'Batman: Arkham City': The game we need and the game we deserve
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
Of all forms of media, the comic book is by far the most American. In wartime and in peace, Americans have relied on favorite larger-than-life heroes to save the day. But of all the super-powered, masked champions, Batman holds a special place. Conceived in 1939, the legend of "The Bat-Man" has been told and re-told. Nine feature length live-action films, 14 animated movies, 11 television series, and 27 video games, along with hundreds of comic book adaptations, feature the "World's Greatest Detective." So why is Batman so highly regarded? Unlike Superman, Spider-man or the Green Lantern, Batman does not possess any special powers. More than any other superhero, people can relate to Batman's humanity. A young Bruce Wayne bears witness to the brutal slaying of his parents in corrupt Gotham. Bruce then commits his life to cleansing the festering darkness that lies in the heart of the city. Donning the cowl of the bat, against all odds, Batman faces off against some of the worst criminals.
Despite numerous attempts to capture Batman's delicate balance of man and hero, video game makers have almost always failed to capture the essence of Batman and the universe he inhabits. Prior to 2009, it seemed as though all hope was lost for a quality virtual Batman experience. That was until the releases of Rocksteady's "Batman: Arkham Asylum" two years ago.
Drawing upon the vast Batman mythology, Rocksteady was able to craft a believable, frightening universe where the player could finally inhabit Batman. "Arkham Asylum" had a little bit for everyone. For the casual video game enthusiast, "Arkham Asylum" was a brilliantly crafted, beautifully dark, open world complete with a flowing, natural-feeling combat system, excellent voice-acting by a cast lovingly assembled from past Batman projects (including the perfect Mark Hamill as the Joker) and a story that never gets old. For the devoted Batman fan, Rocksteady placed little bits of fan service throughout the huge map, hinting at lesser-known characters and plotlines. A player could spend an almost limitless amount of time exploring the island setting.
Considered one of the best games of its year, the original "Arkham Asylum" seemed perfect. That is, until Rocksteady released the much anticipated sequel, "Batman: Arkham City." Whereas "Arkham Asylum" was set on the remote island of Arkham, Rocksteady has upped the ante for the sequel, setting the game in an enormous portion of Gotham itself. Now Batman can glide amongst the skyscrapers and descend into the darkness of dingy alleyways. The grimy, disturbing atmosphere created in the first game is overhauled in "Arkham City." Dilapidated buildings, crumbling bridges, imposing barbed wire and gray stone walls litter the game world, creating the real sensation that this is the Gotham Batman is trying to save.
Not only has Gotham's map size increased, but almost everything that made the first game so incredible has been refined and polished to the point of near perfection. Combat feels fluid and never ceases to engage the player with un-lockable combos that keep the action fresh for every encounter. More than ever before, Batman also plays the predator in deadly games of cat and mouse. Outnumbered and outgunned, the player as Batman must use shadows and fear to eliminate armed guards one by one. Nothing makes you feel more like the Batman than sensing fear in the very last guard as he realizes he is alone.
As for fan service, Rocksteady does not disappoint. Villains from throughout the Batman universe, like series mainstays the Joker, Two-face, The Riddler, Penguin and Mister Freeze join lesser known baddies like Hugo Strange, Hush and Clayface. Also making appearances in the game are some of Batman's few allies including Catwoman, Robin, Alfred,and Commissioner Jim Gordon. "Batman: Arkham City" has a killer story filled with memorable moments that I wouldn't dare ruin in this review. Fully voiced characters by a more than capable cast starring the likes of Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Nolan North (Uncharted), Tara Strong (Fairly Odd Parents) and more, enhance a game world unmatched by most major games of this generation.
"Batman: Arkham City" has the potential to be one of the greatest games created. And with a new game plus mode allowing the player to transfer progress made into a new game, along with hundreds of "Riddler Challenges" to keep the player engrossed for countless hours, "Batman: Arkham City" is a game well worth your time and money. It is hard to find a video game better imagined and executed than "Arkham City." Even with the plethora of big name games like "Call of Duty," "Uncharted 3" and "Skyrim" set to release soon, "Batman: Arkham City" may just be the best game of 2011.