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Batman: Arkham City

Arkham City review: A Knight to remember

Batman: Arkham City has already been labelled "one of the greatest games ever" by our friends at Games Master in their review - a sizeable claim indeed.

Sure, our expectations sky-rocketed from the boggy marshes of licensed chopped liver and into the superhero stratosphere with Arkham Asylum in 2009, but this is only Rocksteady's third game. The notion of such a young studio competing with the top developers in the world so soon is surely unexpected.

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But now we can answer the question that's been plaguing you for months. Is the Arkham City hype justified?

First of all, Bat fans, you've probably already guessed that you're going to go absolutely crazy for Arkham City. All gaming elements aside, it's simply one of the best Batman interpretations we've seen to date. That's including film, TV, even comics.

And it's for the same reasons that Arkham Asylum became such a fanboy favourite so quickly. Rocksteady completely understands the finest details of Batman and his rogue gallery. With the likes of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill returning as well, plus Animated Series and DC Comics writer Paul Dini holding the pen, there's no denying that in terms of characterisation and plot, Arkham City is as authentic a Batman experience as any.

Then there are the design philosophies running throughout. When it comes to characters like Catwoman, Two-Face, The Joker or Batman himself, Rocksteady has adhered to classic, recognisable designs with a touch of modernisation and the benefit of incredible detail. The Batsuit changes with the light, for example, making for some truly iconic silhouettes at times.

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We were admittedly concerned about the studio taking some liberties, however. Mr. Freeze's bulkier than usual 'trash can' suit, for example, or Penguin's glass bottle monocle and cockney accent left us edgy. But we're pleased to say that after every new introduction we were left at ease and more than satisfied with Rocksteady's unique take. Nods of approval all round.

And there are so many characters behind the walls of Arkham City for Rocksteady to play with and Bat fans to get excited about. While Asylum had countless winks and artefacts pointing to Bat characters that weren't included in the original, Arkham City spoils fans by slinging in just about every villain worth his salt.

You already know about the majority of characters featured in the sequel, Rocksteady hasn't been shy about revealing names even as obscure a Solomon Grundy, all the time assuring us that there are more to come. Let us second that promise right now. There are plenty more characters waiting in the wings to take you by surprise in the suped-up Asylum.

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But that's the surface of the game, the ink on the comic-book panel. Rocksteady's 2009 take on Batman was special because of its incredible level of fan-service, no doubt, but what made it a smash hit was its mechanics. It made you feel as cerebral, dangerous and predatorial as The Dark Knight himself with a number of incredibly effective systems that were as simple to pick up as they were difficult to master.

Those core foundations haven't really changed much and why should they? Batman's free-flowing combat is still a game of timing as you leap from one target to the next countering and smashing your way through crowds to make your attacks harder and faster. New animations take things up a notch and new gadgets - like the freeze-blast - and enemy types add a bit more variation.

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