Batman: Arkham City is finally here, and after two years of waiting you're going to need a guide to help you get around. But the good news is that we're finally returning to Gotham City and taking on the role of the Dark Knight once more. The most obvious difference between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City is the sheer scope of the map. Arkham City is enormous and, as it turns out, way more dangerous than the island ever was. Good thing you have us to keep you company!
This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of Batman: Arkham City, from the combat system, to the upgrades to advice for exploring the city. And yes, we'll even fill you in on what the Riddler has in store. We're good like that.
The combat system in Arkham City should feel very familiar to anyone that played the last game. It remains a pitch-perfect 360 degree brawler which encourages precision rather than button mashing. Here are some important tips to remember:
Timing = Critical Strikes
You can slam the attack button to beat up on foes, but you're much better off dealing critical strikes. To deal a critical strike, you basically need to hit the attack button the moment your last attack finishes. This time can vary depending on whether your last attack was a counter or a special move, but whatever kind of attack it is, you should hear a satisfying crunch. That's when you should point the analog stick in the direction of your next opponent and hit the attack button. If you nail the timing, the sound effect will change and you'll see your multiplier go up by two instead of just one. This is crucial.
The reason your combo multiplier is so important is because you need to get your multiplier to at least five before you can pull off a special move. For example, hitting Stun and Counter at the same time for an instant takedown. Before you can use another special move, you'll have to build up the multiplier some more, so make sure you keep your timing down, even after an instant takedown. Arkham City introduces new special moves alongside the instant takedown. A cloud of bats will stun nearby enemies, for example. The most useful of the bunch is unlocked late in the game, though, Hitting Strike and Counter at the same time (or X and Y on Xbox 360) lets you grab an enemy's weapon and disable it permanently. This is especially handy against enemies with riot shields and stun guns. With those out of the way you'll find battles get much easier.
You'll likely find that you're comfortable using one or two special moves alongside strikes and counters, but I'd strongly suggest mixing things up. Throwing in a wide range of different attacks will increase the amount of experience earned in a battle. It'll also increase your point total in Combat Challenge maps dramatically. Just make sure that you keep the same timing, even when using gadgets and alternate special moves in combat. Keeping that combo meter high means enormous success on the streets of Gotham.
TRAVELLING THE STREETS
Since Arkham City is set in a wide open metropolis, Batman is often forced to use faster methods for getting around. Thankfully the developers at Rockstead have introduced a number of new techniques for getting around town.
The Grapnel BoostThis is unlocked after completing the first few Augmented Reality missions (basically glide through a number of Batman icons floating through the city, Pilotwings-style). The grapnel boost allows you to latch on to a ledge or gargoyle far above you and, while you're zooming toward it, if you hit A twice, you'll zoom even faster. Upon reaching the target, you'll actually launch yourself past it, continuing on in a glide. The fastest way to get around town is to link these boosts together while gliding when there's no where to latch.
Advanced City Travel
If you want to get fancy, though, you can mix in a few other techniques. One of the easier ones is simply to latch on to the bottom of a helicopter and let it take you for a ride. Unfortunately you have no control where it will go, but you can glide off whenever you wish.
More complicated is the dive bomb / glide. When gliding on high, holding the right trigger will cause Batman to dive bomb towards the street. After a second or two, you can let go of the trigger and hold up to pull your cape back, thus sending you soaring back into the sky. Think of it like Mario's cape technique in Super Mario World, but a little more bad ass. Some of the later augmented reality missions require a mastery of this technique, so you'd better get practicing!
Sometimes Batman is able to hop right into the middle of a group of guys and just kick butt. But, when facing a group of machine gun-armed thugs, stealth is a much safer bet. Silent Predator sequences return in Arkham City, but Batman's expanded arsenal seems to have made him even more devastating that before. Here are some of the techniques I'd recommend.
Gargoyles Are Your Friends
Whenever facing a group of thugs you'll often find gargoyles above the room. Make use of these! Sitting atop a gargoyle makes you invisible (for the most part), letting you get a lay of the land. Later on in the game there will be enemies with thermal vision that can spot you up in the rafters. It's important to target these guys first, as they can be particularly nasty for your stealthy techniques.
Electricity And You
One of Batman's new gadgets is an electrical gun which is able to overcharge many mechanical objects. Sometimes you can electrocute enemies that are standing nearby them, but even more handy are the magnets. Shocking an industrial magnet will cause any metal weapons to be dragged from the hands of your foes, leaving them mostly defenseless. Just make sure you act quickly, as the guns and knives can still be picked up and used against you.
