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Batman: Arkham City's secret weapon deserves more praise

Opinion: Nick Cowen relishes and rues Rocksteady's ability to bend time

"It's 3am. Lord, it's 3am. My eyes feel scratchy, my mouth is dry and my back and legs ache from how I've been sat cross-legged and hunched over my control pad for what seems like a small age.

"I should go to bed. This is madness. I have work in the morning, deadlines to meet and my other half is getting sick of me burrowing back under the duvet when the morning alarm sounds off.

"But Gotham needs its protector. Its citizens cry out for justice. The bat signal glowers down at me above the broken spires and cracked rooftops of Arkham City. I can't turn in yet. There is still work to be done."

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Batman: Arkham City is currently sitting with a 95 per cent rating on Metacritic. Out of the 65 critics who have reviewed it, 20 have given it a perfect score and over half of the rest of the reviewers score it above a 9/10.

It's been showered with praise from every quarter with critics waxing lyrical on everything from the new game mechanics, to the fantastic plot, to the addictive side-quests, to the incredible combat - which is awesomely deep when you consider it's mapped to just two buttons.

But it hasn't received enough praise, in my humble opinion, for one aspect that, funnily enough, hasn't appeared in one appraisal I've read about the game. This is a game that swallows the player to the extent that hours are reduced to time periods numbering mere minutes.

If you sit down to play this game clean-shaven, and then play it for what feels like ten minutes, you'll notice five days worth of stubble will have appeared on your face in the interim.

You see, Batman: Arkham City has the ability to bend time.

This is a fact as depressing as it is impressive. Earlier this year I signed up to a service called Raptr.com, which from what I can tell, is some sort of social network for gamers. I don't use it much, but it does send me notifications about what games I've been playing and the time I've spent playing them.

This week Raptr.com told me I'd spent 82 hours playing Batman: Arkham City. This should've shocked me. This should have prompted me to eject the game from my console and go for a walk in a park. Instead I shrugged and wondered how long it would be before I would have the chance to clock in 100 hours plus.

"The streets of Arkham City are swarming with brutal thugs, organised into gangs and terrorising the weak. Two-Face and The Penguin are warring for control of the streets. Joker's carved out a piece of turf for himself in the industrial sector. A gang war could get ugly, but that's not the whole of what I'm facing here."

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"A hitman is at large in Arkham City and he's targeting innocent civilians. I know his M.O. and I know his weaknesses, but first, I have to find him. Phones ring out through the city, the killer on the other end of them mocking me, daring me to find him. There's the rest of Arkham's inmates. They're all here and they know I'm in their stamping grounds. It's a matter of time before one of them takes a shot at me."

"There's a serial killer is on the loose, leaving horribly disfigured bodies dumped in alleys. And then there's the strange, shadowy figure I've seen watching me from nearby rooftops. I don't have time to find out what his agenda is. I just know I can't let him get in my way."

"Time's running out. I've been poisoned by the Joker and I need to find an antidote before we both die.

The funny thing is, the colossal amount of time I've already thrown into this game doesn't feel like much.

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