Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pity on the working man: Why Batman: Arkham City is a better, more enjoyable game than Batman: Arkham Asylum.

So now you know why I haven't posted much in the last few days.  Last week, I retweeted my two-year old whine fest about Batman: Arkham Asylum, basically asking whether or not I should buy the sequel.  The general answer was a qualified 'no' or at least 'not until you have lots of free time to blow'.  Alas, a surprise Best Buy gift card and a more flexible work schedule proved a lethal combination, and I ended up purchasing Batman: Arkham City on Monday evening.  Since that time, I've played maybe 3-4 hours worth, sneaking in an hour here or twenty-minutes there as time allows.  To my relief and/or surprise, not only is it a pretty terrific game, it's actually far more enjoyable.  Its improvements in fact imply (falsely I'm sure) that the developers read my rant two years ago and took my concerns to heart.  Intentional or coincidentally, the game-play and narrative changes basically fixes nearly every annoyance I had with the first game.

While the game is still long and overly complicated, the challenge level seems decreased for those losers like myself who select 'EASY' and 'YES' for onscreen hints.  I no longer find myself getting killed in six seconds flat when confronted with armed thugs, and I am able to actually enjoy the impressive combat functionality rather than merely feverishly pushing the buttons for survival.  And while the general narrative is as extensive as the last time around, the addition of side-missions and a more open-world environment make the game more suited for those like myself who no longer have hours-on end to play a game in a single sitting.  If I feel like playing and only have twenty minutes, I can either make as much progress as I can in the main mission, or I can go off on a side mission.  Or, thanks to the open-world environment, I can swing and glide around the city and find random thugs to beat the crap out of.  Point being, the new format is far more suited for casual play as well as concentrated   And unlike the last game, where getting from A to B was a boring chore, this time the journey is at least as much fun as the destination.

The first game was a generally earthbound 'Batman walks from room to room and occasionally gets into a fight' affair.  Aside from the occasional 'hide on a random perch in the ceiling' moments, it was basically a brawler without a ton of brawls and with an uncommonly harsh difficulty curve.  This time Rocksteady Studios took their cues from the better Spider-Man games.  Like Spider-Man 2 (and pretty much any Spidey game that came afterward), Batman: Arkham City lets players sail over the city and swing from building to building with the greatest of ease.  Merely jumping off a building and landing on a bad guy is entertainment all by itself, as are any number of the 'be Batman' scenarios littered throughout the game as a matter of course.  At this point, I'm probably 1/4 through the main narrative, with few of the side missions currently in progress and maybe 15% of the Riddler trophies already found.  I may never complete 100% of what the game has to offer.  But the fact that the moment-by-moment gameplay is actually more entertaining this time around makes me want to keep playing for my own amusement, rather than my own sense of obligation.

Batman: Arkham City is precisely what I wanted Batman: Arkham City to be.  It looks and sounds gorgeous of course, but the key is the accessibility.  The game, at least on the difficulty level I have selected, is far easier to play and progress, while the open-world format offers both a distraction from the core narrative and the means to actually indulge in the world that the game has created.  Merely swinging and gliding from rooftop to rooftop while occasionally pouncing on random bad guys is by-itself more entertaining that anything in the last game.  The technical specs are every bit as glorious as last time.  Plus, by offering a more forgiving difficulty level (complete with instructions for time-sensitive idiots like myself), a more expansive world, a variety of quickie side-missions, and an environment that is terrifically fun just to exist within, Batman: Arkham City is everything we liked about Batman: Arkham Asylum, as well as everything I wanted two years ago.  I may not beat the game anytime soon, but I'm going to sure-as hell enjoy trying this time around.

Scott Mendelson 


Aaron Neuwirth said...

Glad you went against your better judgment of sorts and ended up purchasing this fantastic Batman experience.

niowwanke said...

Batman: Arkham City is truly best game. I have played this game four hours, i love the most single sitting experience. As we know that there are other tons of games which support co-up mode, But i have never heard that Batman Arkham City allows to join our friend.


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