I've been going through this whole 'can't start a new game until I've finished the one I'm playing' thing. This meant that my copy of Batman: Arkham City remained in its cellophane while I was blasting through the last act of Gears of War III. Thankfully I managed to finish that bad boy off late Friday night, allowing me to focus all my time on Arkham.
So far, I've put roughly a couple of hours into Batman: Arkham City, having been constantly interrupted by the usual suspects: social obligations, housework and the fact that it's now really, really sunny outside. But even in those two hours it's become increasingly apparent why the game has earned so much praise.
When a game is all atmosphere and no mechanics, or all about the environment with no core, I tend to get a little bit grumpy. Thankfully, the reason Batman: Arkham City succeeds so dramatically is its solid core, which is, of course, the combat mechanics.
Arkham City's combat mechanics are timing based. First and foremost this an intelligent point of difference that deviates from the usual 'mash it and see' combat that drives most games in the genre six feet under. Batman's combat is an elegant, continually rewarding stroke of genius that allows you to look and feel like Batman in the simplest way possible. No battle ever feels out of reach and, despite the fact that it's so simple, nothing ever feels like a win button — you still feel as though you are being rewarded for doing something correctly. And that's fun.
Then, with the core solid and resolute, Batman: Arkham City is free to add the sort of trimmings, polish and variety that takes the game into the stratosphere. The city's design, the detective aspects of gameplay, the multiple ways in which you navigate the city — it all works in tandem with the pacing and (of course) the combat to create a matrix of different play-styles.
So many games feel like a grind nowadays - games that centre around a single verb and beat it down until you can take no more, or intersperse it with cut-scenes. As much as I enjoyed Gears of War, I spent most of it 'shooting' and that got old after a while. In Batman: Arkham City I'm 'fighting', 'climbing', 'investigating', 'planning', even 'flying'. And every single one of those verbs is seamlessly integrated into one whole - an experience. In that sense the game feels like a modern day Zelda - an experience where everything feels polished and fun.
But then again, I've only been playing for a couple of hours. It might get a bit crap after that!
Alright, enough gushing from me - this is a Community Review after all. What did you guys think of Batman: Arkham City? Let us know in the comments below.