Moreish. That’s what Batman: Arkham City is; it’s moreish. Just as Maoam can’t be left alone or like those tea cakes you probably shouldn’t have bought, some video games are so much fun that walking away is tough.
Batman: Arkham City is just such a game; it’s an evolved balance of adventure, combat, story, character and it’s beautiful to look at. I imagine it’s a lot like dating a female Army officer, I imagine.
It’s a sequel to 2009’s Arkham Asylum, the first Batman game I can remember which follows the events of the comic books and not the movies – Burton’s or Nolan’s, take your pick.
This was a huge deal: it had to exist alongside Christian Bale’s new, darker big-screen Batman yet it also cast aside the mantle of every licensed video game being a load of rubbish. It struck a very delicate yet brilliant balance. Arkham Asylum was above average and highly compelling. How do you top that?
You make it bigger. Much, much bigger. Arkham City tells the tale of Gotham City’s futile attempts at policing a broken city. Led by Doctor Hugo Strange (one of Batman’s less famous foes), the city is segregated with a giant wall. Batman is suspicious and, as Bruce Wayne, tries to do something about it, only to be arrested and thrown into Arkham City for his efforts.
Turns out Strange knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, or the Batman if that’s how you flow, and he wants to blow up Arkham City, cleaning the place up for good. He’s mad, hence the name.
From the start, Arkham City sets the bar very high, throwing you into the action via the opening sequences in a fashion so effortlessly cool and seamless you know the makers, Rocksteady, are masters of their medium.
The pace never falters, building your skill set, just as with its predecessor, and teaching you Batman’s many, many bat-skills. Even the most ham-fisted among you will dart The World’s Greatest Detective around like a pro, the skilled among you will relish the ballet of kicking the crap out of an army of bad guys single-handed and look awesome doing it.
Arkham City is very similar to Arkham Asylum; the controls are identical, thankfully, visually it’s consistent but, most importantly, the learning curve and structure are the same. This is game engineering at its finest; if it aint broke don’t improve it. Purely from a gameplay perspective, having played Arkham Asylum before Arkham City is a huge help. Or, perhaps, any other game.
We live in a time where games like Arkham City are rife. Just Cause, Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, they’re all very similar in gameplay, structure and design. Batman: Arkham City stands out mainly because it’s using the most iconic villains of all time with determined characteristics most writers would kill for. And because it’s Batman
The Joker is bat-shit crazy (pun intended), the Penguin is a selfish little thug and Catwoman is an opportunistic scoundrel. Even the reason you’re picking up the controller is a character trait buried deep within your psyche garnered from buying the game; you’re Batman. You must do good, you must win. You’re Batman!
As a non-purist (I’ve only read about three Batman comics in my life), the movies are where I get my Bat-knowledge, with a little Adam West thrown in, Arkham City is an education. Featuring almost every villain from Bruce Wayne’s world, the game is accurate and detailed. Purists should love this, amateurs will simply admire the backstories.
At (and this is a guess) 50 times the size of Arkham Asylum, and (this is another guess) a million hours longer than Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City still feels too short. Completing it in two days, I still can’t put it down, which is really upsetting my copy of Battlefield 3. From the Riddler trophy searches to the plethora of puzzle rooms and challenge maps on the menu screen, via the game’s main story and every single side-quest, Arkham City is unquestionably the most compelling gaming experience this year.
The only thing I could possibly bring it up on, feeling the need to nit-pick just a little, is the downloadable content (DLC).
Buying this game from Tesco, and other UK retailers, you’ll get the free Catwoman side missions – telling the tale of the sexy burglar separate from The Dark Knight’s one. A Nightwing update was also released, at a price. A reasonable price. Alas, it’s just a new costume and funkier moves for the non-story challenge maps – a huge opportunity wasted.
American gamers were lucky enough to get a Robin expansion pack and different Batman costumes, like a Batman Beyond skin. Very cool. Us UK gamers wont see this stuff until later in the year, that’s an annoying thing. Mainly because I want to play more Arkham City. Now.
And so do you, you probably just don’t know it yet. And even if you have, play it again. Go on, just one more. You know you want to.