9.5

This game feels less like a throwback to the comics and cartoons, and more like a masterpiece of new ideas and content

Arkham Asylum ruled. If you disagree, I suggest you stop reading right now. It was the game for gamers, not weekend warriors or FPS fanboys. It managed to take a ubiquitous piece of modern culture (Batman) and completely redefine its role in the modern zeitgeist. And it managed to be a fantastic game in its own right, becoming a GOTY title, and the measuring stick by which all other super hero games would be measured.

Wind the clock forward two years, and we have the much-anticipated sequel, Arkham City. I'm going to keep this review short, because I want to get back to playing it, but let me tell you something...

Your prayers have been answered.

There weren't all that many criticisms that could be brought against Arkham Asylum. It had excellent pacing and storytelling, a fantastic protagonist, a cast of remarkable characters, a graphical feel that showed that the studio gave attention to every detail, no matter how mundane... In short, whether or not you were a Batman fan, it was a game that was super awesome to play, because it did something no other superhero game has managed to do before or since: make you feel like the damn superhero!

Enter Arkham City. Everything you loved about the original game is back, but what's so important here is that RockSteady added things to the formula that are so common sense, so amazingly brilliant and subtle, that we didn't realize we needed them. I didn't even know I wanted a grappling hook that could propel me into the sky for added glide distance! This may seem trivial, but the increased polish in the game is what makes Arkham City more than a throwback to the comics and cartoons like the last game, and more like a new work of amazing reinterpretation of the source material.

The game looks amazing. I would just stop talking there, because I can. That statement is bone-hard medical fact. Empirical truth. Scientific constant. Nobody can argue that this game isn't fantastic in the graphics department. There are so many subtle details, I can barely wrap my head around it. The animations have been cleaned up in ways I didn't think were possible. The scenic vistas from atop the game's many tall buildings are divine. Yeah, it looks great.

The game plays great too. The open-world mood to the game is really disturbing at first, because you feel intimidated by the game's size and scope in comparison to the last game, but it does a great job of guiding you along and giving you plenty of healthy diversions. You'll have plenty to do. Combat is largely the same from the last game, with attacking and countering having a similar rhythm, but the flow is cleaner, the animations are smoother, and the overall feel is so much more fluid than the last game, which is delightful. The gadgets are interesting and you have more of them from the outset, the exploration is much crazier, with so many more nooks an crannies to explore. Overall, the gameplay is top notch.

The voice cast steals the show. Mark Hammill's Joker is an obvious standout, but Batman keeps pace, and the particularly studious of you may recognize Harlequinn's voice as Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I could lie and say I have a daughter who watches the show, but I'm a Brony, so I won't). In short, the audio does a fantastic job, and it will make sweet love to your ears.

In all, this is a game that doesn't get played, it gets experienced. It's impossible to put into words what this game does for the action/adventure and super hero genres. RockSteady has truly outdone themselves, and the amount of content here is absolutely insane. Say what you want about Batman. He can't hear you. He's in Arkham City, keeping us safe.

Play this game.

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