lining up to high vantage points, and using the shadows as cover. As with Arkham Asylum, you really do feel like a predator stalking your prey from the dark, and there is a real satisfaction to taking down enemies undetected.
However, in Arkham Asylum, it was a little too easy to evade attackers by zip-lining between a few gargoyles. The same mechanic exists in Arkham City, but enemies will track you for longer this time, and worse still, more of them have guns and will pick you off from afar if you get careless.
Moving around the environment is a lot easier this time, and recalls fellow action adventure title Uncharted 3 in terms of fluid navigation. One area sees Batman navigating a perilous steel mill, descending into a chimney stack filled with lava while walking precariously along steel poles and climbing around crumbling walkways. It’s slick and it flows nicely.
Navigating the open world of Arkham City is also a joy, as you swoop across the night’s sky, zip-lining to high vantage points to thrust Batman higher into the air. You can also dive bomb and pull up to gain extra hang time, as well as flying in low to drop kick enemies below. It’s infectious, and there is no shortage of things to see on the streets and rooftops below.
Batman isn’t all about fancy acrobatics and face-punching however, as his acclaimed detective skills will be put to the test throughout Arkham City. In Arkham Asylum, Batman could trace vapour trails, see through wall, analyse clues and more. It was neat, and really made for some interesting puzzle moments too.
You’ve guessed it; things are bigger and better in Arkham City, as Batman can do all sorts of mad trickery this time. Detective Mode returns, and it lets Batman identify enemies, and spot which ones are carrying guns. He also comes equipped with a frequency scanner to track radio signals across the city.
There is an also an early puzzle early on that sees Batman tracing a bullet trail back to a sniper rifle, only to find it rigged to explode. Surviving the trap, Batman hacks into the gun to trace it back to its origin. This gives Batman his first lead on Joker, and gives you real satisfaction too.
Batman’s arsenal of gadgets has also grown significantly, but his mainstay items – batarangs, bat claw, grapple gun and more – all return, and can be quick-fired in combat to give him the upper hand. The new addition is the Remote Electronic Charge, a gun that fires jolts of electricity.
Electrified objects can be magnetised with a positive or negative charge to manipulate other metallic objects in the vicinity, which helps Batman through several tricky puzzles throughout the campaign. It’s a brilliant mechanic that lends itself to many devious puzzles ahead.
Old Vs New
While we’ve played Batman: Arkham City extensively, as well as putting an insane amount of time into completing Batman: Arkham Asylum, there is still so much of Rocksteady’s sequel waiting to be uncovered. That said; it’s already abundantly clear that Arkham City improves on the original in every way, no questions asked.
It’s actually incredible to think that Rocksteady Studios had come up with a game that surpasses Batman: Arkham City so significantly in just two years, and as always NowGamer will be on hand to deliver a wealth of reviews and walkthroughs once the game launches.