I don't like Batman. I'm not a 9-year-old boy, and never was I, and I naively thought this would be the only target audience of such a game (because when I was a kid, it was mainly boys who seemed to read the Batman comics). As a result, Batman and I never really crossed paths other than the odd TV show when I was a wee thing in the Ice Age era. I also don't like combat games. All those buttons for punching and kicking and all that nonsense. Pffft!
But back to Batman. There was some article in my fave magazine looking back at this game and talking about stealth-play (which I love) and a fantastic open-world city. They recommended it hugely and the screenshots LOOKED incredible! But it was still Batman ... so I figured I'd wait for a cheapy deal just to see what it was like anyway. Checking that no-one else in the house was looking at my screen (I mean - Batman
for chrissakes...) I loaded up the game - and my badly formed preconceptions were thrown in my face! Now the entire household knows I'm raving about a Batman game....
So what makes this game so great?
Firstly, the game offers complete freedom of play (you can stealth much of the game or fight your way through). Secondly, the controls are amazingly easy for a game with so many moves - very intuitive for those not blessed with controller dexterity (me included). Thirdly, Arkham City is a HUGE open-world dark city of seeming unlimited places to explore, and finally, like Batman or not, the colourful personalities of all the caricatures you'll meet in a Batman game are fun, crazy and brilliantly done. I found myself replaying the starting chapter twice
over just to see Penguin again!
There is nothing better than swooping down on an unsuspecting enemy from skyscraper heights (in-game tutorials help you with special moves in flight). Control and precision are absolutely perfect. Stealth is a joy to play (and encouraged in some missions). The combat is easy too - taught gradually with on-screen prompts for buttons to press and when to make a high-scoring move. Best of all, this GOTY edition features Catwoman with some extra missions - and her playstyle is entirely different but equally engaging.
The dark city has depth and atmosphere, and feels like the crime-ridden snake's pit that it is. It's all brilliantly detailed. There are collectibles too, though some are pretty tough to beat. They offer a good challenge so they aren't mundane busiwork unlike some franchises (Assassin's Creed to name one example). There is a great upgrade system too - though a word of warning: your upgrade points are for Batman AND Catwoman separately. By the time I reached the end of the main Batman game, I had a Batman armed to the teeth, but a neglected Catwoman who had little more than black leotard and tights(!) - so remember to share the points around a bit.
A great story-led plot, fabulous characters and really polished gameplay puts this game at the top of my best-games-ever tree. I really recommend it, even if you too find yourself grimacing and NOT ever having been a 9-year-old boy! Don't make the mistake I did and look past this game if you enjoy open-world games where you choose how to play.