So it was with great expectations that I hoped for Batman Arkham City as a Christmas present and I was finally reward on New Year's Eve and I admit its been the only game in my limited free time since then (except Minecraft Pocket Edition on my tablet but let's not go there).
I'm halfway through the main storyline and I feel I can give an initial response to the question of "is Arkham City any good?". My answer is definitely. I'm having a blast. Is it better than Arkham Asylum? Yes and no.
In Arkham Asylum (aka AA) the areas, especially the external areas, were necessarily cut off by natural obstacles so that Batman would have to go through a tunnel or doorway / gate to pass between them. This didn't bother me, but in Arkham City (aka AC) the exterior areas are seamlessly connected so that there is incredible joy traveling across the mega-prison as Batman by gliding and grappling hook. Its freaking awesome. The interior areas are similarly better connected and more organic than in AA although its not as obvious.
In terms of combat, AC has extended both the opponents you have to face as well as Batman's arsenal. This is an improvement in AC over AA as things in older game did start to get a little repetitive near the end, however my lack of hand coordination can be problematic in the newer game with its increased options.
The "predator" areas where Batman has to take out armed thugs with stealth rather than brute force are still as fun as ever and includes some exterior areas where you can really feel Batman's ability to move around is a powerful advantage in combat. I love sneaking up on bad guys and taking them out right under their associates' noses.
The one downside to AC however has to be the sheer multitude of distractions they have thrown in via the form of side missions. These are optional short missions that Batman can accept or stumble on but don't really need to be accomplished in order to move the main story line forward. The problem is that its hard to buy into the main story line plot's urgency if Batman is running around doing minor superhero work all over the place. Some side missions can be accomplished "along the way" but the ones that require you to go way out of your way to work on are just plain distractions.
I realize the developers put them in there to increase playability and there is some value in gaining more experience for more upgrades by completing them, but they are very distracting and I wish the main story line had organic pauses in it to allow me to feel like I have the latitude to investigate the sniper bullet trajectory. Instead since I'm DYING OF POISON JOKER BLOOD I NEED CURE NOW it feels a little silly to not go as quickly as possible to the next part. You know, I'm dying and all that.
Still, the game is good and the side missions are well constructed, I just need to allow myself to investigate them more and not get so hung up on the pretend urgency.
Is the game groundbreaking? Not really. But it does make me hopeful that someday we'll see a fully realized Gotham city that Batman patrols and the main storyline and side storylines are tightly and seamlessly integrated into it. Here's hoping!