Review by Syko_666
"This is the game many Batman fans have craved for many years."
Most comic book video game adaptions aren't very good, and suffer from the same problems movie adaptions have, they often have a bad reputation and some have been relatively good with some flaws and others' have been absolutely terrible, and I have absolutely no memory of a Batman game that was in any way good, Batman Begins was a step in the right direction and on paper sounded very good, the actual game was different, so a number of years later we have another Batman game and surprisingly this one isn't based on the animated series or the movies, it's more based on the comics than any other Batman media.
Arkham Asylum's presentation shines from the moment the main menu pops up, and the cutscenes cement the idea to the player that this isn't just your kiddie Batman game, it's a serious, dark and very violent game that Batman fans like myself have craved for years.
This is the meat of the game, we finally get a game where you play as Batman and it actually feels like you are Batman! The combat system is brilliant and doesn't feel repetitive, unlike most games you don't have to memorise a variety of button sequences to land combos, combos are instead made up of strikes, counters and stun attacks, and getting max combos is based around striking and countering as much as possible without an enemy getting a cheap shot in, this may sound easy but it isn't, the combat system is easy to learn, but mastering it can be rather difficult. Also another element is the invisible predator mode, basically Batman is thrown into a room with armed guards, he has to sneak around and take them out, but there is more to this. The guards have no set patrol routes, if you take out one of them from a distance, the guards will notice and come running. This is when it gets interesting, they notice their unconscious comrade and split off into co-ordinated groups. I think now would be the best time to talk about takedowns, in a invisible predator portion of the game, you have a variety of choices, you can stick to the ground or grapple up to the Asylum's old gargoyles as a hiding spot, you may execute silent takedowns on enemies, these takedowns are handy because it takes a little longer for other guards to notice that someone is down, The Joker tells them that a man is down they go to inspect the area and break off into groups, and as you take out more and more they become more nervous and eventually it becomes every man for himself, which serves the player well. Another element of the gameplay is Batman's gadgets, what's a Batman game without the Batarang or the grapple gun? The batarang is an indispensable tool in Batman's arsenal as is the grapple gun, and after a while you can upgrade your gadgets, for example you can get a remote controlled batarang, and you can throw multiple batarangs, the limit is 3 but it becomes a useful feature. You also get 4 other gadgets, the Batclaw, explosive gel, the Line Launcher and a sequencer. The Batclaw allows you to shoot a grapple line and pull an enemy or object such as a vent cover, the explosive gel can be used to take out enemies, access weak points in the environment and it can even be used as a distraction during an invisible predator set-up. the line launcher allows the player to shoot a line and slide horizontally across a gap which is too far for Batman to jump across. The sequencer allows you to bypass security systems and even has a nifty mini-game where you have to use the analog sticks to match up a frequency. Another persistent element are the various challenges The Riddler has left Batman, The Riddler himself does not appear as a boss, but he communicates with Batman, and you have to find Riddler trophies, solve riddles and collect patient interviews, solving riddles is the most satisfying because it takes a brilliant mind to solve them all. Exploration is key to these challenges, and backtracking will be needed to solve them all. There are other elements to the story mode that I haven't mentioned but I don't want to spoil too much, but I will say this. Some of the scenarios the developers have dreamt up are absolute genius and are every Batman geek's wet dream. Outside of the story mode, you have the challenge mode, which is broken down to 2 scenarios, combat and invisible predator, basically you have to perform as best as you can, and you can compare your skills to other people online.
The plot in this game starts off simple, Batman is just after foiling another one of Joker's plots and he is taking him back to Arkham Asylum, but something mad happens, pun intended. Joker has been planning for Batman to take him back to Arkham, he first escapes custody and begins to take over Arkham island along with Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Bane and other Batman villains. Later on we find out Joker has another plan up his sleeve, he is intending to use Venom (the chemical that gives Bane his freakish strength and stamina) to create an army of monsters to destroy Gotham. The plot, along with the game's dark tone make Arkham Asylum an interesting game to play through.
The characters and environments look really well, there is the occasional hiccup with anti-aliasing and lip-syncing but it doesn't do much to dull the experience, the developers sought to alter some of the villains, and they done so really well, the Scarecrow looks terrifying, Harley and Poison Ivy are hot in a very dangerous way, Bane looks more intimidating, Killer Croc is bigger and he is more like a monster than any other version of him presented. The Joker, Batman and Commisioner Gordon haven't been altered as much, but they don't really need to be, they are already iconic enough.
The score is good, but it isn't a stand out in the game, the sound effects are really good and some of the sounds are close to a horror game in many ways. The voice acting is top-notch. Some of the cast from the animated series collaborated in this game, we have Kevin Conroy voicing Batman, he delivers well. The stand-out has to be Mark Hamill as the Joker though, for me Hamill is the ultimate Joker, he nails the voice and personality of the character better than Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger, not to say they did a bad job though.
The reason to replay this game would be to complete all of The Riddler challenges, and also because it's just a great game even without challenges. The challenge mode also adds to the experience because it tells you how good at this game you are compared to other people.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is the game many fans have wanted for years, and it delivers the goods. It is definitely a canididate for game of 2009, and it is not only one of the best games this year, it is the best superhero game of all-time.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/02/09
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (EU, 08/28/09)
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