Batman: Arkham Asylum looked promising pre-release, but no-one really expected it to be quite the critical and commercial smash-hit that it was. We vividly remember spending a few moments with the demo before our review copy showed up the following weekend, and recall being blown away by the game's moody tone.
But Arkham Asylum was so much more than pure aesthetics. The game was a triumph of design, slowly opening up new areas of the limited — but big enough — open-world environment. It felt like a Metroid game set in the Batman universe. And it worked so well. Every inch of Arkham Asylum was expertly tuned, from the level design, to the combat, to the narrative and voice-acting. How do you follow up such a surprise smash-hit?
Avoiding a sophomore slump must have been top of Rocksteady's objectives list during the development of Batman: Arkham City. It seems the studio's focusing its attention on more: bigger environments, larger combat encounters and more villains. What we're most interested in though is the narrative. Arkham Asylum did a great job of embedding you inside a comic book story, and had some really powerful interactive story moments. We're big fans of using the video game medium to create really intriguing, psychological set-pieces, and Arkham Asylum achieved that frequently.
The build-up to Batman: Arkham City has been relatively muted, largely because of Warner Bros' strict embargoes and behind-closed-doors demos. But at the same time, it feels like people are simply awaiting validation. We suspect a number of you reading this have already preordered Batman: Arkham City, which is an impressive feat when you consider just how little build-up the game's had in terms of assets and trailers. It's that kind of anticipation that puts Arkham City right at the top of our most wanted list.