Welcome to yet another fantastic fall/holiday rush of AAA titles. I start to sweat with excitement when I think of this time of year. When the last Batman game in this series Arkham Asylum was released I intentionally passed over it, even though every friend and media outlet was gushing like a nerd at comic con. My reason for this mistake was based solely on the amount of games with super heroes attached that completely sucked ass. I will not bother making the list because I do not need carpel tunnel that bad. I think my point is pretty obvious and I am not alone in thinking these companies have made a lot of quick cash by flipping a turd with a super heroes name on it. So Arkham Asylum landed on my Christmas present filler list because it was about 20 or so bucks and I did not want to waste the cash. Low and behold the Almighty holiday came and so did a neatly wrapped copy of Batman AA. I was on holiday break and decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. From that point I did not eject the disc from my Xbox 360 until the main quest was complete, which is pretty rare for me and my 30 second attention span. Since the announcement of the sequel at the 2009 Spike VGAs I have been waiting patiently to play this one through just as the last. And let me tell you it was damn well worth the wait.
Arkham City was once again scripted by the comic book vet that did the last Paul Dini and you can tell that within the first 10 minutes. Immediately I knew this would be an excellent wild ride just as the last. You start out by being captured and imprisoned in Arkham City, which is a new prison five times the size of Arkham Asylum, where the last game took place. From here you will try to unravel what is really going on inside this insane world ran by criminals and Batman's arch enemies. Outside of the main quest once again we have side quests, riddler trophies to collect and training missions to complete. Everything outside of the main quest is option able and with good reason. Sometimes getting these trophies can be a real puzzle fed experience. Personally I gave up on getting most of the trophies that proved too challenging. This in no way took away from the game but layered countless hours of playtime on top of all the other things to do in Arkham.
The visuals in this game are top notch. At times I found myself staring blankly into a world that was swirling and felt well....alive. Everything from the water to the reflections on glass look near perfect. All the characters and their animations were about as perfect as you could get with the deadline the developer had. It is obvious Rocksteady Studios put a hell of a lot into this and should be very proud of the final product. These guys took a world that only comes alive in the mind when reading the comic and slapped you in the face with it saying Go play! You would be hard pressed to find any visual issues outside of one presented by the games engine or the hardware itself. When it came to level design it was not the visuals that were a bit of an issue for me, it was the level itself. A few seemed unneeded and put in as a sort of filler or a way to break up the combat areas. The level where you have to ride a an ice burg made from an ice grenade comes to mind. I just did not see the point to having to pull myself around from hook to hook button mashing against a current. That takes nothing away from the game itself, more or less a personal frustration of mine.
The game play is another very high point as was with the last title. The focus is still on stealthy maneuvers and gadgetry. The controls are smooth and the learning curve presented is never too hard, but also keeps you trying new things between Batman's moves and his gadgets. One of my favorite things to do is just jump, grapple and glide throughout the environment. Thankfully I could still do that in here and it was even smoother and more satisfying than last time. I spent plenty of time just testing things out in the environment when it came to his various toys like explosive gel and battering. Speaking of the toys, it seems all the old ones are here with a few new sprinkled in for fun like ice grenades and smoke pellets. All of the gadgets feel perfect and most worked like a charm. The only problem I saw at times was the enemy A.I. and its ability to tune in on me from an insane distance. This was really frustrating toward the end when you had to enter the final act with the joker and there were snipers on every building corner. I have no idea how a sniper facing the other way at a city blocks distance can hear me take down a guy silently. This led to a few controller seizures and about 20 tries to pass the level. Luckily the game is so fun I had no issue replaying a part or level, which happened more than I remember in the first game.The sound was amazing at times. I played it using surround sound and all fields seemed to be hitting as needed. The music is matched perfectly to a scene and always compliments what is going on. There was not a point that the voice acting seemed off or unmatched to the scene or character. Some of the thug type guys were repetitious in their lines but when you see so many throughout you are bound to hear a repeat or two. All and all no complaints in the audio it was crisp and enthralling.
Arkham City is a no doubt contender on the game of the year stage. Rocksteady built off a great game to bring us an almost perfect sequel. Some fans squealed at the lack of multi player and I am sick of developers short changing a single player game to tack on a half assed multi player mess. When I buy a game like Modern Warfare 3 you better believe I am getting that to get online and drop some curse words. We still need the excellent single player experience which this game delivers on without a doubt. And for those who want something more, go play the challenge maps. Those are almost bottomless and sure to please those in need of countless hours putting boots to asses.4.5/5