Certified Member of the Arkham Expansion Committee (spoilers)

I really liked Arkham City; it's a testament to Rocksteady that the game is able to both expand and refine Asylum's gameplay. I was afraid that feature creep was gonna kick in, but the controls are straightforward and I felt like I had a good grasp on my gadgets and tactics at all times (still haven't gotten the hang of that goddamn Knife Dodge Takedown, though). The Freeflow combat stuff is fundamentally the same as Asylum, but there are now dual and environmental takedowns, better gadget integration, and assorted new upgrades. The world is suitably big and filled with men to pound into unconsciousness, trophies to nab, and...rings to fly through? It can get pretty 'gamey,' yeah, but my real issue is the well-documented silliness of Batman taking a break from saving Gotham to work on his gliding skills; hell if I don't want to do all of it, though. Also, I found Catwoman (bought the game new) to be a joy to play because she felt so different to Batman - agile where he's deliberate. Using her whip to hop around is a fun diversion and crawling on ceilings is pretty cool. I'm easy to please.

Mechanically, then, the game is sound. The story is where things get dicey. There's an insatiable "more, more, more" mentality to the story: Catwoman, Two-Face, Penguin, Joker, Ra's and Talia al Ghul, Clayface, Harley Quinn, Quincy Sharp, Hugo Strange, and Mr. Freeze all figure heavily into the various twists and turns of the plot, and hanging around on the periphery are even more characters - Riddler, Robin, Alfred, Vicki Vale, Deadshot, Hush, Azrael, Oracle, Zsasz, Calendar Man, Bane, Solomon Grundy...you get the idea. As a lifelong Bat-freak I can't say I'm disappointed that they included a billion characters, but the story does feel rather perfunctory as a result. Go here to fetch this; learn that it's going to take several detours to fetch that. Repeat. Luckily, the very end of the game manages to be impressively bittersweet in handling an end (?) to the eternally symbiotic Joker-Bats relationship.

GENDERED INSULTS, BITCH: there are a lot. I think it'd be easier to take if Catwoman wasn't so obviously written by someone who's never actually heard a real-life woman speak - then again, crazy sexism and unconvincing female characters are basically the New 52's remit, so the game's right on point. A good summary of the situation is Joss Whedon's response to the query, "So why do you write these strong female characters:" "Because you're still asking me that question."

Arkham City has its issues, yes, but between the improvements to the combat and traversal and the veritable feast of Batman lore, it's a must-play.

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