Batman: Arkham City | Writer’s GOTY
Now that I’ve had some time to look back at the year that was 2011 (technically still is in fact), it’s no longer hyperbole to declare it one of the industry’s best since the dawn of Pong. Nearly every highly-anticipated game made good on its potential (except for you, Dragon Age II), making it nearly impossible to widdle this embarrassment of riches down to a solitary game.
Coming into the year I could barely hold my water thinking about the glorious lineup of AAA games set to make their debut before the Mayans would end the world.
The year appeared to have a little something for everyone. Right from the start Dead Space 2 and Mass Effect 2 would give us much to play during black hole that ordinarily resides in the early months. Uncharted and inFamous, arguably the PS3′s most prominent franchises, would be releasing sequels, and all the while fans of the gunplay and threes would surely get more than their fill with Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Killzone 3 and Resistance 3.
However, one game perched itself in mid October poised to either completely buck the trend of abysmal superhero games or validate my cynicism, Batman: Arkham City.
For myself, the reasoning behind picking Arkham City as my game of 2011 goes beyond the time I spent and continue to spend breaking bones and saving political prisoners inside Gotham’s ill-conceived zoning decision.
2009′s Batman: Arkham Asylum (AA) was a fantastic game and a no-brainer as the best videogame to ever feature a cape and/or cowl, but Rocksteady’s inaugural venture into the Batman universe was somewhat of a surprise hit. For Arkham City (AC), the stakes had be raised and the circumstances could not have been more different.
In the months leading up to the release date (otherwise known as every month since it was announced), I had to repeatedly remind myself to reel in the excitement. There were times when I quite literally had to tell myself “It’s only a trailer, take it easy”. My love of the bat and video games was turning the collaboration of the two into a tangle of expectations that Arkham City would perhaps never meet.
When I finally got my hands on the game I promptly kissed my girlfriend goodbye as if I were boarding a steamship bound for parts unknown in anticipation of our lengthy time apart. I’ve covered the entirety of my thoughts on the game in the review so I’ll try to keep this to why I eventually decided it was my game of the year over the handful of other deserving titles.
Following the ultimately forgettable battle with the TITAN injected Joker that concluded Arkham Asylum, I was sure that it was one of the best games I had ever played. A benchmark for me personally as a serious gamer. Thus, be it rational or not, I did not think it possible to top the package that Arkham Asylum delivered. The feeling I had after playing (I’ll keep this spoiler free) Arkham City however exceeded my admiration of the original. Not unlike a kid who doesn’t think he could be any freer than he is with his bicycle and the open road until one day he obtains a driver’s license.
Technically Rocksteady’s sequel was AA’s superior in every facet. Everything from visuals, sound, load times, character models, etc. was unquestionably cleaner. That being said, the technical triumphs of AC have, in truth, very little to do with my choice for GOTY.
The best way to describe my affinity for the game is to say that it made me feel full. Not as in the physical condition but more in the way it fulfilled my hopes and untamable expectations.
Effectively Rocksteady brought the Batman universe to life in a way that other iterations and mediums have not. The characters and story that bound them were so satisfying that I often went out of my way to avoid advancing the story because I knew that I would be that much closer to the end.
Though I certainly consider myself an adamant gamer, games that consume my thoughts before and after their release in the way Arkham City did are increasingly rare gems. Admittedly Arkham City is not a game without its flaws but I enjoyed every minute of it and would give it my highest recommendation to anyone who dares broach the subject of video games with me in casual conversation.
In short I stand by what I said at the conclusion of the review, “Simply put Batman: Arkham City is one of the most, if not most, complete games I’ve ever played easily finding its way onto the ballot for game of the year and entering the conversation for best game of this console generation”.