Game of the month, October 2011

The competition has never been fiercer, but the winner has never been clearer

Winner: Batman: Arkham City

How do you improve on the best superhero game of all time, and one of the greatest adaptations ever accomplished in any medium? How do you top a Game of the Year that, in 2009, won the overwhelming majority of votes from both our editors and our readers?

With Batman: Arkham City, the developers at Rocksteady have made the seemingly impossible look easy. They’ve crafted a story that is much longer and much more epic than in Arkham Asylum, but is somehow more tightly focused and personality driven at the same time – an instant classic deserving of mention in the same breath as Frank Miller’s comics and Christopher Nolan’s films. They’ve tripled the cast of characters, pulling together almost every major hero and villain in the Gotham universe, yet logically connecting and fully justifying the appearance of each one – when even Batman punching a shark in the face makes sense, you know you’re in capable, confident hands. They’ve built a staggering new setting that feels as open and expansive as Rockstar’s sandbox cities, while also as painstakingly intricate and creepily atmospheric as BioShock’s haunted house dystopia – a world you’ll happily fly and fight through for 20, 30, possibly 40 or more hours.

Arkham City isn’t just bigger than Arkham Asylum. Arkham City isn’t just better than Arkham Asylum. Arkham City is the true realization of what Arkham Asylum merely promised, as phenomenal an evolution as the likes of Uncharted 1 to Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2. We thought we were playing a landmark game back in 2009, but that was only practice.

Runner-up: Dark Souls

Given the packed holiday release schedule at the moment, the fact that we’re still playing Dark Souls a month after release is the highest compliment we can pay. It really is that infectious, though – if you’ve got the old-school gaming fortitude to stomach being killed repeatedly and left to figure everything out on your own, you will be sucked in. Every eerie new area found and towering boss slain rewards on a primal level – blood was spilled to get here, the salty fires of rage stoked with your agony. You earned this, damn it.

Add to that a singular style, epic soundtrack and solid mechanics, and Dark Souls easily lives up to its predecessor’s lofty reputation. There wasn’t anything like Demon’s Souls back in 2009 and there isn’t anything like Dark Souls now – this is one of the most unique gaming experiences available.

Batman: Arkham City review
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