Review by shadowfox251
"Batman Arkham Asylum, a superhero game done right."
Batman Arkham Asylum is the gaming industries latest foray into the Batman universe. As the past will tell, Batman games usually end up being no more than poorly executed adventure games that few can recommend. Despite this, Rocksteady Studios set out to develop a Batman game worthy of the comic book series, and it more than succeeded.
In the game, Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum and has tasked Batman with regaining control of the prison, as well as figuring out and stopping his ultimate plan. The story is well told and very original, if not somewhat predictable. It is told well through beautiful cut scenes and in game conversations between several of the main characters. It successfully integrates many of Batman's greatest villains and doesn't make any of them feel out of place or forced. My only real complaint is the final minutes of the story, but I won't reveal them here.
I'm going to divide the Gameplay into three different sections, because I feel it needs to be to grade it accurately.
Fighting as Batman
This part of the gameplay is the absolute shining star of the game. Rocksteady really nailed what it would be like to be Batman, from the combat to the gadgets, it is absolutely perfect. I really loved the free flow combat system, being able to take on 10+ enemies simultaneously is an incredible feeling, and it always feel fresh.
On the flip side, the Silent Predator mode is done just as well. You can be completely invisible to your enemies and take them out one by one with ease. When you introduce the wealth of gadgets and the upgrades they receive, the ways you can take out your enemies seems endless, and is once again, always fresh. Combine this with the fact that the AI will act differently every time you face them, which makes every encounter fun.
Exploring Arkham Island was one of my favorite parts of the game. The entire Island is huge, and you can go pretty much everywhere you can see. This is great, because there are 240 puzzles/trophies that the Riddle has hidden around the island for you to find.
Finding these and traversing the island is incredibly fun. With all the gadgets and your detective mode, there are many different puzzles for you to solve, and most of them are really clever. The trophies are also fun to track down, but they are often rather easy to find and aren't as difficult as some of the puzzles can be. These items are completely optional, but the majority of them offer back story, profiles, challenge maps and character interviews that any Batman enthusiast would crazy to miss. Plus, getting to use the gadgets in clever ways to explore the island and solve the puzzles is just plain fun.
My one gripe is that to find a good majority of these, you need to be in detective mode. This mode also serves to tell you info on enemies and where they are in the current room your in, making fighting them much easier. I spent a lot of the game in detective mode, which turns almost everything blue, making me miss the beautiful environments the game has.
I chose to separate this from the fighting as Batman sections because I feel that they nailed that section so well it'd be a shame to detract from it. Most of the boss fights in this game are lackluster at best. They are mostly uninspired and formulaic. Two of the boss fights are just you fighting more common enemies and allowing the real fighting between Batman and the villain to cut scenes.
I do want to point out the Scarecrow segments, however. While they are not really boss fights, they are phenomenally well done, and are some of the best parts of the game. If the rest of the boss fights had been as well crafted as these segments, it would be hard to find any fault with this game.
The graphics in this game are some of the best I've seen yet. The characters are well detailed and are animated well. Their design is also some of the best I've seen for Batman characters, my favorite being Scarecrow. Even the normal enemies look really good, with varied looks and costumes.
The environments are well detailed as well, and are extremely varied and incredibly beautiful. They are always a pleasure to look at, and make all the exploration in this game enjoyable.
The animations as a whole are also done well. I was worried that some of them would look weird while in combat, with how the free flow combat system works I was afraid there would be a lot of choppy animations for counter and such, but it all flows very well and looks natural.
The sounds in the game are also done very well. The sounds effects are great, especially on all of Batman's gadgets. All the punches and kicks while in combat also sound very good, and aren't just generic, run of the mill sound clips.
The voice acting is, for the most part, fantastic. Several old favorite are back, including Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, and Arleen Sorkin, and they are definitely the stars of the show. Some of the side characters could have been better, but they don't normally play a large part in the story, so they aren't a big problem.
The music has a very authentic Batman feel, and fits the game perfectly. It complements the game very well, and serves to help maintain the atmosphere the game so successfully creates.
There is quite a bit to do after you've finished the main story of the game. The first is to track down the 240 puzzles the Riddler has left on the island, which adds several hours of gameplay.
There are also the challenge rooms, which are various locations from throughout the game, which task you to either fight a large group of people and accumulate as many points as you can, or take them all our and meet certain combat goals in the smallest amount of time you can. With these comes the leader boards showing who has done these the best, which allows you to compete against people nation (world?) wide, or against your friends. These add a ton of replayability to the game.
However, if you don't really like the challenge rooms, or see no reason to play them after your initial playthroughs of them, they won't be doing much for you in terms of game length.
Rocksteady set out to craft a superhero game worthy of the Batman license, and did so with aplomb. What they also did was create a game that is good on its own merits, not just when compared to other superhero games. With what they have done with their first foray into the Batman universe, one can only imagine what future ventures into it will yield.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/31/09
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)
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