LTTP: Batman Arkham City

Kind of like that guy who is just now watching every episode of lost. They’ve ended up a little late to the party. Well damnit I’m just as excited about stuff that everyone else has probably already played and I’m going to talk about it anyways. 

After a few hiccups in the process I finally have gotten some time with Batman Arkham City. A sequel to a game that most people had major doubts could be done properly. After getting a taste as to how good a Batman game could be Rocksteady did what might be the best thing possible in video games. They made you feel like Batman.

There was a problem I had with the original Arkham Asylum and that was the fact that you were Batman enclosed to just this island. It was a cool story and made for an interesting setting but it really limited the feeling of being Batman. Arkham City fixes this with the most obvious of changes by it’s namesake, you’re in a city now. What was once a part of Gotham has now become a giant prison ran by Hugo Strange and Bruce Wayne has been locked away in it.

Starting the story off right with unexpected but visually stunning turn of events that introduce you to just about every important character within the first 20 minutes really fires the player up and makes you want to dive in further to the insanity. Rocksteady did a good job of not messing with what worked including recasting everyone from the first game (and the 90’s Animated Batman series). That includes thankfully making the Joker exactly what he is, an insane but brilliant strategist that knows exactly how to play Batman like a tool. Unlike the original game where the Joker uses a physical strategy to try and defeat Batman, he actually acts like himself and completely messes with Batman as he fights for both his own life and the Jokers.

Regardless of how you feel about the fact that Catwoman is treated as a DLC extra even though she’s a pretty integral part of the game. She’s a great addition and switches things up enough to keep looking around the city for random Riddler trophies. Her combat is fast and it’s really refreshing compared to the slow brutal attacks Batman relies on. I’m not sure if it was the fact that the combat itself was better or it just clicked after a year of waiting on the game but I really enjoyed it this time. It was one of my least favorite part of the original but until I can replay it I can’t really compare.

There are a few problems with the game and it was strong enough to make me wonder which was the better game out of the two Arkham titles. I felt like this Batman was shorter but at the same time kind of strung out. I really enjoyed all the set pieces so I’m having trouble putting into words why I felt a little let down by the end of the game. The final boss was again a disappointment and the worse part was that it was the only boss that was bad. Arkham Asylum had a problem with the fact that all of the bosses (except for the Scarecrow) was combat based. Not so with Arkham City as almost every boss is unique and fun but that makes the final boss all the more frustrating compared to the rest of the game.

What do you look forward to the most when playing a game: Escapism, immersion or maybe accomplishment? The best kind of video game taps into all of these aspects and still effects you the player. While there are a few problems with the game, I couldn’t stop playing it. It got me out of a rut in my personal life that was more than useful and made me feel powerful in a way I just can’t feel right now. Batman Arkham City is one of the best games of 2011 easily and if I had played it before we did our GOTY votes, It would have been on my list. If you haven’t become Batman, now is the best time.

Bryan Belcher

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