When it debuted in 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum was praised as a "best-in-class game," raising the bar for superhero video games. Now its sequel, Batman: Arkham City, has arrived, and critics say it's even better. The role-playing game picks up one year after Arkham Asylum. The former warden of the corrupt asylum becomes mayor of Gotham City and erects walls around its slums, converting them into a massive open-air prison named Arkham City. Enter the Dark Knight to clean up the mess. The game's 96 out of 100 critics' score on Metacritic makes it the top-rated of the year so far. Is it the "perfect superhero game?"
It sets a new precedent: Arkham City "should land a motivation-packed 'POW!' on the jaw of every developer" working on superhero video games, says Wook Kim at TIME. All the elements that made Asylum a success are back, only "bigger and better." There is five times more gaming real estate for Batman to navigate, along with "almost-perfectly calibrated combat," new weapons, and enhanced abilities. It's a "tense and thrilling gaming experience."
"Batman: Arkham City — A knight to remember"
And pulls off the tricky open-world concept: Arkham City translates the linear action of Arkham Asylum into an open world, letting players roam and take on side challenges, says Ebenezer Samuel at The Daily News. While most open-world games sacrifice storylines for that free-range novelty — "leaving you in a sandbox with plenty of toys and little focus" — Arkham City integrates everything into the mission, keeping you focused. "Prepare to spend the next 40 or 50 hours of your life" immersed in the "most well-crafted open-world environment" offered by any video game.
"Batman: Arkham City"
But the combat is subpar: I'm "not a fan," says Matt Peckham at PC World. The combat in Arkham City is either "brick-wall impossible, or way too forgiving" — the result is boredom. Batman's attack moves are controlled by a "one-button-for-every-move" concept, which makes complex battles frustratingly impossible to pull off. But any novice gamer could figure out that hitting all of the buttons frantically actually wins each battle — a cheat, not the mark of an A-class video game.
"Arkham City's too-forgiving combat system"
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