In no particular order, these are the three coolest things in life: 1. Me. 2. Watching Batman. 3. Being Batman.
Now, let’s say that, like me, you’ve always harbored a grudge against your parents for not having been gunned down in an alleyway, leaving you with a seemingly endless inheritance and a raw hatred for crime and apathy. Well then, “Batman: Arkham City,” recently released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, is the closest you’re going to get to donning the cowl.
Tragic, I know, but considering just how amazing “Arkham City” is, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wait, Arkham City? Ha! Didn’t you mean Gotham City? ‘Arkham’ would refer to the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane located just outside Gotham City, first appearing in ‘Batman #258.’ Loser.”
Well, thank you, sir and/or madam, but as it turns out, in the context of this game, Arkham City is a no-man’s land in Gotham, a massive prison where criminals are allowed to do whatever they want as long as they stay behind the walls.
And, as Batman, it’s your job to get in there and punch anything with two eyes and a nose right in its stupid face.
You’ll have an arsenal of gadgets at your disposal, like smoke bombs used to make a quick getaway or a cryptographic sequencer used to hack open doors and tune into radio transmissions. Probably the most fun is the disruptor gadget that allows you to remotely disable a henchman’s gun without him knowing. Then you can drop down in front of him and watch his confidence drain once he finds that his gun doesn’t work and that you’re about to beat him to a pulp.
Like the last excellent “Batman” game, “Arkham Asylum,” it’s super satisfying to prey on the henchmen, tactically stalking them as they realize that their numbers are slowly dwindling. They’ll panic and spin around wildly, fearful at all times that “the Bat” is going to appear out of nowhere. Every sound you make – blowing up a fire extinguisher with a “batarang,” for instance – will freak them out; that you can use Batman’s “Detective Vision” to check how fast their hearts are beating gives the whole process a gloriously sadistic tint.
But the biggest difference between the two games is the setting. While “Arkham Asylum” was set on a relatively small island, Arkham City is literally just a huge chunk of land carved from Gotham City; this is the Batman experience you’ve been waiting for. Perch on a gargoyle and look down upon the city, pensively. Swoop down and glide above the city streets on your way to the “Bat-Signal.”
Once you get the hang of it, the act of gliding around the city is one of the purest joys the game has to offer, making traversing from one objective to the next – which could have been a real chore – a brilliant, visceral distraction.
And the sheer amount of content in “Arkham City,” which has dozens of side-missions and hundreds of riddles to collect or solve, will either prove exhilarating or overwhelming, depending on how into the game you are. I’ve personally spent so much time finding every riddle and scouring every corner of the city that my roommates just get up and leave if they so much as hear the word “bat” in our apartment.
Put it this way: If you have even the slightest interest in Batman, “Arkham City” is the game for you. It’s the best game this year and easily worth the $60.
image courtesy of ign.com