Batman: Arkham Asylum impressed audiences by bucking the trend of licensed superhero games. It wasn't just "good for a superhero game"; it was an unqualified success, both critically and commercially. Years later, developer Rocksteady had the unenviable (and inevitable) task of creating a sequel. They attempted to craft a game that could expand the concept of Arkham Asylum without compromising its original vision, and in many ways Batman: Arkham City does just that.
The shock of a quality Batman game may have worn off in the years since our visit to the creepy mental hospital, and players had mixed reactions to the expansion of a larger open world. However, the game refined and honed some of the best qualities from Arkham Asylum. One of the most responsive third-person combat systems in modern games felt even more so with the addition of double-counters and expanded gadgetry, letting the Dark Knight wreak even more havoc on any thugs dumb enough to take him on. The story was overhauled from a glorified steroid metaphor into a winding, twisting narrative that spanned the character's canon and weaved villains against each other. This led to a shocking, poignant conclusion that could go toe-to-toe with some of the best graphic novels DC has to offer.
Batman: Arkham City may have felt less revolutionary than its predecessor, but it was a sharpened iteration that made good on its promise and further cemented the so-called Arkhamverse as one of the most unique ones the character has to offer. It just so happens to take place almost entirely in the realm of our chosen medium, and that's something to celebrate.
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The Shacknews 2011 Game of the Year awards are based on a weighted scoring system between all staff writers and editors [here's how it works!]. Last week we revealed our "Honorable Mentions," which include the titles that did not quite make our overall 'Top Five Games of the Year.' This week we reveal that Top Five list, with our Overall Game of the Year award being announced on January 20.