If coming back from a slew of terrible games wasn’t challenging enough, ‘Batman’ had to keep momentum from the 2009 home run ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ and not fall victim to the failures that have riddled the license on many occasions before.
The first hour of the game gives you just a glimpse of what to expect from what I can only describe as a crescendo of perfectly orchestrated set pieces woven in a deep fabric of balanced gameplay and story telling.
Arkham Asylum is open, the prisoners are now isolated to the northern section of Gotham City and the deranged psychologist Hugo Strange wants to run the biggest human experiment in Gotham City’s history and that’s only one of the problems facing Batman.
Almost every villain Batman has ever had incarcerated is out and they want his blood. Zsasz, The Penguin, Joker and Mister Freeze are all trying to stop Batman. Thank god Arkham City is almost big enough to house them.
Arkham city is a bustling wasteland of terror that is not too unusual with the batman mythos. It’s inhabitants are different factions of henchmen all pledging their allegiance to one psychotic leader or another. As far as the player is concerned they are all bad guys and deserve some swift justice.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this will be a walk in Gotham Park, as this time the anti has well and truly been upped. Most of the groups hang around in units of 2 or 3. If, however, you are heard giving them a very close view of the underside of you shoe then those numbers will double.
This can be a particular problem when you end up with a mixed bag of enemies. Some carry riot shields whilst others are breaking open crates to retrieve an automatic Batman stopping device. If you are thinking well it’s only a button masher it won’t be to difficult think again. Certain combinations can be quite tricky to pull off when you have 22 men trying to give you a make over.
Great news for Batman, and not so good for the thugs,. The Bat belt has an array of wonderful toys to play with. The originals like the ‘Batarang’, remote controlled ‘Batarang’ and ‘Explosive Gel’ are all there. You can now plant the gel quickly by pressing L1 and ‘Square’ during a combo. This helps control large numbers of thugs and can allow you to perform an instant knockout.
One of the biggest editions to this game is the use of Batman’s cape. No longer is it just used for gliding, no, since Arkham Asylum Batman has bought himself a Super Nintendo and played a lot of ‘Super Mario World’. Thanks to Batman’s gaming skills you can now practically fly through Arkham City without touching the floor (with practice). Whilst in a fight you whip the cape round to district an enemy leaving him open for an awe inspiring ‘Beatdown’ attack.
Once you are done cleaning up the streets of Arkham City you will find yourselves entering the lairs of each villain. These are deliberate moments in the story that flesh out the Batman universe and never once felt like they had no purpose. I don’t want to ruin any of the surprise characters but the fights were greatly improved over the last game and one in particular left me amazed.
Once you have gone through the story you still have loads of gameplay ahead of you. Side Characters like Zsasz and the riddler have their own motives and deliver a break from the relentless Joker chasing. The Riddler proved the most interesting since having clearly watched all seven ‘Saw’ movies, he has constructed some deadly traps in abandoned warehouses and is insisting that you play his game.
There is an unbelievable amount of content in story in this game that I haven’t touched upon, Like Catwoman’s involvement, and that’s because these types of games are rare. This is a new age ‘Ocarina of Time’ in terms of crafted story telling and exploration. You need to experience this for yourself.
All I ask is that you understand that not buying this game is turning your back on what will arguably be the best game of 2011.
From the adrenaline fueled flights across Arkham City to the sobering reminder of the symbiotic relationship that exists between Batman and the Joker, Arkham City doesn’t let up. It is an accomplishment and a positive credit to the gaming industry as a whole. It proves you can have a mature game where you are not a gun totting psycho as well as the fact that given to the right people, a license is in fact a very good thing.
Thank you Rocksteady.