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(Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year Edition for Mac has been selected as one of MacLife's 25 Best Mac Games Today!)
Batman: Arkham Asylum, released on Mac last year, pushed superhero games in directions that nobody really expected but everyone wanted (and almost immediately began to copy). Its rhythmic fights were immediately satisfying and endlessly fun. Its wonderfully creepy, secret-filled world was a joy to explore. And its atmospheric detective puzzles and stealth challenges explored a side of Batman that seldom came through in games. So how does Batman: Arkham City top that formula? By giving us much, much more of it.
In place of the creepy asylum, we have Arkham City, a sprawling open-world slum-turned-prison colony that’s become an unhappy home to all of Gotham’s most vicious criminals. A dark jumble of candy-colored neon and crumbling Art Deco architecture, Arkham is enormous, offering up endless opportunities to scale its tall buildings (with Batman’s grappling hook), glide high above its streets on the Dark Knight’s high-tech cape, or dive down into its alleys to brawl with roving gangs of thugs. It’s also crammed with enough compelling (and surprisingly elaborate) scavenger hunts and side-quests to keep dedicated players active for days after the story wraps up.
As fun as Arkham is to explore, it’s the building interiors that offer up the game’s most memorable moments. Instead of a few notable villains, Arkham sets twisted nightmare versions of most of Batman’s rogue’s gallery breathing down our necks. The Joker, Bane, The Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, and Ra's Al Ghul are just a few of the antagonists you'll encounter, and each one has a separate story arc and a distinctive, hazard-filled lair. Getting through these requires a mix of puzzle-solving and fighting, with the latter improving on Asylum’s near-perfect system of martial-arts beatdowns and carefully timed counters. And if you’re feeling devious, there are plenty of opportunities to mess with each villain’s attendant thugs by hiding in the shadows and knocking them out, one by one, as the “survivors” grow increasingly (and visibly) terrified.
While adopting a "throw in more stuff" approach can sometimes lead to confused, obligatory-feeling sequels, in Arkham City it works beautifully. The story, action, and exploration all come together to create something that stays interesting throughout, and because this is the Game of the Year edition, it's all supplemented with even more content. All of Catwoman's story missions, every optional character skin, and even the short-but-fun Harley Quinn’s Revenge add-on episode are included and ready to play.
While the Mac port is mostly stellar, however, we did run into a few performance issues on our test machines. On a 2010 Macbook Pro with a 512 MB GeForce GT 330M video card, we ran into frequent slowdown and visual stuttering, especially during fights and open-world exploration, and adjusting the detail settings neither improved nor worsened the problem (so at least it looked pretty, even when it chugged). These issues were much less frequent (but still noticeable) on a 2008 Mac Pro with a GeForce 8800 GT, meanwhile, and on a 2012 Macbook Pro with Intel HD 4000, it ran flawlessly. Still, we’d recommend a fairly beefy machine (or at least a newer video card) for best results.
The bottom line. Batman: Arkham City is an amazing game on any platform, and despite a few hiccups, it's still a must-play for any serious gamer.
Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year Edition
OS X 10.7.4 or later, 2 GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 256MB VRAM
Huge, sprawling city filled with interesting things to see and do. Compelling story. Endlessly enjoyable, rhythmic hand-to-hand fights and stealth-takedown sequences. Possibly the best superhero game ever made.
Performance problems on lower-end Macs that met or exceeded minimum specs. The epithets thugs hurl at Catwoman can get tiresome.