Review by XundeadmanX
"Finally you can be the Dark Knight."
I don't know about anyone else, but I have been waiting for what seems like forever to play as the Dark Knight himself. Every attempt has always failed. I remember playing Batman Begins, the movie game, and while you felt like Batman in a way, you also felt severely limited. Every game has been this way, you never truly felt like Bruce Wayne, dressed up in the famous suit, kicking some bad guy tail. I am so happy and more to finally say, it has happened.
I'm sure as everyone knows, you start off by delivering the infamous Joker to Arkham Asylum. Batman recites how Joker gave up almost without a fight. As you deliver him further in through passage ways, elevators, etc. you are confronted by super villains and thugs of Jokers along the way. Another notable detail and something to pay attention to is Joker's dialouge. More than once he makes mentions of details that will come to pass. When you finally get to your destination and the Joker is taken off your hands, Joker springs into his motion, with the help of some inside interference with his ladyfriend; Harley Quinn, who has been waiting for her "puddin'" to get there.
At this moment in time, you will be introduced to the incredibly done combat system. Joker is intending for you to win, broadcasting over the asylum speaker system as you fight. You truly feel like Batman here, to the final moments of the game, and the combat system is one of the reasons. This system is designed to be very user friendly, though to master the system, you will have to practice whenever possible.
Starting off you will have a simple strike, counter, and evade, and ground take down. Strike is simple, and just so much fun to use. You will glide from one enemy, to another, in almost fluid combination of strikes that strings together beautifully. Unfortuantely, Batman can not rely on striking alone. Depending on the mode you start on, an alert will indicate over a thugs head of when he is going strike. When you see this, press the corresponding button, and go from a strike, to a calculated counter and resume as necessary.
In other times, after using the two primary combat choices, evading and ground take downs will be something you must master for later challenges. Challenges are unlocked through Riddler trophies across the Asylum island. More explained on that later. Through evading, another simple press of a button allows you to either roll, or do a skillful jump and evade over a thug. Ground take downs are easily performed, but hard to fully know when to do. In order to do it, you will use a button and trigger, and it will instantly stop a thug from getting up off the ground, in other words, a total knock out.
Why using all these combat and take downs are important is simple: with each successful hit, counter, evade, and take down, you gain variation bonuses and it allows your combo to increase, thus giving increased experience to level up new combat moves, enhances, and various other aspects such as gadgets for personal and combat use. While all of it does sound complicated, you will feel instantly like a pro at using it. It is designed to be very comfortable, all the while making you feel very in control and truly like the Dark Knight.
Like any Batman game should be however, not everything is combat. In fact, a lot of game play will be in the use of stealth and detective mode. This is another easily used function, but a little harder to master when thugs start growing in numbers and arsenal. Littered around the asylum at key locations it seems, there is grappling points everywhere--gargoyles, ledges, and other various objects--are just a glimpse of this.
Starting off early in the game, you will learn to use these key locations as access points. You can figure out a tactical game plan on the thugs below. Now it would truly not be like Batman to go in only seeing some of his adversaries spread out. This is where detective mode will come in, and trust me, you will begin to use it much more through the game. Detective mode is simple: it will show all your enemies using an x-ray vision essentially. Using this allows you to see everyone at once, if they are armed and with what, and give you an overall advantage, even when surrounded by seven men armed to the teeth.
Now stealth begins to factor in. From above and early on, you will be limited, but not handicapped on what you are able to do. You can use your grappling hook--one of many gadgets--to swing to various locations to get a better view at fighting enemies. From up here, until you upgrade, you're somewhat limited to viewing, batarangs, and glide kicks. While a glide kick is very effective and leads straight to a ground take down, it makes noise and other guards will be alerted of your location. Use it wisely.
The other parts of stealth mode are somewhat tricky to set into motion, but effectively take down an enemy without any noise of indication of your presence. This is called a silent take down. From behind an enemy, simply crouch and sneak up, pressing the button used for this. You will subdue him without any harm or noise, though Joker often will alert the guards of what you have done, so best to find a good hiding spot. Once you upgrade your stealth, you can begin taking on much more routes of stealth. I'll just let you experience that for yourself.
There is so many components to this game aside from fighting and stealth also. Inside of the game, you will be challenged to complete riddles, find trophies, and solve puzzles, 240 in all. Some are generally easy, to down right ridiculous to figure out. If you ever find yourself wanting to shy away from the story mode, this is a great way to kill time. Riddler has done a good job at testing you with this task. Though if you don't feel up to it, after finishing the game you can go back and do so without any distractions. Your choice.
Outside of the story mode, you will find another mode called: Challenge Mode. Here, by collecting trophies, solving riddles, and all of Riddler's game, you will will unlock a number of challenges to complete. Each one has two modes, normal, and extreme. Some are combat as well, and others stealth. Taking a biased point of view, some of these are down right hard, but very fun and very addicting. Each challenge has a specific requirement as well. Combat are scores, and Stealth are certain tasks. If you find even the hardest mode of Batman: Arkahm Asylum not too much of a challenge, then just wait until you face these tasks. Your talents in combat and stealth will be put to the ultimate test.
Overall, the game play, sounds, presentation, challenge, just everything in Batman is everything you could ask for. The story is excellent, combat and stealth perfect, and challenge modes have you coming back for more and then some. While you do play in detective mode a little more than I would like, and boss battles that seem to be lacking, other than one or two notable ones, you cannot have a bad experience with this game. All in all, whether you're a hardcore fan of Batman, or just a recognizable figure of it like me, this game will give you such an incredible time. Definitely a 9/10 for this game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/08/09
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)
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