Review by Elranzer
"A good Batman game, but not of all time"
Eidos brings us Batman: Arkham Asylum, their swan song before being merged by Square Enix. The ambitious project brings to the table an original concept (at least for video games) that isn't a movie tie-in or LEGO-themed. Often delayed and hyped up, the game was finally released in August 2009. Does it live up to the wait, the hype and the (obviously paid-for) critical rave? Find out
The story is extremely loosely based off of the Batman: Arkham Asylum graphic novel from a few years ago. The common basic plot between them is that the Joker lures Batman into a trap, essentially locking Batman in Arkham with all of the villains, with the villains in control. Paul Dini, who is one of the Animated Series main writers, pens the plot and script for this game. The plot translates well into the game, but it is very short, and there are some inconsistencies between this game and the comic/animated lore, which is weird considering Dini wrote for both the comics and the Animated Series. The dialog itself can be weak, even coming from Dini, and the plot is quite simple and short.
We see a darker, edgier style for Batman, the villains and the atmosphere. Yes, they somehow have managed to make Batman even darker than Frank Miller, Alan Moore and the Animated Series were able to do. Characters, costumes and environment textures are extremely detailed, if not mostly brown and gray. Arkham Asylum itself (the building) comes across as a highly industrial-styled factory/torture playground. As for the technical visuals, the game is presented in glorious 720p (sorry, 1080p owners) and contains some jaggies (this is in both systems' version), and honestly they're pretty obvious. There's some skipping in the FMV, that may be due to the Blu-ray drive's slow speeds.
Big points for the voice acting. The big news was that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return to voice Batman and the Joker, respectively (you can tell that Hamill's voice is aging, though). Also returning is Arleen Sorkin, the original voice of Harley Quinn (which, in my opinion, is equally as important as Mark Hamill). Ron Perlman returns to voice Clayface and Killer Croc. Sadly, John Glover was unavailable to voice the Riddler, and Roddy McDowall has passed away, unable to ever play the Mad Hatter again (who isn't even in the game, odd since he was in the graphic novel). Other voice actors from the Animated Series also return. As for the music, composed by Ron Fish, it's mostly ambient and forgettable (it's not quite the scores that Danny Elfman or Shirley Walker have brilliantly composed in the past).
This is where points deduct. Batman: Arkham Aslum is highly stylized with a great presentation, but that's just the frosting on a mediocre third-person perspective 3D action game. Honestly, the game reminded me of Watchmen: The End is Nigh, though not NEARLY that bad! The game is very linear and way too easy, even on hard difficulty. Even if you turn off the hints, the game basically holds your hand through all of the combat, plot and puzzles.
Replay Value and Extras [7/10]
Replay value comes from your desire to beat the game again on all difficulties, and if you would like to try to find all of the Riddler's trophies (a type of item hidden all over the place in Arkham, encouraging you to explore). The PS3 in particular has two nice exclusives. First, you get to play as the Joker in the Joker's challenge maps, downloadable off of PSN. Second, you get a Bat-cave for your PlayStation Home. This is given to you after you log into Home, after playing the game once on your PS3 and creating a save file (I'm not sure if it checks for both an installation and save file, probably both). The Bat-cave acts as an alternative personal homebase to your apartment, if you wish.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a mediocre action game with an excellent paint job. Sure, you'll look over the plot holes (why is Ra's Al Ghul in Arkham Aslylum?) and the lack of a real score to lust over the art style and PS3 extras, mainly the Joker challenge maps. But once you beat the game once, there's really no going back to it.
Well worth a rental (which still gets you the Bat-cave for Home).
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 08/28/09
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)
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