BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY came out on Friday and was greeted with squeals of delight from comic book fans everywhere, including one or two members of The INQUIRER team.
The words 'critically acclaimed' are bandied about all too often, but Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, the only game based on a comic book that has been worthy of such a tag. Rocksteady Studios managed to capture what it is like to be the Dark Knight, creating an adventure that was not only visually beautiful, but had excellent gameplay and a well-crafted plot that would make Christopher Nolan proud.
The British based developers had their work cut out when it came to Arkham City, with fans of the first game wondering if they would ever be able to top the experience. The INQUIRER can confirm that Arkham City not only lives up to all the hype, but is even better than its predecessor in almost all areas.
Rocksteady has really knocked it out of park with the visuals. Graphically, the game is jaw-dropping on the PS3, with characters, environments and objects rendered beautifully. This feat is all the more impressive, as Arkham City covers a vast area. We were also very impressed with the lip-syncing, which has been poor in a number of games and is a tough nut to crack.
Combat is generally the same, with users having to string combos together to activate takedowns. It is also possible to use an electrical beam to stun enemies, as well as quickly lay down explosive gel during fights.
Of course the AI has been cranked up, with enemies able to scan darkened areas with thermal goggles to track Batman, and come to the aid of a fallen comrade. With stealth being a major component, it is more difficult to hide during indoor sections, and there is a real sense of satisfaction when you have silently knocked off armed inmates one by one in a variety of ingenious ways. Thankfully, it is easier to make upgrades, and a handy notification flashes on screen whenever users have amassed enough experience points to upgrade armour and weapons.
The realism here is excellent, with Batman only able to take a handful of gun shots before its 'game over', a nod to the fact that our hero doesn't actually have any super powers and is heavily reliant on his body armour. If detected, it is possible to drop a smoke pellet before disappearing into the rafters, much like Michael Keaton demonstrated in the 1989 film.
In the first game, a number of fan favourite characters such as Catwoman, Penguin and Two-Face were left out and, although they were missed, the story was very tightly crafted. We were happy they weren't just shoehorned into the first game, and it makes their appearance in the sequel actually mean something.
Teaser trailers have shown many of these familiar faces and our feline friend will also be playable. Without ruining too much, we can confirm that the Joker is present, voiced by the superb Mark Hamill.
In terms of replayability, Arkham City offers the ardent Batman fan countless hours after the main story is over. There are a dozen or so side-quests to finish off after the main game is complete, and users that really want to complete the game can search the cityscape for Riddler's trophies. With the ability to jump off tall buildings and glide Superman style, some might be content to just take in the beauty that is Gotham.
We are hoping for some downloadable content to be thrown our way to tide us over until the inevitable sequel. For now though, we can say that Arkham City is the greatest superhero comic book game we've seen, and is a worthy contender for game of the year. We only hope that Rocksteady can do the same again. We're hoping the third time's going to be even more the charm. µ
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