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Batman: Arkham City

22:0410/11/2011Posted by Chris Morell3 Comments

Ever since it was announced back in 2009, fans have had their batarangs at the ready in the wait for the successor to the acclaimed Arkham Asylum. A pleasant surprise to many due to its high quality gameplay and developed atmosphere, the original became the benchmark for what the Dark Knight – and superheroes in general – should be able to accomplish in the digital medium. The follow-up sees conspiracy encircle the grim streets of Arkham City and it’s up to Bruce Wayne to uncover the truth, but will he find a sequel worthy of its illustrious namesake?

The main plot of Arkham City isn’t far removed from what we’ve previously seen, with the inmates of the newly relocated asylum once again seizing control. There is a deeper narrative with some surprising twists that help to keep the intrigue flowing; faces from the Batman lore give Bruce Wayne an even more difficult time of things here, though of course priorities shift as the situation progresses. Enemies such as Penguin, Ra’s Al Ghul and others put in major appearances, with a few from the last game keeping out of the spotlight in heavily educed roles. You could criticise the game for trying to cram in too many villains on the go, and while this criticism holds some ground it’s all in the name of snappy pacing, plus the writing brings out enough character that it likely won’t matter.

This is a high-stakes adventure that essentially borrows the best aspects from the comics and animated series. Long-time fans and newcomers will be able to dive right in and have a blast, so if your only experience with the Dark Knight is some basic movie or TV knowledge and a run-through of the first game then you’ll slip right in to Arkham City. This isn’t just a night in the life of the caped crusader, but rather one of his very worst – the story pushes forward and always makes you feel that the quest is of great importance. Ironically, the developers at Rocksteady have mastered the art of distraction via the art of collection and reward, which is something fans will remember the original was renowned for.

It seems utterly ludicrous that Batman would choose to glide around (a mechanic that’s been given extra wings here thanks to the new dive-bomb manoeuvre) in hot pursuit of Riddler trophies when in such a mad dash to save hostages/stop his enemies in their tracks, but that’s the beauty of the formula. You’re under no obligation to perform any heroics unless taking on the main story or the side missions, so expect to run around after those elusive green question marks when you feel like taking a breather. You can expect to unlock a host of extras such as challenge maps that increase replayability and provide instant gratification once the adventure is done.

Regardless of extras, the game is good enough that you’ll want to give it a second play through based on its own merits, particularly after seeing how the tale unfolds. Arkham houses many secrets just begging to be found, but failing that there are always thugs in need of an attitude adjustment via a good boot to the head. Speaking of which, the combat is largely unchanged, only with a few more enemy types thrown in for good measure. Enemies such as those with shields will need a special combo to be taken down, so you’ll want to look for the right opening or risk a smack to the head from a pipe from behind. The single button counter system works just as well as before, so it’s easy to get stuck in from the very first set of trash-talking thugs.

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