Batman Arkham City is Rocksteady’s fantastic sequel to Arkham “best superhero game ever made” Asylum. Taking the framework that made that game so good and expanding it into an open-world playground filled with the most vile scumbags imaginable, not to mention the trademark villains and sidekicks that makes the Batman world so appealing, Arkham City is easily one of the best games of 2011.
Its really hard to find fault with Arkham City. Almost everything it tries to do, it does perfectly. Everything is refined and polished, the combat feels smoother than before, and all of Batman’s new abilities and gadgets are practical and necessary in an environment that’s been specifically designed to be utilized by the ultimate detective. Its not so much an action adventure game as it is a Batman Simulator. Arkham City is chock full of recognisable faces and is a wet-dream for any fan of the comics, as there’s so much detail to sink your teeth into. The story moves along at the pace you want, and you are free to take on all the side quests as and whenever you choose, but they never felt like side quests to me, more like expansions to the overall plot. I was only too happy to detour away from the story and hunt down the mad killer Victor Zsasz, or search for some more Riddler puzzles so I could take on his next Saw-like hostage puzzle.
I can’t believe Rocksteady managed to make the sequel even better than Arkham Asylum, which was close to perfect in my eyes. The city is a brilliant playground which dynamically changes in subtle ways as you progress. Each of the game’s villains owns a section of the city and populates it with his or her own goons, and its little touches in the attention to detail – such as seeing the smug face of whichever villain was responsible for your death on the ‘retry’ screen – that make it stand out from its third-person action peers. On the surface, Arkham City is a great sequel that does everything its predecessor did, only better, and at its heart is a brilliantly paced, brilliantly written, brilliant action adventure. No other title in 2011 made me feel like more of a badass superhero than this game.
Whilst Batman: Arkham City certainly doesn’t bring up any memories of the classic, ultra-camp TV series, it definitely brings up that little feeling inside when you play a game, the one that makes you think you’re totally and utterly badass. Sure, it’s all virtual and you probably couldn’t really go outside and kick the living shit out of hundreds of blokes in one night, all the while gliding around with a cape and a cowl, exacting sweet, sweet justice on those who prey on the innocent – but holy bat logic, batman! – it couldn’t possibly be more more fun than it is in Rocksteady’s latest creation, and at least this way you can cut down on the cuts, bruises, and lethal toxic poisons.
I completed Arkham City in one weekend, yes, the weekend that it came out, and yes, I did nothing else other than eat for the entire duration. Some might call it sad, but I call it being committed to saving Gotham City from the evil clutches of— that villain you’ll have to stop in some fashion toward the end of the game… as you might expect. But on the path to doing so, you’ll run, jump, climb, fly, punch, kick, throw, zip, swing, explode things, break legs, interrogate informants, defeat bosses, smash penguins and joker teeth, solve riddles, find trophies, do side quests, collect gadgets, upgrade gadgets, and bloody hell, so many things to do that you’ll probably spend weeks- nay, months trying to complete everything.
It’s a beautifully crafted game with such outstanding attention to detail, and with so much polish and care put into the work, its not hard to see why Batman made it into our top 10 of 2011.