I have, on more than one occasion, railed against games which allow the player no agency, which require the player to, essentially, go from point A to point B to point C without allowing them to choose their path and which provide minimal (if any) differences in the final possible outcomes. As with any good rule, there are always exceptions. Enter the sequel to the 2009 Rocksteady title Batman: Arkham Asylum, the newly released Batman: Arkham City.
Perhaps though it is not really an exception to the rule that makes Arkham City as great as it is (and it is great), but rather an expansion of it. Arkham City may provide a required order to the main missions, but there are a whole lot of side missions and the world in which it takes place is pretty large. Therefore, while the main plot is linear, you can avoid actually traveling along it for quite some time.
If you know Batman, then while you're aware of Arkham Asylum as a location, the idea of Arkham City may find you drawing a blank. Within the game, this is a section of Gotham that has been walled off and currently houses the former inmates of the asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary. The whole explanation (or at least the logic) of why this was done is somewhat murky, making it feel as though it only exists so that Batman can be allowed to roam around in a far more open world than he had in the first game. There are probably a dozen different ways this could have occurred, making the choice a little odd, but the wonder of the rest of the game makes it easy to forget this issue.
The entire affair starts off very differently than the original game — here we start with Bruce Wayne being incarcerated in Arkham City. The place is run by Hugo Strange, and Strange, somehow, knows Wayne's secret identity. Rather than being trapped in an insane asylum being run by the inmates, here Batman is an inmate…. not that being an inmate stops him from getting a batsuit and some of those wonderful toys. From there, Batman runs into his old nemesis, the Joker, who is still smarting from his use of the Titan formula in Arkham Asylum.
Asylum established an incredible tone for the franchise, and it's something City picks up on brilliantly. This is a dark game, one suited wonderfully to the Dark Knight. Whatever other faults it may have, Arkham City has atmosphere in abundance — the game's feel is wonderful.