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Batman soars in Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City Genre: Action Platforms: PS3, Xbox

Batman: Arkham City

Genre: Action
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Rating: Teen

Batman: Arkham City is an action adventure that builds upon the intense, atmospheric foundation of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Credit: AP

Standing on the rooftop of a building in Arkham City’s industrial district, I listen to the sounds of henchmen as they patrol the snowy streets below. Over my comm unit, the guards complain about the chill in the air and bicker back and forth. Choosing my target, I swoop down and plant two boots firmly into one of the thug’s backs, sending him crashing to the floor. In a flurry of acrobatic kicks and punches, the rest of the thugs join him on the ground in twisted heaps.

It may sound like something off the pages of a graphic novel, but attention to every detailed moment is what makes Batman Arkyum City an experience only the Dark Knight can provide.

For fans of the caped crusader, Arkham City’s open-world gameplay is a dream come true. Unlike the first game, players have the freedom to glide, grapple and run through city streets, dive hundreds of meters off of rooftops, and tackle objectives in any order they wish.

Arkham City’s narrative is one of the best-told Batman stories of all time.  The story and characters are so good, in fact, that you’ll be disappointed to see the final credits roll.

The game picks up a few months after the events of Arkham Asylum. With the help of the mysterious Doctor Hugo Strange, Mayor Quincy Sharp has created a cordoned-off section of the city filled with the worst monsters, thugs, and criminals from Arkham Asylum. With the criminals running loose and calling the shots in the newly formed “Arkham City,” Batman decides to do what he does best: take down every last criminal in Gotham.

For fans of the comics and the movies, Batman Arkham City engaging story line comes to life thanks in part to its cast featuring Mark Hamill in his final reprisal as The Joker.  The city looks gothic and decrepit, utilizing next-Gen graphics down to every pixilated opportunity whether it's up-close with snow coating Batman’s cowl or lit areas of Gotham peeking through the distance.

Longtime fans will also be pleased to see all the different baddies featured in the game, which range from the Penguin to Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. Tons of cameos and over 400 collectible Riddler trophies are littered throughout the game, sure to keep achievement-seekers returning to action long after they finish the main campaign.

Combat in Arkham City is nearly flawless, as Batman takes down his enemies with brutally satisfying slo-mo finishers, acrobatic leaps and an array of Bat-gadgets. Once players master the sometimes complex system of combo transitions, you’ll feel nearly unstoppable even when surrounded by a dozen enemies.

When brute force won’t work, Arkham City’s stealth segments portray Batman as an urban predator in his natural environment. Stealth options are aplenty, from distracting guards with a sonic batarang to quietly hanging over an unsuspecting thug and snatching him away from his friends. Arkham City’s villains are more intelligent than ever as they use infrared goggles and sonic jammers to keep players on their toes.  Developer Rocksteady did a fine job of keeping the A.I. from coming off too overpowered by the Bat's tactics here.

The addition of Harley Quinn’s Revenge adds another 2 hours or so to the main story line, which is a welcome addition to the too-short 8- to 10-hour campaign. Players switch between playing as Robin and Batman, and each have their own set of moves and gadgets to keep gameplay interesting. While the story segment of Harley Quinn’s Revenge doesn’t answer many of the questions raised by the game’s ending, I still found it to be an enjoyable addition to one of my favorite games of 2011.

If you haven’t picked up Arkham City yet or were waiting to get all of the downloadable content at once, pick up a copy of the Game of the Year package.  Arkham City is undoubtedly one of the most engaging video games in recent years, and an instant classic.  With so much replay value in every brawl that awaits you in the gang-filled streets of the game, why not be the Bat for yourself before seeing the "The Dark Knight Rises" in theaters.

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