"Batman: Arkham City" is the closest you'll be able to get to living out all of your superhero fantasies without worrying about increases in your health insurance. The game is simply a masterpiece.
"Arkham City," developed by Rocksteady, picks up almost immediately where 2009's "Batman: Arkham Asylum" left off, with Gotham's most dangerous criminals, such as the Joker, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze allowed to roam free on the sealed-off super-prison island of Arkham City. Fans of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" will immediately recognize the setting.
Those who played through "Arkham Asylum" will have no trouble picking up the gameplay in "Arkham City", as it remains mostly the same but operates on a much larger scale. Instead of being locked into Arkham Asylum, you are freely able to explore Arkham City. Think of it as being like the "Grand Theft Auto" series, only this time you get to play the good guy.
And just as in "Grand Theft Auto," there's a main storyline and mission you can follow as you try to take out the Joker and escape from Arkham City, but there are also tons of side missions to focus your attention on as well. Everything from solving puzzles The Riddler has left out to toy with your head; to racing across the city, in the style of "Die Hard: With a Vengeance," answering ringing payphones to stop a murder; to finding all of Joker's balloons tied up around the city. It's the kind of stuff that will keep players coming back again and again, trying to find every little hidden nook, turning over every rock, and getting every achievement.
And once you think you've found everything, the fun won't stop there. Rocksteady has also been good about supporting this game with great downloadable content, allowing players to take on the roles of Catwoman and Robin, which opens the game up to even more possibilities. Bottom line: If you pick up this game now, even if you're an avid gamer, you're going to be playing it for many, many months to come.
For those who aren't avid gamers and are afraid that it will be too complicated to get into, don't worry. The controls are ingeniously simple: one button to fight, one to block and counter an attack, one to jump. As you progress in the game, you'll constantly be opening up new moves, new combinations, and, most important, new Batman-style gadgets to try out on your enemies. The game is great at pacing these achievements out so you never feel too underpowered against your enemies, and you never get bored because you can dispatch them too easily.
Should you buy this game? Absolutely. It's a game for anyone who's a fan of the Batman movies, the comics, the animated series, or just superheroes in general. However, parents should heed the Teen rating very strongly; there is some strong language and violence.
But if you've seen any of the superhero blockbusters over the last few summers, you'll know what you're in for. The replay value alone will give you the most bang for your buck this holiday season, and will definitely keep you entertained until the next Batman movie comes out next summer.
The game is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC and is priced at $49.99.