Batman Arkham City: my impressions

I was planning to post this last week – while I was in New York – to coincide with the lifting of the New Zealand embargo on reviews for Batman Arkham City – but for some reason this blog and my Samsung tablet didn’t want to play nicely so I was forced to waiting until I got home (today) and post it.

Batman Arkham Asylum was so close to becoming my Game of the Year when it came out  – it was by far the best superhero game ever, with the best superhero ever,  and the way the combat flowed just made for a superb game. It was atmospheric to the max and if there was any fault, the Dark Knight’s detective vision made the game too easy.

I didn’t think developer Rocksteady could make a better Batman game. Well, they have, and that game is Batman Arkham City. I got my copy mid-last week and have been playing it solidly and I love it. In fact, I’ve been neglecting other games because I’ve been playing Batman Arkham City.

Before I left for New York I’d played about 15% 49% of the game, including a handful of Cat woman missions (retail copies of the game come with a one-time use code for Cat woman DLC) so these are my impressions so far. Short version: I’m loving it a lot.

This time much of Gotham City is a prison for the depraved and dastardly, a quarantined portion of the city fenced by high barbed wire-topped fences and searing search lights. Areas have their own feel, too, depending on who they are ruled by (ie either Joker or the Riddler). Batman’s foes are roaming the streets of the giant prison set up in a rundown quarter of Gotham, prowling every corner in this “facility” run by Professor Hugo Strange, who has a personal vendetta against Bruce Wayne. The Joker makes a return, too, this time a little worse for wear after injecting the titan formula in the first game and the Riddler’s influence is never too far away. You’ll also be reunited with Harvey “Two Face” Dent, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and others.

Where do I start with Arkham City? Perhaps one of the most notable improvements is the batclaw, which in the first game was a tool used to scale buildings and towers. Now, it’s a super tool that can not only be used to scale heights but can be used to slingshot the Caped Crusader upwards, used in tandem with his glide ability. Batman can now also dive-bomb enemies, knocking them down the blast such a high-speed landing makes, as well as use the dive-bomb to game momentum for upward gliding.

Arkham City is a sprawling, atmospheric place highly detailed with the chaos of a society in turmoil, with thugs on every corner and plenty of gargoyles for the Dark Knight to do inverted take downs and hide from foes – many of which are much smarter this time. The combat flows perfectly, with Batman able to move from foe to foe with such fluidity that you almost feel  l part of the action. The cryptographic sequencer, the device that Batman uses to crack door codes, is now much, much improved on the original, too: instead of having to move the analogue sticks until you’ve got the right frequency often all you have to do is rotate the sticks until letters spell out the correct word.

The scale of Arkham City is much broader than Arkham Asylum, too, with a huge number of side quests that can be completed either while you’re completing the single player missions or once you’ve done with the campaign.

Look, there’s much more I could say about Batman Arkham City but I’m just going to leave it here for now. I want to play more of it, explore a little more and see how it ends. I’ll let you know my final thoughts when I’ve finished it.

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