Arkham City, the highly anticipated sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, has a lot to live up to. Is it even possible to top a game that won rave reviews from both critics and fans? And how do you do it? The answers to these questions, you'll be pleased to hear, are "yes" and "keep reading."
I would be willing to bet that if you stopped any man, woman or five-year-old child on the street right now, any one of them could tell you the recipe for a sequel. That recipe would, arguably, be the same regardless of the medium. Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Give audiences just enough of the old to as a sturdy foundation and just enough that's new to prevent boredom and apathy. It has been a recipe that’s worked for franchises like The Transformers; however, it can also be a recipe for disaster, sinking or hindering a franchise just as quickly. In the last ten years alone, crowd-pleasers like Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, Max Payne even Halo have all suffered sophomoric missteps along the way.
When Batman: Arkham Asylum was released quite some time back, it blew the caps back on both critics and fans alike. It allowed players to completely immerse themselves within the cruddy villain-laden halls of Gotham’s notorious nuthouse for the criminally insane, Arkham Asylum. The results were astonishing.
For the past year, ever since the sequel’s announcement at the Spike Video Game Awards, expectations have been stratospheric, to put it mildly. The masterminds behind Asylum, Rocksteady Studios, promised to deliver an expanded experience of the first game. Gaming forums were abuzz with delight and doom saying. It was even reported that Mark Hamill, the actor behind the Joker -- who has been a mainstay for Batman fans since the animated series (nearly twenty years) -- was reluctant to return for the sequel, wanting to leave the Joker role on a "high note."
Arkham City delivers neatly on the promise and premise left over in Asylum, with astounding results. The events of Arkham City take place one year after Arkham Asylum. If you are unfamiliar with the first game, Asylum dealt with Joker’s hostile takeover of Arkham Asylum and Batman’s inevitable intervention. The results of this action led to the conclusion that Arkham and the local prison, Blackgate Penitentiary, are no longer suitable to contain the city's criminals and insane.
Quincy Sharp, former warden of Arkham Asylum, used the notoriety of stopping the Joker's Asylum takeover to become mayor of Gotham City. His first mayoral decision is to have both facilities closed and convert a large section of Gotham's slums into an enormous Escape from New York-esque open-aired prison, ignominiously named Arkham City. Arkham City is governed by genius but scheming psychiatrist Hugo Strange — who is secretly manipulating Sharp. It boasts an impressive, if not at times, bloated roster of characters from Batman's rogue’s gallery.
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