Review by AirSlash
"You'll revist this asylum."
BATMAN: Arkham Asylum
"I DON'T HAVE THROAT CANCER, WHERE'S THE JOKER"
Batman: Arkham Asylum, probably the most hyped comic-book licensed game this side of Earth 2, hit not long ago. Games with hype usually fall to the problem off over-hyping, so let's just see if Arkham did that. Note, I will try to do this review as spoiler-free as I can, but if I let some slip, I apologize in advance. I'll break it down to 4 things; Graphics, Sound, Story, and the most important, Gameplay/Controls.
"I CAN'T SEE HIM!"
Graphically, Arkham Asylum is no slouch. There are brilliant lighting effects, gorgeous backdrops, and detailed corridors that truly make you feel like a real resident in Gotham. Being inside of the asylum is almost unbelievable, with all of the scary thugs walking about, the writing on the walls, and the claustrophobia from being in these narrow corridors just completely sucks you into this environment. Character models are sharp and fleshed out, from Batman, The Joker looking similar to their classic comic days, to enemies like Bane and Killer Croc showing just how intimidating are the villains in Batman's rogues gallery. Killer Croc especially, standing at 11 feet tall, and ready to eat Batman like a turkey dinner really just make you shake in your boots. The goons do tend to look the same, either big and roided out with clown makeup or scrawny and annoying.
"Wait, did you hear that?"
The sound is truly what can put you into an environment. The score of this game is similar to that of Danny Elfman, from Batman and Batman Returns, and Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard's score of The Dark Knight. Key moments in the game are just enhanced by the incredible orchestral score. The sound effects are also well done, with each gunshot ringing in your ears, each punch giving that satisfyingly good crunch, like you just knocked someone's teeth into their throat. I played the game in a 5.1 Dolby setup, so if you have something similar or better, make sure to take advantage of it. The voice acting is a great nostalgic kick, with veteran voice actors Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin reprising their roles as Batman, The Joker, and Harley Quinn. You'll wonder why they didn't dub over Christian Bale with Kevin Conroy after playing the game for just two minutes. Even if you never watched the animated series as a kid, you will start to imagine the Joker reading off his lines in each comic with the Mark Hamill voice. The goons and standard enemies get a little repetitive, because they have to recycle all of the same lines, but that's to be expected, when there's so much else going on. It's truly the only blemish on a fantastic audio department.
"I have a story for you. There once was a man named Trebek. Who had the world's tiniest-' 'Let me stop you right there Mr. Connery."
Here in the story department, you will find a very strong Batman story, but unfortunately, not one of the best. Many of the greatest villains do make an appearance. It stars out with the Joker escaping Arkham, holding the mayor hostage, and giving up when Batman stops him. Batman is tricked into coming to Arkham, and is trapped there until he can stop the Joker. It goes on from there, with appearances by many great foes putting you into the shoes of Batman. The only problem is that the plot becomes slightly predictable at times, and a lot of the fights don't do much to move the story, they're just there to have a boss fight. Coupled with what's sure to actually upset some fans of the series, and the lack of Hush and other favorites, the story does miss a lot. For what it's worth, it does have a good and moving plot compared to some games of today, and many comics. Hey, at least Batman never had a Brand New Day.
"PRESS X TO NOT DIE"
The most important aspect of any game is how it plays. Batman: Arkham Asylum shows that even if you obtain the Batman license, you don't have to make it mindless. Taking pages from the Metal Gear and Splinter Cell playbooks, you spend a lot of time waiting in shadows, on gargoyles, or prone just waiting to take out the next thug with a silent sleeperhold or punch to the face. It works extremely well, and you wonder why no one thought of doing a Batman game like this before. Batman makes stealth look like finger painting, with just how easy it is. Being able to use your gadgets to draw enemies into traps works incredibly well, and finishing them off by hanging them from their feet until they fall unconscious is truly incredible. A problem is that you never have to fight a boss like this, and it's the best part of the game. Each boss fight turns into dodge, attack, rinse, repeat. It gets mixed up by being chased, or taking hold of an enemy to attack others, but overall, the boss fights could have been better. It's not to say that the fisticuffs don't work well. In fact, they're some of the best use of melee combat I've ever seen in a game. Square is attack, triangle is counter, circle is cape-stun, and x is jump/dodge. You use those to mix up combos and end them off with throws and takedowns. The goons do get repetitive, but having a counter-attack is just so much fun to do and watch. Getting to smash peoples faces into your knee and giving them a jumping chin-kick is just fun to watch. You have some you have to jump over and others you have to stun, but they don't mix it up too much so that it's annoying to change your tactics, but it does get frustrating fighting the same enemies over and over again. I prefer to do damage from afar with gadgets, but there's no way to incapacitate anyone from a distance, save for exploding a wall on them or knocking them off of a ledge. But with all of the combat shortcomings, it does make you feel like Batman, not like someone playing a Batman game.
There is a bit of collectathon gameplay as well. Going around finding trophies for a certain enigma breaks up the action nicely, and does test your brain finding where someone could have put these little things. There's a bit of an issue I found with having to kill bouncing teeth. They're usually in the direction you are going, but it's almost just a waste of time having to kill these things. They do no damage, and all they do is serve as another annoyance instead of a dynamic gameplay concept. With the more you find, the more you unlock, like challenge maps and character trophies, so it is smart to search around for everything you can find. It shows off the rich backstory of Arkham and each character in the Batman saga. It's very incredible, and makes you want to play.
"So nice you could join us! What do you think of the new digs?"
Overall, I'd give Batman: Arkham Asylum a solid 8.6, rounded up to 9, out of 10. The graphics are gorgeous, the sound is impeccable, and the gameplay is nearly perfect. The story could be better, but it serves it's purpose. The game has been getting a lot of critical praise, and has been selling decently. Maybe we'll see a sequel? We can only hope. This Dark Knight is a bright turn for all comic based games.
(Batman: Arkham Asylum is property of Eidos Interactive, Rocksteady Games, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Comics. This review is based off of the Playstation 3 version of B:AA. This review is only for GameFAQs and Facebook, unless permission is given by the author.)
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/08/09
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)
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