Batman is my favorite superhero. Always has been. With the advent of Christopher Nolan's movies a few years ago, it's probably not a stretch to say that Batman is the favorite superhero of many people. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a handsome billionaire with more toys than Santa? Publisher Rocksteady has been carrying on the tone created for Gotham City and its most famous resident by Nolan's films, and the games have proved just as popular among players as the movies have among theater patrons.

Arkham City, Rocksteady's latest Batman release, debuted in late 2011 to rave reviews and even better sales. After quickly becoming one of the highest rated games of the year on Metacritic, Rocksteady is also starting to see the award nominations begin to roll in for the title.

So, why did I hate this video game so much? According to my save logs, I spent around 14 hours on this game to just complete the main story. It seemed like three times that long. I couldn't WAIT for the credits to finally roll, and that shocked me. As big a fan as I am of the characters, and with a script written by Paul Dini (one of the most recognized Batman authors of this generation), I thought this game would be a huge hit with me. Boy, was I wrong.

The game's downfall, in my opinion, is actually one of the things that makes the Batman stories you read in comic books so great. Batman has too much stuff. His utility belt is chock full of batarangs, remote controlled batarangs, smoke pellets, electrical discharge guns, bathooks, and more, more, MORE. This wouldn't be such a big deal if a player could focus on designing a play style that fits what they enjoy to do. I, personally, would rather specialize in using one or two tools and let the rest fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, that's not an option. Each and every tool has a specific use that arises anywhere from frequently to occasionally, but all must be used at different points to advance the story.

The problem with this arises when I haven't used the tool since the game gave it to me, and then it's needed to solve one particular puzzle. I recall a point in the late game where I spent 20-30 minutes trying to figure out why I couldn't get past a certain sticky situation. I'm not too proud to hit YouTube to figure out what I needed to do, so I finally gave up and went looking for the solution. The video I found showed me I could make quick work of the puzzle using a tool I'd forgotten I had, and didn't even notice among all the other tools in my utility belt. At certain points, the game is very good at providing hints as to what action you need to do next, but at other times, it's strangely silent.

Maybe I'm just getting old, but I had a tough time dealing with the game forcing me to do certain things in certain ways, with no option to solve the puzzle a different way. As I just mentioned. certain specialized tools were provided and then weren't required again until I'd forgotten I had them. Fights with bad guys required combo moves that needed me to enter more complex button patterns than a nuclear launch would require. There's a difference between detail and complexity. I don't mind details, but complexity isn't my idea of fun.

Griping aside, there were some good things about the game. Graphically, it was amazing. I had to purchase a new graphics card for my PC to play it, but it was worth it. If you want to play it, but have anything more than a 9 to 12 month old PC, you should probably look to get it on your console of choice. The story was top notch, as was the voice acting. All your favorite characters, good and bad, make an appearance in the game.

The most glaring omission to me was Killer Croc, and he's pretty secondary in Batman lore. And finally, while I was often frustrated when I had to take on a group of opponents at one time, the ability to stealthily eliminate bad guys one by one (when the game allowed me to) was awesome. Sneaking up behind a guy and knocking him out, or dropping down on an unsuspecting sniper from above almost made up for my other complaints about the game. Almost.

As I look back on this game, having just described a great story, with amazing graphics and terrific voice work, I still can't figure out why I didn't like it. Normally, I'm able to overlook other shortcomings if the three traits I just mentioned are up to par. But Arkham City was one long frustrating experience for me, and I don't see myself ever wanting to go back and play it again. If I haven't fully spoiled you on the game, I'd recommend renting it to get a good feel for the controls before you sink your hard-earned cash into it.

***

Arkham City is rated T for Teen by the ESRB. I noted the following things that may be of concern to some of our readers:

Language:
A**, d**n, b***h, s**t and some blasphemies were heard. During my play through of the main plot, I didn't notice any other suggestive or crude dialog. I can't vouch for all the side quests.

Sexuality: Nothing overt or implied. However, being a comic book video game, the females in the game (specifically Cat Woman and Talia al Ghul) were dressed in some pretty tight clothing. Even though it covered them fully, there wasn't much left to the imagination.

Occult: Ra's al Ghul makes an appearance in this game. He's known as "The Head of the Demon" (a translation of his name from its original Arabic), and is referenced as such a few times.

Violence: Yeah, it's Batman. He beats up a lot of guys. Some bad guys end up dead (but, you as the player never kill them). However, nothing gory or over-the-top.

*This Review First Published 3/12/2012