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Nathan Hardisty

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Arkham City: Balancing act


Arkham Asylum†is the great comic-book video-game adaptation of all time. I donít think anyone particularly doubts that, perhaps some have other†allegiances, but to me Arkham Asylum†is the pinnacle of the sub-genre of a sub-genre. It is perfection in motion and Iíve beaten the game three times, Platinumíd it on the PS3 and done all manner of tinkering over on the 360. The game has its faults, no doubt about that, the ending itself being one giant destruction of character and the word Ďinterestingí failing to even show up. I still love the game regardless.

Arkham City†then has its work cut out for it. Itís the sequel to a game that really shouldnít work, a licensed product that couldíve easily been churned out, except the developers did Batsy proud. This blend of Burton and Nolan and the comic book lore has all led to this wonder of an experience and Iíd certainly like to see that continue. I find all the comic book writing to be quite cutesy and juxtaposes against all the seriousness currently going on, and I also find all the hyper-sexualization of the female characters to perhaps parody its inky medium brethren.

There is a worry on my mind that has probably rested for a long while and that is Arkham AsylumĎs strongest play point: the stealth. I felt like Batman 100% of the time and I donít think there ever was really any disconnect at all. The stalking of guards and the playing of minds all centred the experience around a more cerebral approach to tackling the gameís problems and for that it has to be commended. Stealth has a genre has been filled with some really stellar titles like the Hitman†series, Thief†and (in some ways) the Sly Cooper series.

What separates City†and Asylum†is something scary to me. So far Iíve been treated to Riddler challenge room footage, City-flying footage and fighting footage. Iíve been hearing from the wonderful British developers (such as the ever sexilicious bodacious Sefton Hill) that the game will boast a giant increase in what you can achieve in combat. Explosive gel in mid-fight, double the animations, specific Catwoman stuff and all sorts of foolery. What Iím worried about is Arkham†losing its magic, the real drive been its gameplay backbone: the balancing act.

Stealth in Asylum†was a highlight for me simply because it was done so elegantly, but I didnít dismiss the combat aspect. The Challenge Room mode made me a pro at the fighting system, so Iím more than ready to destroy everyone in City, what I am worried about however is throwing more weight around the combat mechanic and suiting it up. Lets be clear with this, we havenít seen any Stealth gameplay at all. What I have seen is a little introduction to Two-Faceís Courthouse in which you creep about the rafters, take out one dude, and then jump down into a fight club.

Its not that an emphasis on combat has me worried, its that the balancing act of Stealth and Combat which made Asylum†so strong will be lost. One will simply have more Ďscreentimeí than the other, or at least leave a bigger impact on the progression. To be completely honest, this wouldnít surprise me that much given AsylumĎs main boss fights were giant outpouring of muscle. Killer Croc is kind of an exception but itís sort of this mishmash between the two, which ends up being pretty tense, but the rest of the boss fights are all Ďpunch thingí. Perhaps in the first game there was already a weight around the combat.

Yet, the Stealth was so good and so well designed that you just couldnít ignore the balancing of the two. It felt real and punchy and was just a highlight as any boss fight. The feeling you get from picking off guards one by one and seeing their little scared animations start to unfold, that is the beauty of Batman. It is of commanding fear as a weapon and I think Arkham Asylum†certainly does this. City, once again as far as Iíve seen, doesnít perfectly preserve this balancing act. Iím sure the game will be damn good, but perhaps a less enclosed space may drive Rocksteady to experiment elsewhere.

Iím fine with them experimenting, but Iíd like some of that to rub off into the stealth aspect. Itíd be really cool to have more ways to scare people, perhaps a crowd of bats to distract them while you escape or being able to hold guards by their throats and then drop them on to one of their friends. More ways to strike fear would freshen up the game, give it new life and perhaps the balancing act will be preserved. If itís the same gameplay template from the first game I wonít exactly be disappointed but I wonít be thrilled, it was already quite a perfect system, but sequels are meant to progress or transcend ideas into new territory.

Iím looking forward to the game about as much as anyone, but I thought Iíd raise this little qualm of mine.
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About Nathsiesone of us since 4:57 PM on 02.26.2010

I'm Nathan Hardisty, an author, ex-editorial writer for Platformnation.com, ex-games writer at Screenjabber. I now write for a variety of sites on the internet while still updating both my DTOID blog and my regular blog, which can be found below.

I am currently writing for Flixist.com

Also I'm incredibly pretentious about video-games so beware. I might just hipsterblow your minds.

I can be reached at:

[email protected]

Xbox LIVE:Bananahs


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