|System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC|
|Pub: Warner Bros.|
|Release: October 18, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol References, Mild Language, Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence|
by Matt Walker
For a long time, comic book games have been nothing more than the butt of a long-running joke. And it's hard to say this hasn't been a self inflicted truth; too often, these games are handled poorly and with the ideology of turning a quick buck. At least until one game proved—not only to gamers, but to the entire world—that comic book video games are not only a valuable market, but a market with a sea of untapped potential. The game I am referring to, of course, is Batman: Arkham Asylum. It wasn't like this game came out of nowhere. In fact, fans of Batman (and comic books in general) kept a watchful eye on it as the pieces fell into place, like Paul Dini writing the storyline, Kevin Conroy voicing Batman, and Mark Hamill lending his maniacal pipes as the Joker once more. Everything was turning into this fantasy that was destined to fail. And then the title hit shelves.
What happened at that moment was something no one truly expected. Arkham Asylum was not only a great game, not only one that was well put together in nearly every way, but a game that was being considered for several Game of the Year nominations. What?
Immediately following the astounding performance of Arkham Asylum, fans began to wonder if the impending sequel would be able to follow this success, or if this would be just a one-time fluke. With each new piece of concept art or villain reveal, many began to speculate that the expectations were just too high. After all, we have seen several games fall victim to the hype machine before, and Batman was riding the bullet train off the rails. Could Rocksteady possibly take what everyone loved about Arkham Asylum (the feel of being Batman) and give them a broader scope without completely derailing the thing?
In fact, this "broader scope" is actually where Arkham City delivers tenfold upon expectations. While in Arkham Asylum, players got a really good sense of Batman "trapped." Now, Arkham City isn't so much about Batman being trapped in the city, but about the inmates being trapped inside Arkham City with Batman. And we couldn't be happier about it. After all, with the new animations for the combat system, how could you not get into the groove of bashing in the lawless skulls of the inmates of Arkham City?
This carries over to Catwoman as well. While you have to have the authentication pass code in order to play as Catwoman and see how her story intertwines with the main arc, it's definitely rewarding for those that do so. While many will say that Catwoman plays just like Batman—and in some regard, they would be right—it's the animation and the flow of the combat that makes playing as Catwoman so much fun. Just like Batman, she has several upgrades that can be unlocked as you earn experience points.
The great thing about the new upgrade screen is the ease of use. In Arkham Asylum, it was incredibly difficult to navigate, but the brand new interface makes you feel like you are checking an optical survey to advance Batman in everything from his combat skills and armor upgrades to his new gadgets. In this interface menu, you will also be able to check your map, which also conveys Batman looking at a personal screen attached to the Bat-Computer. It's this attention to detail that helps Arkham City live up to its enormous expectations.
With an "island" that rivals the opening location of most Grand Theft Auto games, there was plenty of opportunity to skimp out on the details. Thankfully, Rocksteady didn't miss any opportunities here. Just like the way the fourth GTA installment felt as if its city was alive, as if things were happening with you there or not, Arkham City convinces players it's a real environment. With Batman picking up pieces of conversations—as well as broadcast transmissions—while he travels from rooftop to rooftop, players are truly cemented into the world of Batman and the prison he's infiltrated. Arkham City grabs you by the hand and says "You are Batman!" And then it throws you off a building.