I remember when I was a snot-nosed brat and first played Grand Theft Auto III. My first thought was, “If they made a Batman game like this, it would be awesome.”
It just made sense to me – drop Batman in the middle of a sandbox Gotham and let him do Batman things. Instead, years of terrible Batman games followed, each trying to take the Dark Knight and force him into different and ever shoddier molds. There should be entire landfills dedicated to awful Batman games, each worse than the one before. That is, until now – Batman: Arkham City is truly like spending a day in the life of Batman.
Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady Studios’ first take on the Caped Crusader, proved that a good Batman game was more than possible. Arkham City, though, soars toward perfection. It is a vision of Gotham anthropologically rooted in the animated series from the ’90s and blended with darker, more adult characterization – dare I say, Frank Milleresque. There is also a direct line to his detective roots. Just like in the previous game, you have the choice of playing out scenarios with a multitude of gadgets or strategies, be they clever or brutal.
The graphics have noticeably less aliasing and, in general, look tighter than the first installment. More importantly, the thoughtful crafting of the sandbox means Arkham City doesn’t fall into the same traps that snag so many other open world games – repetitiveness and playtime padding missions. Side missions are unlocked by wandering the streets and are designed in such a way that they enhance the main plot. This is much better than taking time out from trouncing supervillains to fetch Mrs. O’Leary some begonias [Editor’s Note: Or collect feathers. Or escort anyone, anywhere].
For the first time in the series, Batman isn’t alone – Catwoman is a playable character (she is available as free DLC included in all retail versions of the game – gamers who buy the game used will have to shell out additional cash to download her). Her move set is completely different from Batman’s and her levels take on their own unique feel. There are also plans in place for Nightwing and additional Catwoman missions to be released later this fall.
After years of playing videogames, I assumed that when I started playing Arkham City, some narrative trick would leave Batman to start off with a clean slate and learn new tricks and get new tools along the way [Editor’s Note: Kratos Syndrome]. I was completely surprised that all of the gadgets from the first game were still there and, once I knocked the bat-rust off, it was the same playing experience that I had left off with in Arkham Asylum.
My only complaint, if it could be called that, is that to fully understand the story and some of the characters of Arkham City, you really need to have played Arkham Asylum. It is not integral to enjoyment of the gameplay, but you will be shortchanging yourself out of a great narrative experience if you haven’t played the first game.
That being said, Batman: Arkham City will go down as an essential must-own for every gamer and fan of Batman.
Rating: Five out of Five Pies
(a word about our ratings)
Now that they finally made a Batman sandbox, I hope they finally make An Idiot Abroad platform jumper. Watch me hold my breath @GeorgeCollazo. Batman: Arkham City, from Warner Bros. Interactive, is available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and is coming soon to PC.