Batman: Arkham City
Brooding vigilante superhero Batman’s last game, Arkham Asylum, impressed us with its pinpoint accurate portrayal of Gotham City’s home for the criminally insane, so we were more eager than Alfred on wash day to get stuck into its sequel.
In a highly implausible act of urban planning, the overflowing halls of Arkham have been extended into a cordoned-off ghetto of Gotham itself, creating a huge open-air prison. As well as creating an expansive environment to explore as Batman, it also offers much more variety than the first game – churches, museums and derelict subway stations are all joined by dimly lit, trash-strewn streets, but you can soar above them using Batman’s signature cape and grappling hook. Navigating the city would be easier with a more detailed in-game map, although you can at least mark points of interest.
The city, along with everything in it, is stunningly rendered, but the already gorgeous graphics look even better if you have a graphics card that supports DirectX 11. Weather effects such as sleet and mist look stunning, while lightning effects and textures take on a new life of their own. Nvidia's PhysX technology is also supported, adding some neat physics effects such as rubbish billowing down windy streets, but you’re unlikely to notice them in the heat of combat.
Arkham Asylum veterans will feel right at home with the game mechanics, which have been tightened and improved. Investigating the nefarious machinations of the various inmates and sinister authorities running the prison, you’ll encounter lowly thugs and super villains alike that must all be dealt with using a combination of clever gadgets and brutal brawling. Combat flows smoothly between silent, stealthy takedowns and vicious punch-ups with an augmented reality 'detective vision' helping you to spot enemies and items of interest. Despite his muscle bound physique, Batman isn't invulnerable and must gain access to new gadgets and combat moves to help take down more powerful enemies.
These are unlocked using experience points gained in combat - the more blows you land on your enemies without taking damage, the more points you gain. You'll gain even more points if you can successfully deploy Batman's arsenal of gadgets in combat, from stunning criminals with a Taser, knocking out multiple foes with batarangs or remotely jamming their guns with your disruptor. You can also use your environment to your advantage by dive bombing from tall rooftops.