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Video Game of the Week – Batman: Arkham City

Although we all love and admire the Caped Crusader, the true strength of the Batman franchise has always been in the personalities and props that surround the main character. The Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Catwoman, the Batmobile – all these names have a special place in our comic book hearts and have helped the franchise make an astonishingly successful transition to video games and the big screen.

And then there is Gotham City.

Batman’s home town has more often than not been portrayed as a foreboding metropolis, rife with gangs, grime, and a deep-seated sense of urban decay – “an open sewer of crime and corruption,” as one writer put it. But such an environment translates wonderfully well to the screen, and nowhere is that more true than in Batman: Arkham City, the outstanding new video game from Warner Bros. Interactive for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Arkham City, a run-down neighborhood of North Gotham, has been walled off and turned into a huge super-prison for the city’s worst elements. It’s winter and the cold, mean streets look even more threatening, with a backdrop of swirling snow, abandoned cars, broken neon signs, and shuttered shops.

Into this desperate and dangerous place steps the Dark Knight, forced by the Joker and others to confront the lawlessness and restore order. The video game player controls Batman, using a much-improved array of weapons and special skills to take on a Who’s Who list of villains and other assorted rogues.

Batman’s absence of truly super powers becomes one of the strengths of the game, as you are forced to use not only his considerable fighting skills, but also his intelligence to devise tactics, solve riddles, and select the right tools for the job. The voice work and graphics are incredibly well produced, creating dark and gritty images of Gotham City, which change perfectly in tune with the state of gameplay.

Winning fights and solving puzzles will earn you experience points, which in turn add to your arsenal of weapons and open up additional riddles and side missions. There are a huge number of challenges in Arkham City, and there is a real sense of achievement in discovering the answers to often highly complex problems.

But the real enjoyment comes from just moving around one of the most intimidating but enthralling landscapes you will ever experience. You may hope you never see a place like North Gotham in real life, but in Batman: Arkham City it is quite irresistible.

Batman: Arkham City is rated Teen (age 13 and older) for “alcohol reference, blood, mild language, suggestive themes, use of tobacco, violence.” Check out the helpful video game ratings and content descriptors at ESRB.org.

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Genre: Fantasy action adventure

Release Date: October 18, 2011

RRP: $59.99

ESRB Rating: “Teen” for age 13 and older

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