Arkham City — the game we need

Rocksteady Studios is a relatively new game company. Based in London and founded in 2004, they have had a hard time finding their footing in the gaming market. The company released their first game in 2006, Urban Chaos: Riot Response . It was incredibly badly received in the gaming community, getting little notice among releases such as Elder Scrolls IV, Kingdom Hearts II, Battlefield 2: Bad Company, and a host of other games including Half Life 2: Episode 1, and The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess.

Although their first game was a dud (and had a feel that was very similar to the Timesplitters series), the night is indeed always darkest before the dawn, and Rocksteady was as firm in it’€™s determination as its name suggested. By 2008 development had begun on a new project, one that would show the average consumer that Rocksteady was here to stay, and thus, Batman: Arkham Asylum was born.

As I played level after level of Arkham Asylum, I realized that Rocksteady had given me something that I had searched for since I started watching Batman TV shows as a child: the ability to become my favorite superhero, Batman. The game was a breath of fresh air in the poorly made superhero games of the past years like Ultimate Alliance, or the Spiderman series (barf). So when Rocksteady announced the release of Batman: Arkham City , I once again donned my comfy sweatpants, practiced my crappy Batman impersonation and pre-ordered it right away.

As the start screen appeared on my TV in the dark corner of my basement on the release night, and the music began to rumble out of the speakers I broke into a cold sweat. My expectations for this game were so high…what if Rocksteady had let me down. But even as I started out the first level, I knew that I had nothing to worry about. For those who hasn’€™t followed the first two installments of the Batman series, Arkham City had some very subtle but influential changes from the first game.

“€œI am still getting used to the size of the map,” avid gamer Charles Ripley said, “€œit is definitely a change from the close quarters feel of the other game.”€

Indeed, I doubted whether or not the game would be able to rise above the success of the recent free roam games like Assassin’€™s Creed or Prototype (possibly the worst game in existence). Luckily, my fears were quickly relieved. The map for Arkham City is much bigger than Arkham Asylum , but small enough that you don’t spend all of your time climbing up a building while having a bystander note how dangerous it is. And for those who are afraid that the size of the map will limit the experience, all I can tell you is that the designers have done a fantastic job fitting all that you need into the game with room to spare.

Overall you could spend over a hundred hours finding all that the game has to offer, between finding the hidden riddles scattered throughout the game by a Mr. Edward Nigma or getting a perfect score in one of the many challenge maps that are unlock-able.

“€œI am going back a second time to get the rest of the Riddler trophies.”€ senior Chris Lee said. “I haven’€™t even started trying the challenges yet.”€

Another nuance of Arkham City is the new combat system that has evolved out of the first game. The same hit-counter system is in place as before, including the free flow combo system which allows you to chain together moves flawlessly and progressively faster until you either miss or get hit, but Arkham City allows more gratuitous use of gadgets and combo takedowns. This addition left me watering at the mouth, especially considering the sheer amount of new graphic content the added into the regular fights, but Rocksteady also did something I found rather curious, they took away enemy control. The new combat system doesn’€™t allow for picking enemies up or using the environment to your advantage in a straight up fist fight.

Another criticism I have for the enemy encounters in Arkham City is that the boss fights in it are not only short and relatively easy, but they are few and far between in the stories plot. When I face Ra’s Al Ghul in a one on one fight clash to the death, I want to feel my body tense as I have to employ all of my neurons just to land a hit. I want to go spiralling through reality with nothing but my gadgets and my wits, I don’€™t want to spend 20 minutes leisurely rolling back and forth and pressing the counter button when the screen tells me to (this is also a problem I had with Kingdom Hearts II although less so considering the number of times I had to face the bosses in that game). But aside from the the weak boss fights, I was incredibly taken with Arkham City .

Nothing can compare to sneaking around enemy filled rooms, luring them into strategic positions and taking them out one by one. And playing as Catwoman and Robin was just an added bonus. Game Informer gave the game a perfect 10 out of 10, citing it as one of the biggest releases of the year, and not a bad review was to be seen anywhere.

“€œI played it so much that my parents wouldn’€™t let me go out in public for fear that I may scream ‘€˜I am the night’€™ and break some poor clowns spine,”€ senior Taylor Rupp said.

“€œIt’€™s like giving birth to your soul with your eyes,”€ Kevin Stasko said.

So as a final review I would give Arkham City a 9.6 out of 10. The concept art is beautiful, the gameplay is addicting, and the plot is so enticing that it would have taken a crowbar and a bottle of chloroform to get me off my couch that first day. The boss fights could have been better but even those were beautifully done graphically. In truth, Arkham City was not the game we deserved, but the game we needed. I guess the only thing left to do for us Batman fans is to put on our batman underwear, replay arkham asylum and wait for Arkham City Nightwing DLC to come out in November.