Video game review – Batman: Arkham City


Batman: Arkham City
Warner Bros. Interactive/Rocksteady
Xbox 360/PS3

Being Batman is great, and Batman: Arkham City knows it. The sequel to developer Rocksteady Games’ out-of-nowhere 2009 masterpiece Batman: Arkham Asylum drops you into a dystopian city-prison in the middle of Gotham City and lets you slip on the cowl one more time. You skulk around in the shadows, plunge from gargoyles to menace thugs, scope out crime scenes, and solve devious Riddler puzzles because you’re the World’s Greatest Detective, and swoop freely around gang-ridden nighttime streets looking to punch crime in the face. Arkham City does more to make you feel like Batman than most games do to convince you to pretend you’re a superhero. 

For one, Rocksteady’s vision of Gotham is wonderfully realized, striking a perfect balance between Frank Miller grittiness and Tim Burton camp. For every terrible aesthetic choice – Harley Quinn resembles some kind of weird bondage motorcycle Juggalo – there’s a dozen brilliant ones, like the Penguin’s beer-bottle monocle or the Gotham Museum’s decaying opulence. Combat feels wonderfully rhythmic and fluid, if unnecessary complicated at times, and now that you have a whole city to cover there are some genuinely thrilling free-running and cape-gliding mechanics that make you feel even more like the Dark Knight.

All of which is nearly undercut by the game’s jarring, out-of-place sexism. Do we need to hear thugs in the game call women “bitches” and imply that they’d like to rape said women? We already know these goons are bad news; they’re trying to fight Batman, for Christ’s sake. Some of them are even trying to shoot him! If Gotham’s prisons are so full of rapists, and if villains like the Joker are relying on these rapists to form their army-sized gangs, maybe Batman could save himself a lot of face-punching and shadow-skulking if he sunk the Bruce Wayne fortune into some “No Means No” or “Take Back the Night” campaigns. It doesn’t take the World’s Greatest Detective to figure that out.

John Cameron

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