After being nominated for many awards last year, including Game of the Year frommultiplevenues, I'm sure most of everyone is aware that Batman: Arkham City is a really, really good game. It's gorgeous, meticulously built, excellently polished, and nearly flawlessly executed. But it's not the Kyerannosaur's job to tell you how "good" or "bad" a game is (hint: this one is "good"); it's the Kyerannosaur's job to crunch and decide how the game tastes, and crunching Arkham City tastes perfectly like the Batman should taste.
Batman is powerful. The Batman is not afraid of a fight. He's confident, almost regal, and a force to be reckoned with. Surrounded by a group of thugs? Not a problem for the Batman -- and the game's combat system captures this perfectly. I enjoyed combat, a lot. In fact, I came to welcome it, because, well, beating up a dozen guys and pulling off a 40- or 50-hit combo in the process, managing a flawless victory, just felt badass. It made me feel awesome and powerful. I can initiate combat; counter incoming attacks; deflect thrown projectiles; cripple large foes with my cape or gadgets; avoid heavy attacks with a somersault. If things are looking rough, my utility belt is at the ready. One by one, the assailants drop unconscious. That's not to say there's no challenge, but just the right amount. I never feel overwhelmed; I just feel like I have to try a bit harder or be a bit quicker. I know how to win each fight and know I can win each fight: after all, I'm the Batman.
Batman is mysterious and intimidating. Just because Batman is powerful doesn't mean he rushes into anything and everything head on. He's not the Hulk. Batman calculates; Batman plans; and Batman invokes fear in his opposition. Batman surveys his surroundings, catches the enemy off guard and knocks them out before they ever know he's in the room. If he's spotted, he drops a smoke pellet and promptly vanishes. Did he jump to the rafters with his grapnel or slink into some ventilation shaft? And he has gadgets galore to help him out: batarangs, freeze grenades, the bat claw, explosive gel, a remote disruptor -- something for every occasion. Again, the game properly increases the challenge and mixes things up as you progress so there's never just one straight solution to every scenario.
Batman solves puzzles. There's a reason Ra's al Ghul calls Batman "Detective." He's smart, clever, calculating -- everything he needs to be to take on Gotham's worst. The Riddler leaves clues and trophies everywhere to be tracked down and collected. Zsasz taunts you and wants you to play his game, to come and find you. Deadshot is out killing and you'll need to carefully examine crime scenes to find and stop him. Beyond these extras, wits will be needed when dealing with even the larger baddies -- particularly Mr. Freeze -- and I greatly appreciate that no two bosses fights are alike. The Batman is a thinker, and this game requires some thought.
Batman is dark and brooding. Like it's titular character,this game is dark, gritty, dirty, damp, and foreboding in both visual and audio presentation. Arkham City is a sight to behold, especially from the rooftops. Buildings are carefully built and very detailed, with reliefs, graffiti, railings, security cameras, guard lights, and Riddler trophies all carefully placed. The music is deep and atmospheric, perfectly setting the tone for dynamic encounters and solemn exploration. SFX fit in as accent marks on top of the music. I'm personally a fan of the thunderous clap associated with the finishing blow in each combat victory.
All-in-all, this is one delicious, meaty experience. Every bite is full of flavor, injected very precisely by the artisans at Rocksteady. They successfully captured the very essence of Batman and breathed it into every inch of this world, creating a tight, juicy meal that's good beyond the last bite.
Batman: Arkham City was developed by Rocksteady and published by WB Games. For this post, I played for about 10 hours, completing the story and various side quests on the PlayStation 3. I borrowed the Game of the Year edition.