- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2011

The Dark Knight returns to a video-game format in Batman: Arkham City (Warner Bros. Interactive and Rocksteady, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated Teen, $59.99), a sequel to the 2009 award-winning, third-person adventure.

A solo player takes control of Bob Kane’s vigilante as he uses his finest combat, stealth and detective skills to stop a rogue’s gallery of thugs, gangsters and criminal masterminds. 

What’s the story: (Compiled from game and press release materials) Following the closure of Arkham Asylum and Blackgate prison, Gotham’s new mayor, Quincy Sharp orders the relocation of all inmates to Arkham City — a sprawling new super-prison five times bigger than Arkham Island and enclosing a wide variety of industrial districts.

When Arkham City warden Hugo Strange kidnaps Bruce Wayne and dumps him into the massive prison, the inmates get more than they bargained for — the Batman is now on the prowl and ready to clean up the growing menace within the walled-off portion of his beloved Gotham City. 

Play the role: Control the mighty Caped Crusader (with a George Clooney chin) as he freely explores, from the ground and through the sky, such locales as Ace Chemicals, Solomon Wayne Courthouse, the old Gotham City Police Department and the Iceberg Lounge while fighting through hordes of maniacal minions to get his gloved hands on some legendary arch enemies.

The Penguin causes big trouble for Joker and Mr. Freeze in the video game Batman: Arkham City.
The Penguin causes big trouble for Joker and Mr. Freeze in the ... more >

Those premiere bad guys, plucked from his 72-year comic book history include Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, Solomon Grundy, Poison Ivy, Bane, Calendar Man, Black Mask, Mad Hatter and Clayface.

As our hero works through a story, while a player feels stuck in an “Escape from New York” sequel, he gets help from trusted butler Alfred Pennyworth and Oracle (using radio communications) and travels in the city by performing such incredible feats as catching a ride on a helicopter, using his Line Launcher to zip between two points and gliding from building to building with a cape that looks like a living entity.

In addition to unraveling the plot, loaded with one heck of a finale by the way, a player can conquer more than 400 Riddler Challenges scattered in environments and eventually tackle side missions including Augmented Reality tests to hone skills, rescuing Vicki Vale, and an informational encounter with Bane. Most all of the extra work pays off in weapons and combat upgrades. 

Get to the action: With a player constantly refining his carefully timed button mashing skills, this mix of close-quarters, free-flowing, hand-to-hand combat combines with stealth maneuvers to make for a violent ballet of combination attacks.

Once again, Batman’s Utility Belt is also packed with “those wonderful toys” such as a smoke pellet to confuse thugs, a Quickfire Batarang (or even a remote controlled version), Batclaw (to grab enemies and objects), Remote Electric Charge (shock thugs and magnetize objects), Cryptographic Sequencer (hack doors and crack radio signals), Disrupter (neutralize weapons) and freeze grenades.

When Batman is not attacking he can liberally use a Detective Mode (a sophisticated infrared scanner in his cowl) to assess any hostile location — refined down to seeing through walls, identifying armed enemies, measuring smoke density, examining evidence and analyzing blood samples. 

Violent encounters: Batman’s slick moves leads to a variety of brutal tactics that include head butts, elbows to the nose, slamming heads to concrete, slaps to the eardrums, sleeper holds, kicks to the gut, punches to the chops, flying kicks to the head, grabbing and tossing an enemy over a ledge, leg choking thugs, smashing and grabbing bad guys through walls and windows and even inverted takedowns (drop down from above, pull an inmate up and leave him tied and hanging by his feet).

The action continues to get more outrageous as the hero finds himself against hordes of criminals and security teams (”49 hostiles detected,” are you kidding me?), packing pistols, bats, machine guns, sniper rifles, machetes and other deadly weapons.

However, let’s remember, this is a game starring a super hero ready to save innocents (from political prisoners to Gotham’s finest) while dispatching his brand of justice, so the takedown of this scum is more than warranted.

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