Review by Unknown50862

"A bit repetitive, but the game mechanics, graphics, and classic villains more than make up for that."

Story:

Joker is up to his old tricks again, and as usual Batman is there to stop him. This time however, Joker isn't alone, as there are plenty of classic villains that are there to join the party.

Shortly after being captured for at least the hundredth time, Joker is taken to Arkham Island once again. Batman, sensing something is off, decides to go along for the ride, to make sure Joker doesn't have anything up his sleeves. Just as everything seems to be fine and Joker is being put in his cell, crap hits the fan, and the Joker gets free. With the help of his ditsy side-kick, Harley Quinn, the Joker now has control of the Asylum. Batman, now trapped, is stuck on the island with convicts, crazy people, and several deranged villains that all want him dead.

With the Joker being in charge, the story sets up a unique atmosphere, that has rarely been explored in any video game that I can think of. The enemy is in control, Batman is the puppet and Joker the puppeteer, but the biggest thing that makes this game different, is that you know it. It isn't revealed in some climatic twist, that your actions have been a part of the enemies' plans, but rather you know you are in a trap from the beginning and there is nothing you can do but play along.

The plot develops rather nicely and follows a steady pace, however the boss battles do tend to pile up towards the end. For the most part you'll find yourself beating up on baddies and the occasional mini-boss, but in the last stretch of the game you'll have to put away several of the major villains, one right after the other.

Which leads me to the biggest downfall of the game, its repetitiveness. As I said before, for the majority of the game you'll be fighting the usual enemies, time and time again. Although there is the occasional mini-boss mixed in, you'll be fighting that same enemy so many times, it will just be an annoyance towards the end of the game.

The game more than makes up for this flaw, by leaving various collectibles and trinkets lying around to spice things up. Many of these unlock little tidbits into the various characters of the Batman universe, a distraction I immensely enjoyed. Plus all of it is tightly nit into the comic book lore, so it is a great addition, even for the hardcore fans that know everything there is to know about Batman.

9/10

Gameplay:

Probably the greatest trait of the game. I have never seen such a brilliant combination of stealth and action, not to mention the adventure aspect mixed in as well.

For the first portion of the game the stealth is completely optional, however it is very rewarding, both in-game and in a satisfying sense. I can't really describe the feeling you get, when you look back at a room with unconscious baddies lying along the floor and hanging from the ceiling (a special move called Inverted Takedown), knowing that you picked each of them off one by one. Plus, by taking the sneaky route you'll avoid unnecessary confrontation, which will save both time and health. Later on, however, you'll be forced into stealth, as more and more of the convicts obtain weapons. Batman isn't impervious to bullets, so if they start shooting, be prepared to take a beating. Although, even if you are discovered, the game isn't so punishing as to make you instantly die. You will still have a chance to escape back into the shadows, or to test your luck and try to reach them before you are filled with bullets.

As for the action, the game uses what it likes to call the Freeflow system. Although when you first begin, you will probably think it is nothing more than punching baddie after baddie, in order to get your combo count up, but it is so much more. The combat centers around your combo meter, which will increase as you flawlessly attack, evade, and counter your enemies. If you mess up by even one button your combo starts off from scratch. Once your combo reaches a certain point, you'll be able to perform special moves, such as judo throws or instant takedowns (need to be unlocked first). Once you have mastered the Freeflow system, you will do just that, flow fluidly through the combat as you take out groups of 10+ enemies. Very satisfying.

The adventure in this game reminds me a lot of Metroid or Zelda, in such a way that you can pretty much go wherever you please, as long as you have the necessary equipment. Surprisingly enough the superhero that is always prepared, really isn't in this case, as starting off Batman only has some batarangs in his utility belt. That'll soon change, however, as you progress through the story you will slowly build up your arsenal of gadgets, each opening up new areas to explore. Exploration is a key element in this game, if you want to find everything it has to offer.

