Review by Zork86
"This has been a LONG time coming..."
I have to be completely honest here. Never did I ever think that we'd get another great Batman game. I had thought the Dark Knight's video game greatness washed away with the Super Nintendo's Adventures of Batman & Robin from 1994. To me, that was the last great Batman game. It didn't help either that all people wanted to do afterwards was just base their games off of the movies that came out, yeah sure a game based off of Batman Forever or Batman & Robin sounds awesome.
To be fair though, Batman Begins was a pretty decent movie game, it was just far too linear and easy. So we went pretty much FIFTEEN YEARS without another notable game about Batman and we finally got one. Arkham Asylum is here, and it came here with a bang!
This game may not have many options or anything to tweak settings to your liking but does it ever make up for that with an intuitive camera control, awesome cut scenes and a great storyline that makes you feel like you're playing a graphic novel. Of course that's because the story was penned by Paul Dini, the man behind the Batman Animated series and pretty much the rest of the DC Animated stuff. There are also plenty of awesome Water Cooler moments where you'll sit around and talk to people who have played the game and you'll hear things like Man, what did you think of the part where Batman- and I'm ending it there, because I don't want to spoil any of that. Those moments are part of what makes the game so great.
Score: 10 - Amazing
The gameplay mainly revolves around you playing as Batman running around fighting off The Joker's goons using your great combat expertise as Batman to subdue them, using your Detective Vision to find clues and follow leads as to what to do next, and using your various gadgets to help you get further in the game or take down enemies why is it that nobody could understand how to encompass all this into a game about Batman. I don't know why it took so long but somebody got it finally. Combat is very easy to learn and really it won't take long to master. Fighting people will pretty much revolve around the four face buttons, one button is dedicated completely to striking, one to counters, one is a stun move and the last one is for dodging, and jumping over enemies. That's pretty much where the easy to learn thing comes from, but you'll have to be careful during combat. If you're really good you can take on many enemies at once and get out without a scratch on you but if you don't watch out you can be killed. Batman is human after all.
The other, and in my personal opinion more fun side of combat isn't when you're down there fighting a bunch of guys off, but when you're perched on top of gargoyle or some other really high vantage point just observing the field. There are many moments in the game where Batman will have to chance to not be detected by enemies and take everyone out stealthily, just calculating and plotting each step to your plan and finding the closest or weakest link in the guards. The great thing about these moments in the game is that there are so many ways to take a guard out. You can catch him with your Bat Claw (which is basically like a grappling hook) and pull him off of a catwalk (Just like in Tim Burton's 1989 movie!), or you could wait for him to come to you and hang upside down on a gargoyle and grab him! I could go on with more examples but just take my word for it, you can take anyone out in pretty much any fashion you'd want to in these situations.
My only nitpick about the gameplay is Detective Mode. I have to give credit to Rocksteady Studios, they at least tried to include Batman's detective element in the game which is something nearly all other developers have failed to do and they did a pretty decent job the problem is just how it works. You pretty much tap a button that will give Batman an X-Ray like vision, yep you can see thugs through walls and other things but what this is mainly for, is for following DNA samples, footprints, and various other kinds of things. A sequence like this will usually start out by Batman realizing he's lost someone or he needs to track someone down in the story and you'll use Detective Mode to find a trace of whatever I've listed above. That's fine and all but really it's too easy, it's usually in the room where he stops and kind of says aloud I need to find a trace of this guy's whiskey breath which he finds in THAT room.
I just kind of wish they could've done something to make the detective work more involved. They could've had interrogation scenes with multiple endings to them or something, or just not make the detective work so lazy. Oh well, maybe in the inevitable sequel. There is one more element of the gameplay I would like to talk about though.
Eventually in the game you will Encounter The Riddler. Apparently he has left Batman multiple riddles to solve throughout the island along with finding these little collectible Riddler Trophies. Find both of these gives Batman experience so it's already beneficial to look for them but as you find the trophies you'll unlock profiles and biographies of characters to read up on. So thanks to The Riddler this game also has something for completionists to gnaw their teeth on.
Score: 9 - Awesome
Rocksteady already did a great job with the plot and the gameplay but they also score high on the graphics scale as well. Everything is highly detailed but at the same time pretty stark and dirty looking. The game looks like a modern graphic novel for sure. All the characters look their part although some liberties were taken but for the better. Batman of course great, his style in this game is kind of like a mix of his current comic book appearance with the Christopher Nolan Batsuit design from the recent string of Batman movies. It looks like combat armor but it has the color and styling of a comic book character's uniform which is pretty interesting.
The Joker has a similar motif going on as well, he's very dirty and grimy looking like Heath Ledger's Joker but that's mixed in with Joker's appearance in the comics and even from previous movies. One really cool effect this game has is as the game progresses Batman becomes more torn up and haggard throughout the adventure. His suit gets tears in it along with his cape, he loses some color from his face and eventually he starts to grow stubble. It's little details like these that really make you feel like you're living through a hellish night fighting off lunatics.
Score: 10 - Amazing
The voice work for this must be mentioned. Rocksteady got Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil from the awesome Batman the Animated Series to the voice acting for Batman and The Joker respectively. That alone added a lot of credibility to the game and both their performances are great but Mark Hamil edges out a little bit further ahead giving another brilliant performance as The Joker. The voice work throughout the rest of the game is just as solid with no flat or lame performances. As for the rest of the sound scheme the sound effects and such are perfectly fine and everything syncs up good, the music is very fitting for what is going on and really it sounds like music from the recent Batman films but unfortunately it doesn't stand out too much.
Score: 9 - Awesome
After you complete the regular Story Mode there isn't much of a reason to go back and do so unless you'd like to take a stab at Hard difficulty. However this is not the end of the game. There is a Challenge Mode where you can play as Batman or The Joker (PS3 only folks) and you can choose from a handful of maps to play with two different scenarios. One is Freeflow Combat where Batman or The Joker will fight waves of thugs (or in Joker's case guards) in a closed off area and the objective is to survive and get as high a score as possible, this scenario is pretty much tapping into that old school mentality of beating your old high score. The other scenario is called Invisible Predator where it will put Batman or Joker in a open area that has a certain number of thugs or guards and the idea is take them out as quickly and efficiently as possible tapping into another old school mentality game mechanic, the Time Attack. These Challenge Maps along with Leaderboards will make a some what addictive combination of just constantly trying to better yourself at these challenges, if you're into that kind of thing.
Beyond all this there are a few free DLC challenge maps to download that will extend this part of the game's life. In the end you'll have a few good reasons to come back and play Arkham Asylum again beyond just for the sake of experiencing the game again after a long while.
Score: 7 - Good
So after a really long wait, Rocksteady Studios delivered with a great Batman game that has an awesome story, great gameplay and presentation. There were a few scant things I decided to not talk about, just for the sake of leaving you something to see for yourself in the game. The game will more than likely have a pretty decent shelf life for anyone who is a comic book fan but there really is something for everyone to enjoy in this game. A must buy.
Overall Score: 9.0 - Great
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/12/09
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)
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