An Easy Trap
The sonic baterang makes its return in Arkham City. When upgraded you can use it to instantly take out any enemy with a heart beat sensor, but that leaves you without use of it for the rest of the fight. It's far more useful as a decoy. Find a breakable wall and spray some remote explosives on it. Now toss the sonic baterang in front of it and go hide. When guards go to investigate, blow the wall and see how many you were able to nab in one shot. My current record is three, but I'm sure you can do better.
As Batman goes about his duties, he'll earn experience and, eventually, level up. Leveling up means being able to unlock a new ability. Some of the abilities are unlocked until you discover a certain gadget, while others are tiered, requiring lower level abilties to be unlocked first. Here are some of the most useful upgrades in Arkham City.
Critical Strikes + Special Combo Boost
I already mentioned the benefits of Critical Strikes up in the Combat System section. Special Combo Boost ties into this. Before unlocking Special Combo Boost, you'll need to get to an 8x multiplier before you're able to use a special move. With this upgrade, it brings the requirement down to 5x. It makes a huge difference.
Special Combo: Takedown
Another crucial upgrade. Once you have a 5x multiplier, hitting Stun and Counter performs an instant takedown on an enemy. It doesn't matter if that enemy is armored, has a riot shield or a machine gun, they're going down. The only thing to remember is that, even though that enemy has been taken down, their equipment can still be picked up by others in the room. To disable that equipment permanently., you're going to want the Special Combo: Disarm and Detroy upgrade.
Glide Boost Attack
It's easy to line up a glide kick, targeting an enemy beneath you with the Batman icon. Unfortunately the standard glide kick isn't a takedown and, unless knocked out, the enemy is still in the mix. With the Glide Boost Attack, you can take them down for good (including anyone standing behind them). Just make sure you have a lot of room between you and them. Start a glide kick as normal but, while gliding, hold down the right trigger. You'll see a meter fill. If filled, you'll take them out instantly.
Heat Signature Conceal
Remember how I said there were enemies with thermal vision that can spot you on gargoyles? Well, with this upgrade, they're a lot less of a concern. Your thermal scan won't show up, so long as you're sitting perfectly still. If they scan you while swinging from one gargoyle to another, though, the jig is up.
It's less fancy than the other upgrades, but extra health is a huge help, especially later in the game. Grab these upgrades when you feel like the game is getting too hard. I'd focus on the melee armor upgrade first before getting the ballistic upgrade, but it really depends on which you feel more comfortable with: Silent Predator or Combat. Silent Predator sequences usually have more enemies with guns, thus requiring better ballistic armor. Combat sequences are more common and you'll usually only face melee attackers.
The Riddler returns in a big way in Arkham City. There are a staggering number of new challenges to tackle. Here's just a few of them.
Well over 100 Riddler trophies are hidden around Arkham City. Some will just be sitting there, waiting to be picked up, but most will require some ingenuity. Often times you'll have to use your gadgets, dragging trophies towards you with the Bathook, or activating magnets to move trophies through metallic mazes. If you're stumped on a trophy, come back when you have all your gear. You can still look for them even after the game ends, so no need to worry about anything being cut off.
They may be called Riddles, but usually these are just landmarks referencing different characters from the Batman universe. Dr. Strange's psychiatric office, for example, or Poison Ivy's plant store. Get close to the target, scan it, and you'll net some bonus experience.
There are a handful of mini objectives Riddler has perpared for you. These can be found in the menu but you'll often find yourself completing them just throughout the course of the game. Get a combo of 30x, for example, or destroy 20 of the Joker's balloons, scattered through the city. Pretty straight forward.
If you're having a tough time finding trophies and riddles, you'll want to keep an eye out for henchmen. They'll be the ones glowing green. If you find yourself in combat with one of them, make sure you take every other enemy out first. You can stun the henchmen and counter, but don't finish him off. Once you've whittled it down to just him, walk over and hit the Counter button. You'll interrogate him, and he'll reveal the location of nearby riddles and trophies. Riddler henchmen will keep showing up so long as there are still secrets in that area, so it's a good idea to go back to old locations once you've finished the main story.
The reason Batman is bothering to jump through hoops for the Riddler is because he's trying to save a number of cops and doctors that have been taken hostage. Riddler will only reveal the location of each hostage when a certain number of riddles have been solved. Once a location is revealed, you'll have to face increasingly tougher puzzles involving spike pits and electrical floors. Nasty stuff. Just make sure you have most, if not all, your gadgets before tackling these. You're going to need them.
It's hard to imagine that this guide just scratches the surface of what Batman: Arkham City has to offer, but this game is really that big. Gotham is truly a dangerous place but with our help and a little luck, you should come out on top. After all, you are Batman.
Russ Frushtick is a freelance journalist who has been writing about video games for over a decade. In a former life he was the editor-in-chief at MTV Multiplayer. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter (@RussFrushtick).