There is also a little CSI aspect, a special kind of vision, known as the Cowl. It helps progress the story, locate enemies, and uncover hidden secrets. Instead of the game giving you an arrow or telling you to go here, you will usually follow a trail of sorts, either from finger prints or some other trace element. As for the enemies, when in this special vision, they will appearing as bright skeletons, which is especially helpful in the stealth portions of the game. Plus, several of the hidden puzzles and riddles can only be solved while in this vision.

In addition to all this, there is also a leveling system that rewards the player for exploration and combat. You'll gain experience from finding the various collectibles and extra xp for your performance in combat. Once enough experience is gained, you'll be able to pick a new ability to unlock, such as more health, gadget add-ons, or special moves.

The game really has a little bit of everything from the various genres; puzzles, stealth, combat, and exploration.

10/10

Graphics:

Amazing. The game makes full use of the Unreal engine, to create a grim atmosphere which is suited for an asylum full of crazy people. Everything in the environment is extremely detailed in both form and appearance. It is too bad you will probably spend most of the game looking through the color tinted view of the Cowl.

The game's art style follows a unique take on the character renditions, which definitely works for the various villains, but Batman does look a bit off. Joker's bony facade matches his twisted personality well, and Harley Quinn's new outfit is, dare I say it, quite sexy. As for the other villains, I won't go into detail for spoilers sake, but they all work quite well. Batman on the other hand, doesn't look his best. It is almost like he was chiseled out of stone, and is nothing more than a walking statue. I guess it fits his personality, but something just feels wrong.

Another feature worth mention, is Batman's appearance throughout the game. As you progress, Batman will show the symptoms of his previous encounters. A torn cape, battered suit, or a bruised face are just a couple of the tolls Batman will have to pay, as he fights his way through Joker's trap. It was a nice touch and greatly appreciated, as it actually feels like you are being hurt, rather than everything being back to normal as soon as you regain health.

9/10

Replay:

The replay value of the game is decent enough for a single player game. The story can be a bit short, running about 5 to 8 hours if know what you are doing and run straight through it, but if you take the time to explore and find everything the game has to offer, it easily becomes a 15 hour affair. Not to mention, the highest difficulty does deliver quite a challenge.

The reason for this 8 hour gap, is most attributed to the collectibles. Now most people I know, don't exactly enjoy exploring every nook and cranny trying to find one last collectible to complete their search, but this game definitely delivers. There are a total of 240 of them, but they aren't all just pick-ups, a good portion of them are riddles that need to be solved, courtesy of who else but the Riddler. Plus there is the fact that nearly every secret unlocks something, whether it be character trophies, tape recordings, backstory, or extra challenges. Even if you don't find that incentive enough to waste hours of your time, don't worry, the Riddler was kind enough to leave maps lying around, that pretty much show where everything is.

The game's replayability doesn't just lie in the story mode, however. There are also various combat and stealth challenges, that once unlocked, can add hours to the game's life, as you try to obtain all the medals. The combat ones are mainly score based, requiring you to master the Freeflow system to beat them, and receive all three medals. As for the stealth ones, known as predator challenges, they require you to kill your enemies as fast and quietly as possible. Rather than reward medals based on time, they require you to dispatch the enemies in a unique fashion or perform a certain task. Once you have managed to obtain all 48 medals, you can truly consider yourself master of the game.

7/10

Achievements:

For the most part, the game's achievements are pretty standard and lack creativity. Beat the game on a certain difficulty, find all the collectibles, complete the challenges, etc.

However, the best part about it all, is that it is all extremely enjoyable. I can honestly say there isn't a bad achievement in the bunch. You won't find yourself bored to tears or throwing controllers against the wall out of frustration. The collectibles are mostly well-hidden and fun to find, and even if you are stuck on one last one, there are in-game maps that will relieve you of the stress of finding it. As for the challenges, they can be extremely difficult, but the combat system is so enjoyable you'll find yourselves wanting to play them again.

8/10

Overall:

A bit repetitive, but the game mechanics, graphics, and classic villains more than make up for that. Definitely worth a buy, or at the very least a rent.

9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/09

Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)


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