So, I’ve been doing a lot of this lately:

Surrounded by so much ugly

I finished the story of Batman: Arkham City tonight… the wording is careful, as the game tells me I’m just 49% done.  I got all the Riddler trophies for Arkham Asylum, and I’ll probably do the same here, just to have an excuse to explore the city and finish the side missions.  And play the sweet, sweet combat and predator maps.  I don’t entirely like the fact that you have to unlock them, as maxing out Riddler is really only fun once.  At least the post-main-story part looks like it’ll be more fun, as there are still plenty of thugs to beat up.

The game itself is great, though it verges at times into sensory overload.  The game keeps throwing distractions at you, as all the other supervillains want their time on the stage, and even Oracle has set up some challenges for you.  Some of the boss fights were fairly hairy… but just doable.   I think the worst one was Ra’s al-Ghul, because I really hate the guys with knives.  For some reason the blade evade doesn’t come naturally to me, and usually it’s faster to just jump over them.

The overall story is of course that after the events at Arkham Asylum, Gotham has decided that it’d make sense to concentrate more psychos in a larger space, and put it under the control of Hugo Strange.  At least Bruce Wayne recognizes that this is a poor idea, but it does provide quite a playground for Batman. 

The art design outdoes Arkham Asylum, creating a beautiful decrepit urban environment, with art nouveau flourishes.

27 m away from Batman kicking your ass

But the heart of the game is melee combat and stealth, and the game does both better than any other game I know– largely by giving you so many options.  Stealth isn’t just a matter of holding down the Ctrl key; you have a dozen things you can do, and the thugs you’re after are smarter than ever, though it’s just as fun to see them increasingly panicked as you pick them off.  Combat will go better if you practice on the combat maps to get the flow down: you’re not going to do well with button mashing. 

Catwoman gets some good missions, especially fun as she has her own gadgets and tricks and seems to move a little faster than Batman… I actually find it easier to fight as Catwoman.  I wish there were a lot more of her; I’d love to play a whole Catwoman game.

In the end they take a pretty cheeky decision; I hope they don’t reverse it in the inevitable sequel.  Arkham Galaxy?  I hope they take a slightly different direction next time, as I’m not sure we need a bigger environment next time.  It’d be interesting to take the game to the streets of Gotham itself, so you’d have to distinguish thugs from solid citizens.