Review by darkseidsr
"Believe the Hype"
I will admit here, as a disclaimer, that, if I were to list my top 5 five favorite movies of all time, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight would both be on there. Batman: Hush is tied for my favorite Comic Book story. In short, my point is that I'm a Batman fan. But I will admit that I was skeptical of Batman: Arkham Asylum, for a number of reasons, chiefly that I never enjoyed the 90's cartoon. However, after playing this gem of a game, I would consider it among my all time favorite video games.
The story, without spoiling anything, involves The Joker executing a pre-planned hostile take-over of Arkham Island, which houses the macabre Arkham Asylum, home of some the worlds most fiendish and evil human beings. What develops is an engrossing Batman story, penned by famed writer Paul Dini, that takes Batman all over the impressively large Arkham Island, battling some of the most gruesome members of his Rogue's Gallery.
While the story is interesting, it's relatively simple, with very twists along the way. But it does the job.
With a combination of seamlessly brutal combat, mind-testing puzzles and riddles, deftly designed Invisible Predator rooms and scenarios, which involve Batman lurking in the shadows seeking out ways to eliminate Joker's henchmen, Batman: AA combines numerous gameplay elements into one package. Had this game been one of a lower caliber, it may have felt schizophrenic.
When you are in a hand-to-hand combat situation, a few buttons (strike, counter, stun, evade) take care of most the work for you. You'll be surprised at how the easy-to learn-difficult-to-master grows on you as you play, and you'll start to wonder how you ever put with aggravating combo charts in other action games.
One of the more fun gameplay situations is when you enter a room filled with armed guards. Obviously, Batman is merely human, so taking them on head-on would be foolish. Instead, you must find a nice vantage point or place to hide, and plan out your assault. The ensuing possibilities are basically endless, as each scenario plays out differently, and you have numerous takedowns at your disposal, including silent takedowns and inverted takedowns. You also have your gadgets, such as batarangs or explosive gel, to help in combat or to help solve puzzles.
Luckily for us, each one feels fluid, well put together and they are all executed perfectly.
This game looks marvelous. The animations are solid, but more importantly every inch of Arkham and its inhabitants is detailed wonderfully, making close-ups of the island almost necessary. no detail has been spared in making everything feel alive. You actually feel like you've stepped onto Arkham Island, and the developers should be applauded for the amount of work they put into making the island the best possible location for this game.
However, there are some rather unsightly moments where, particularly in combat, a person's arm will move right through Batman's cape, or someone will fall into someone else's body. But this are easily forgiven once you see the game in action.
This game features some of the best voice-acting I've ever heard in a video game. In addition to a knock-out performance by Mark Hamill, every single character you encounter is voiced wonderfully, giving the game an appreciated sense of life. Even the miserable guards you beat up and hunt have well-delivered lines.
You can beat the game on normal anywhere from 9-12, depending on the your play style. If you like to rush and take the damage in exchange for a quick beat-down of the armed henchmen, you might finish it quicker than those who like to observe their battlefield from afar and plan out their attack. In addition to the single player, there are challenge rooms, which are slightly modified versions of single player areas where you try to complete specific challenges or get the best time possible. It can take you awhile to unlock everything and get 100% completion, but you'll find it interesting to go back and discover new areas on the island you never knew were there.
Unfortunately, there's not much else in terms of extra content, although the challenge maps and Riddler challenges should be enough to keep you busy for awhile. Plus, you'll be inching to play through the single-player again once you've beaten the game.
Some have called this the best Batman game of all time. I agree. Some have even called it the best super-hero game. I agree. Some have even gone so far as to the say its the best action game of 2009. Once again, I agree. Everything about this game is well done, from game play and graphics ,all the way down to the extra collectibles. In short, believe the hype about this marvelous epic. It will be one of the best games you will play this year.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/31/09
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)
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