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Arkham City Revisited

batman arkham city xbox

Taking advantage of the Warner Bros. sale on Xbox Live at the moment, I picked up Arkham City again (I’ve somehow misplaced the disc for my original copy) and restarted my adventures in Gotham as the caped crusader.

For anyone who missed it the first time around, this is a real gem of a game which somehow manages to capture a bit of the darker, noir feel of the recent Dark Knight movies while still paying homage to the comic books in most aspects (like the way villains are treated and costumes are treated throughout the world. It’s definitely a treat for the senses and anyone who considers themselves a big gamer would be remiss to overlook it – it really is the Cadillac of comic book games, which tend to be a bit under thought and over budgeted as a rule.

Anyway getting back to my second playthrough, I’m struck again by how much this game builds upon the successes of Arkham Asylum – which didn’t have quite the sales or media exposure of its sequel but is a cult classic nonetheless. I think there is a match +1 formula to the gameplay here which I wish a lot more sequels would mimic since it inevitably leaves fans satisfied with their purchase.

What do I mean by match +1? Well basically it’s taking the gameplay aspects which made the original a success, and then pushing them one step further in the sequel without destroying their integrity all together. You want examples? Oh I have examples.

First up is the Free-Flow Combat System. I’ve written before about how innovative it is but it’s really a two way street between innovation and development – yes the hits and counters look and feel amazing, but without developing the extra combos which add flavour to your combat every 8 hit or so (or whatever the required multiplier is) even these would start feeling dull by the time you took on your fiftieth group of wayward henchman. Particularly things like double and triple counters which you can perform in Arkham City are perfect examples of expanding the combat without hurting its innovative feel – resulting in your melee performance feeling even more natural, if anything.

Another great example is the way you navigate the world. In Arkham Asylum we were trapped on the island prison of Arkham, and although the game made plenty of attempts to get you outside of dark building with cages and short corridors – this was where you spent most of your time. I mean, it’s a big island and we did spend a little bit of time spelunking and exploring the grounds – but mainly we were navigating from building to building, and predictably this took its toll on the player’s enjoyment of the title. Enter Arkham City, where not only are you outdoors for a large portion of your time (albeit still navigating between buildings in most cases) but you can actively fly using Batman’s cape and some basic knowledge of wind dynamics (see: downward glide + speed + tilt = upward glide).

The main thing I’m taking away from my happy revisit to Arkham City is how much of a challenge it’s going to be for Warner Bros. Interactive to replicate Rocksteady’s success with this series when they launch their (currently in development) prequel Batman: Arkham Origins. Not only do they have extend concepts which have already been one upped (so to speak) but they are picking up where another studio left off, which is never easy. Add to that the fact that they have to make a prequel believable without taking away any of the gadgets or gameplay aspects that players love about the series.

It’s a tough road to walk, and I guess time will tell whether they can pull it off. Meanwhile, I’m off to Gotham for another session of nightcrawling.

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