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Batman: Arkham City -- Game of the Year Edition Review (PS3)

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Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

Image © WBIE
Who decides what warrants a "Game of the Year Edition"? The relatively new trend is really little more than a marketing tool for most games. In an era when companies are losing more and more profits to the used game market, "GOTY" editions are often merely ways to bring old product to new releases shelves again. Why not encourage people to buy the game straight from the publisher instead of getting a used copy and downloading the DLC? It has led to a few questionable choices for "Game of the Year" status and somewhat diminished the brand. I hope that's not the case with "Batman: Arkham City," a spectacular game that certainly deserves consideration for the title. It's a game that everyone should play and there's no better way to do so than with this extras-packed edition at a low purchase price.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Developer: Rocksteady
  • ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
  • Genre: Action
  • Pros: Incredible Universe, Spectacular Melee, Perfect Technical Elements, Great Screenplay
  • Cons: Repetitive Side Missions, Bonus Content Subpar to Main Game

Life in Gotham has gotten much worse since the action of the nearly-as-essential "Batman: Arkham Asylum." The prison population has become so unruly and the city has been so overrun by criminals that the mayor has walled off a section of it and turned it into a haven for bad guys known as Arkham City. Of course, it's not long before Bruce Wayne is kidnapped and thrown into this new Hell on Earth. The writers of "Arkham City" use this amazing setting to weave a complex story that involves dozens of timeless Dark Knight characters, including The Joker (Mark Hamill), The Riddler (Wally Wingert), Poison Ivy (Danny Jacobs), Harley Quinn (Tara Strong, who also voices the lead in this month's "Lollipop Chainsaw"), Catwoman (Grey DeLisle), Hugo Strange (Corey Burton), The Penguin (Nolan North), Mr. Freeze (Maurice LaMarche), Talia al Ghul (Stana Katic of "Castle"), and many, many more. It's a greatest hits of Batman lore.

The "Game of the Year Edition" expands on this already rich world with all of the previously available downloadable content and a new story chapter called "Harley Quinn's Revenge." That episode runs about two hours and sits as the highlight of the bonus content atop the "Catwoman Pack," "Robin Bundle Pack," "Nightwing Bundle Pack," "Arkham City Skins Pack," "Challenge Map Pack," and a downloadable digital copy of the excellent DC Universe animated film "Batman: Year One."

Gameplay

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

Image © WBIE

The gameplay of "Batman: Arkham City" is similar to "Arkham Asylum" in that it's a blend of melee combat and puzzle solving. The true genius of both games is how seamlessly a very complex gameplay style is woven into the storytelling. If I told you that combat includes a variety of punch-counter combos and that you carry a number of devices on your Bat-belt, it might sound overly complex but the melee combat in "Arkham City" is one of the most expertly crafted of the last few years. As you flow from one enemy combatant to another, one really gets the feeling of what it's like to be a superhero more than any other game in history. And that's the genius of this title -- for the first time, you feel the responsibility and power of Batman. As you undertake story missions, save innocent people from criminals, or merely soar through the sky, no game has ever captured the life of The Dark Knight more expertly.

Well-designed combat is one thing but it's the storytelling that supports it in "Arkham City." It's complex, daring writing not just on a plot level but with some fantastic dialogue delivered by icons of the animated "Batman" series over the years (Conroy and Hamill are the two best voice actors in the history of the character). The script for "Arkham City" is the best for a superhero film outside of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight."

Finally, there's the world of "Arkham City," one of the most exciting environments of the last several years. It's a wonderfully-designed world with multiple levels, locations, and moods. You'll climb to the top of skyscrapers and dive down into the sewers of Arkham City. And when you're done with the missions, you'll have hours of time to find all of the Riddler trophies scattered in hard-to-reach locations.

What about the new content? It doesn't quite match the perfection of the actual game. In fact, I found "Harley Quinn's Revenge" a bit of a step down on nearly every level, including screenwriting and level design. I would fully recommend spending as much time as possible in the world of "Batman: Arkham City" and so "HQR" and the other bundle packs certainly enhance the overall experience and make the "GOTY" edition the one to get but none of the expansions are as incredible as the actual game (with perhaps the exception of the "Catwoman" pack that most people got on launch day and really is a must-own).

Graphics & Sound

Any list of the best-looking games of the last few years that doesn't include "Batman: Arkham City" is incomplete. The use of shadows and light in this perfectly-designed world is so remarkable that you'll find yourself climbing skyscrapers and just taking a moment to look around. Not only did Rocksteady get the big details of the world right, they nailed the character design on every level. Batman, Joker, Harley -- they look perfect. It's a visual masterpiece. The audio is just about as notable. Conroy, Hamill, Strong, the rest of the voice cast -- these people know and love these characters and could teach lessons in how to do this kind of voice work. They probably already do.

Bottom Line

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

Image © WBIE
So does "Batman: Arkham City" deserve the title of 2012 "Game of the Year"? That's still up for debate given the fact that "Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception," "Dead Space 2," "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," and "Portal 2" were at least as good and arguably better. However, it's certainly in the conversation. And perhaps more than any one of these highly-acclaimed titles, it's a game that's real easy to revisit. You'll enjoy a return trip to "Arkham City" and there's no better way to do it than with the "Game of the Year Edition."
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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