Batman: Arkham City • Page 3

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

There's a dive-bomb swooping move and a ground-pound, both reeking of the Mushroom Kingdom and suggesting that Alfred may have bought Young Master Bruce a SNES back in the day. Even putting aside all that - and putting aside a grapnel gun that is essentially a hookshot, and all those structural nods to Link and Samus - there's a wonderful feeling throughout Arkham City that this is the Dark Knight we might have been given if it was Nintendo rather than DC Comics that created him.

It's not so much a matter of specific influences as a general ethos. Rocksteady has the familiar Nintendo toy-box touch that ensures you're never given a gadget that's only good for one thing and you're never saddled with an objective that isn't inherently fun and rewarding, even if you're just moving down the street. Most of all, Arkham City feels like a Nintendo game in the sense that you can't tell whether the environment, characters or individual mechanics came first - all seem to have evolved in an intriguing harmony.

If it's lacking something, it's surprise. Arkham City has nothing that beats the first game's brilliant unveilings and fourth-wall mind-tricks (although it has a go at an equivalent) and it can't trump the central, crucial realisation that somebody had finally made a Batman game that was enriched by its license rather than subtly crippled by it. Instead, though, you get refinement: better bosses, slicker animation, and more to think about on a second-to-second basis.

It's a decent trade. Combat, one of the first game's sweetest elements, is now riddled with elegantly nasty new animations alongside new enemy types, new takedowns, smoke pellets and much simpler access to gadgets while fighting. On top of that, your arsenal itself has been reworked and expanded. The line-launcher now allows you to change direction mid-run, switching it from a fancy kind of bridging tool into an essential component of any good night out in the Bowery, while newcomers include the REC (an electrical blaster) and a freeze grenade that doubles as an incapacitator and a flotation device. 'You're going to need a bigger belt,' says Alfred at one point. If this goes on, we're certainly going to need a bigger d-pad.

Elsewhere, Catwoman crops up now and then, both in the campaign and with a few side-quests and trophies of her own. You'll need the online pass to get access to her, but she's not actually that different to Batman when it really comes down to it. Her combat is simply lighter, faster and crueller, while her traversal relies on pounces, ceiling runs and natty rhythm-action button presses as you shimmy up buildings.

The challenge rooms make a welcome return, ensuring that you always have access to the game's tooth-splintering combat and playful strain of predator stealth. This time, you can work through linked challenges as mini-campaigns, all of which come with a tactical element in the form of combat modifiers. One might impose a time limit, say, or stop your gadgets from working. It's arcade leaderboard heaven.

Heaven inside hell, eh? Prisons, murderers, lunatics: Arkham City's built of gloomy stuff, but it feels uncommonly like escape each time you load it up. It's escape of the best kind: into a different world where your actions might save lives and where you're decisive, dynamic and rarely given to starting conversations with gambits like, "OK, rate the top five chocolate bars for me, leaving out Mars."

Is it over? Unlikely. Rocksteady's latest certainly knows how to drop the curtain, but it feels like a dark second act or the middle section of a trilogy. If that's the case, it's tantalisingly tricky to figure out what the studio can do next.

First they gave us a hero; now they've given us his ideal playground. And along the way, they crossed off one of the trickiest entries on my own personal to-do list: an entry that's right there in between Meet Ty Pennington and Finish that Robert Musil book .

Become Batman. Done.

9 /10

Batman: Arkham City is released 21st October on PS3 and Xbox 360, and in November for PC.

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About the author

Christian Donlan

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.

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