Batman: Arkham City Reaffirms Itself as The Best Superhero Game «

The terror of the Batman isn’t confined to moments of stealthy predation; simple and straightforward melee combat also displays just how scary he is to other people. Arkham City lets you create the sort of whispered urban legend that starts with, “Remember when twelve guys tried to take down the Batman?” You can then embellish that tale with descriptions of how freakin’ fast Batman is — that is, how he seems to effortlessly vault from victim to victim. How he can be in the middle of delivering a savage beatdown to an armored foe, and still quickly counter someone attempting a cheap shot from behind. Or how he tases the one guy with the sledgehammer who then wildly swings it around as a reflex to hit everyone else. It’s you, the player, who makes it so that when some thug tosses a chair towards Batman, he simply swats it away before turning his attention to someone else.

Okay, okay, Arkham City isn’t just about controlling Batman to scare a bunch of convicts. Like Batman: Arkham Asylum before it, it’s a season’s worth of Batman: The Animated Series pressed into a nine-to-20-hour story (other reviewers who only followed the story from point A-to-B-to-C without side missions have finished in eight or nine hours; I finished the story plus some of the sidequests in about 15 myself). This time, the confines of the Asylum have been expanded to some slums that are renovated into a closed off miniature city — think Vatican City within Rome — and is populated with criminals and mercenaries who keep said criminals in check. Batman enters Arkham City with a little over 10 hours before the activation of something called “Protocol 10″ and has to figure out what Protocol 10 is while dealing with the various villains who are engaged in an open turf war. Like its predecessor, the game’s story unfolds over a single night and manages to utilize a whole lot of Batman villains in a mostly logical — rather than fan-servicey — manner. Leave it to Batman: The Animated Series guru Paul Dini to provide a script that smoothly integrates the likes of Joker, Two-Face, and Hugo Strange into the main script, along with some crazy twists and turns that eclipse those of the previous game. The only real fault in the story comes from a really random digression into a mysterious underground city that feels a bit too BioShock-y for my tastes.

Click the image above to check out all Batman Arkham City screens.

A lot of Arkham City can be summarized as, “like Arkham Asylum, but better.” The overall structure still switches back and forth between stealthily taking out a roomful of guys and flat-out melee combat. The game world is bigger, and to compensate, the gliding mechanic has also been improved. The world feels a bit less Metroid and more like Zelda in that there is a large world full of enemies and dungeons to adventure in. There are still combat challenge maps to test your melee knowhow, but there are now additional challenge modes that allow for special modifiers to increase your score, as well as a flat-out custom combat challenge mode.

Batman’s trademark gadgets have been tweaked. The remote-controlled batarang can slow down and can also maintain an electric charge; not only can you change direction when using the line launcher, but you can also deploy it and treat it like a makeshift tightrope as well, and so on. Then there are wholly new gadgets, like a disruptor that can jam weapons and detonate mines, or the Remote Electric Charge that can tase foes and activate unpowered machinery for puzzles. In a refreshing change of pace for the genre, not only does Batman start out with access to most of his gear, it’s never taken away.

 

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