‘Batman: Arkham City’ Review: Who Has the Last Laugh?

When Batman: Arkham Asylum was released in 2009, it was nothing short of a revolution for superhero video games. Before, there had been a handful of great superhero games, but most of them had been arcade side-scrollers or team brawlers (Activision’s first Spider-Man game is a notable exception). Arkham Asylum, however, placed you so fully in Bruce Wayne’s combat boots that it actually felt as if you got to know the hero better just by pushing some buttons and toggling an analog stick. Not only did you battle some of the Dark Knight’s greatest villains, you also sneaked around in the shadows, stealthily taking out bad guys before they even noticed you were upon them. The mix of fighting-and-hiding was extremely addictive and felt like the reinvention of an entire genre.

At the time, it would have been ridiculous to look at Arkham Asylum and go, “Great game, but look at all that untapped potential!” After having played Arkham City, though, it’s a reasonable reaction. Almost everything that was great about the first game has been refined, perfected, and expanded to create the most immersive superhero game yet released. The most obvious example is the fact that you can actually explore the vastness of Arkham City itself. One of the joys of the original was exploring the asylum grounds, but now that a portion of Gotham has been cordoned off as one big looney bin, you can glide past skyscrapers and swing from building to building. Whenever you get frustrated with a side mission or tire of beating down thugs, you can revel in the simple pleasure of zipping around the city, an exhilarating experience in and of itself.

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