Greetings from Arkham City

You're looking at the future.

Oh, the plan was to follow-up on all of the awesome things that came out during the Week of Epic, and I had a hot start with the Walking Dead writeup, but things sort of fell by the side for a minute when Arkham City released last Tuesday.

That should tell you all you need to know on how good this game is.

My primary point of praise on the first game in the series is its awareness that Batman should always be the baddest man in the room. Arkham City amps that fun factor up by not trying not fix what wasn’t broken and make Batman even badder. There are so many stupidly fun ways to take down crowds of thugs, I’m still disccovering maneuvers I didn’t know were in the game. Few things are more satisfying than divebombing directly into a group of punks, hitting the ground and setting off a shockwave knocking everyone on their asses. Or methodically taking out armed security forces one by one, until you perch over the last man standing, who is completely oblivious to your position, watching him whip his head around in fear before planting your knee in his face.

On the story front Paul Dini, best known as the lead writer on the old Batman Animated Series returns for a plot that feels reminiscent of Hush, Jeph Loeb’s 2002 work on the monthly Batman comic, a run designed like the Michael Bay version of Batman, jammed full with every villain in the Rogues gallery. Officially, the game has The Joker, Harley Quinn, Hugo Strange, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze and the Riddler, as well as Catwoman and Robin. Unofficially, you’ll run into quite a few more in the game’s side missions, a number of which surprisingly didn’t get leaked before the game’s release. The games occupy this strange space somewhere between comic canon and casual fandom, where somewhat obscure characters like Oracle or Killer Croc are expected to be known by players, yet the writers and game designers can take liberties with what fans know from the comic [and trust me, there are some major liberties taken in Arkham City, all of which I approve of, and I hopethey stick. To say any more spoils the game].

If anything, I can sort of understand the one criticism of the game that people have made, that being that the pacing is maybe a little too rapid in the early going, there’s so much coming at you at once, it’s a little overwhelming. But you soon get some breathing room to wander around in, start getting the lay of the land and tackling your primary and secondary objections.

When you factor in the main story, a New Game+ that lets you replay the game with all your gadgets and upgrades but twerks the difficulty, the optional side missions, the 400+ Riddler challenges and trophies [Nigma gets the best expansion between this game and the last, going from a voice on an intercom to a mastermind of elaborate, Saw-like murder puzzles], plus the bonus Catwoman episodes [which you get for free if you buy the game new], and Arkham City is a hell of a dense gaming package for your $60, and easily my contender for Game of the Year. Which I’m sure most outlets will give to some game with space marines anyway.

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