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Batman: Arkham City

Arkham City review: A Knight to remember

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We thought Rocksteady had done a good job of making us feel like The Dark Knight in its original title, but superhero satisfaction was taken to a whole new level when we were tasked with rescuing the feeble Quincy Sharp from a gang of terrorising thugs. Again, all armed.

Glaring down on the scene like only The Batman can - cape flapping, ears proud, face shadowed - we asked 'What Would Wayne Do?' (That's Bruce Wayne, not Wayne Rooney or Wayne Sleep).

The newly included smoke pellet provided the answer. Aiming upwards, we threw a capsule into the centre of the circular beat down. Sure it would choke Quincy a little bit, but it would also blind his attackers.

Zoom

Once they were suitably confused we swooped down from our vantage point, hitting one armed goon with a solid glide kick, disarming another with our Batclaw and nailing another with a hard headbutt. It was an incredibly clinical ballet of pain and we were done in seconds. The smoke cleared to reveal Batman standing over Sharp and a few lifeless sacks of meat.

If we had to point to any scene in the history of Batman media to illustrate what The Dark Knight is all about it would be the one we had just created ourselves in Arkham City. We can't applaud Rocksteady enough for managing to achieve something as special as that.

LIKE A BOSS
A perfect game, then? Don't be silly. We'd still point out an over-reliance on the Titan tanking boss brutes (although Mr. Freeze is a welcome exception requiring smarts) and, as we said previously, indoor sections don't make many big leaps ahead of what we saw in the game's predecessor.

But the advances Rocksteady has made in the open world shift the focus significantly. It means that any points some may have found slightly grinding originally - be it the level design, boss battles of Predator sections - are part of a much bigger whole product that brings a new balance and mitigates any quibbles.

We still have a little bit of trepidation over the effect side-quests could have on the main story. Arkham Asylum's main campaign was perfectly paced and, as we embarked on our new adventure, we could feel the Arkham City plot slipping from our grasp slightly as we stopped to hammer every henchman and rescue every victim that shouted for help.

The Arkham City story is one where time is always running out, someone is always about to die or something is always about to explode. We chose to focus on the main plot thread pretty early on for that reason but, thankfully, Batman swoops back behind enemy lines post-credits to mop up the remaining dregs.

The side-quests that were thrown our way though were varied and the ones we embarked on were suitably exhilarating. Mr. Zsaz stood out particularly as he charged us with reaching a certain pay-phone before it stopped ringing to save a hostage.

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We landed with 30 seconds to spare but happened to run into some loitering thugs before we could reach the phone itself. Once again a Hollywood style twist emerged as we had to finish off a good handful of henchmen in half a minute before diving for the receiver. The mission played out like a scene from the silver screen and once again we felt as heroic and dramatic as the Caped Crusader himself.

In that sense, Batman: Arkham City scores a striking victory for the same reasons that Arkham Asylum smashed prejudices two years ago. But this is very much Rocksteady's Dark Knight to its Batman Begins. Everything about Arkham City is bigger, bolder and prettier than before.

Players are more empowered to create their own epic mini-moments, whether it's dive-bombing deep into a narrow ally to avoid machine-gun fire, zip-lining across the city skyline or sweating buckets in marathon battles that dwarf anything thrown your way in Asylum.

The same goes for the story, which opens proceedings with an intro that will have fans frothing at the mouth, and finishes on a revelation that would be considered a ballsy move in the comics let alone some spin-off video game.

But that's the point: Rocksteady elevated the status of the superhero game with Asylum to a place that commands respect from notoriously hard to please comic book fans. With Arkham City, the studio clearly overcame any added pressure quickly and waded into the sequel with confidence.

It's a belief in the character and, most importantly, a belief in itself that has seen the studio deliver one of the greatest Batman interpretations of all time. And you know what? Maybe even one of the best games ever.

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The verdict

  • Open world means new tactics, new challenges
  • City is deep, stylish and beautiful
  • Dark and twisted plot
  • Killer opening and ending
  • All the plus points of Arkham Asylum
  • We feel like Batman again
  • Bosses haven't evolved much (Freeze excluded)
9.5
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
Rocksteady Games
Publisher
Eidos Interactive
Genre
Action

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