I didn’t like the idea of the Batman games when they came out.
I tried the demo for Asylum and was put off by the problem solving and sneaking around. At the time I was into FPS (still am, for that matter) – you know, big bangs, lots of sprinting around, energetic stuff – so when I came to this game I wanted energy and real world grit (as much as you could expect from a superhero game, anyway) and thanks to the movie franchise, which was on the ascendency at the time, I didn’t think it unreasonable to get some of that grit and action.
The characterisation in the Batman games was a little more cartoony than the movies and that, coupled with my fervent desire to run around firing off a big gun, made me hesitate. I finally decided that, despite the high production values and superb voice acting I wanted a Batman that was more like the movies and I wanted my big guns so I gave the whole thing a miss.
I was a fool. I can say that now without any reservation – I was a damned fool.
I got a deal a while ago in Game, a 2-for1 on both Batman titles and thought I’d give it a go and was instantly drawn in by the Asylum’s genuine comic book charm. The eccentricity of the characters was perfectly pitched to allow for some genuine grit, reflecting the maturity of the current source material that does this franchise no end of justice, and the action was far racier than I expected. So I plowed through Batman: Arkham Asylum with a voracity I haven’t enjoyed for a long time and spent many hours working on my stealth skills (a penchant no doubt afforded me by recent titles like Dishonored and Bioshock: Infinite, where the direct approach isn’t always the best) to the point where I had become, in gaming terms at least, a honed and lethal killing machine.
But that was just a prelude.
So, I started playing Batman: Arkham City the other day and it was like someone just opened my eyes.
Without wanting to come across as overly melodramatic – It. Is. Incredible.
That game is so refined, so expansive, so well realised and so outrageously entertaining that I don’t know how I will cope when I finish it. Arkham City is big and it’s packed with main missions, side missions, numerous and familiar villains, all vying for control of the giant prison environment and a seemingly endless supply of side missions that are so compelling in themselves that I find it difficult to stay on course for the central story.
And it looks amazing, even on the Xbox 360. The environments, gadgets and NPC’s have been refined to a razors edge, with facial, physical and structural detailing that goes beyond rich and never falls down (unless you kick it in the face, of course). And the gameplay is so well balanced and responsive that you never feel cheated, not once. The environments are riotously rich and although the Joker doesn’t feature quite as much as he did in Asylum, you still get your penny’s worth and there are so many other villains to shore things up that I guarantee you will not be bored.
For those of you even more foolish than myself, those of you who haven’t played these games yet, now is your chance to get up to speed before Batman: Arkham Origins comes out. If you like combat, stealth, gadgets and latex wings then you absolutely have to play these games – they’re more fun than a bag of monkeys and a tickle stick.
Also – Joker: Best. Villain. Ever.
Have fun, and don’t forget to smile!