Review by Tyrael Odium
"Batman gets the game he deserves"
If there has ever been a character who has been mistreated in video games, it is Batman for sure. Batman is the most popular character that DC has to offer, more popular than even Superman, their poster boy. Batman has been given incredible character development and interesting stories over the years with his fare share of fascinating villains to boot, many of which would be perfect for a video game adaption, but up until recently nobody has been able to put all of the pieces together for a real winner.
Sure there was Lego Batman that was released before Arkham Asylum, but that did not really give Batman the respect that he deserves. Lego Batman is more Akin to the Adam West days of Batman, where it was more parody then treating it seriously (as bizarre as that sounds because Batman is about a grown man who dresses up like a bat and fights crime). Batman, however, is a serious character and he did deserve to give his fans the opportunity to play a game that is almost ripped right from the comic books. Arkham Asylum finally gives gamers that chance.
There has been a great deal of effort to make this game the experience that it is, and it really shows, there is a substantial amount of polish applied to this game. The controls are very smooth and responsive, the visuals are impressive, the story is original and creative, the voice work is just incredible. This game really deserves all of the praise that it has been getting, not just for being a good batman game, but for being a great game overall.
What Can I say, its the UT3 Engine. Almost every visually impressive game released in 2008 or 2009 uses the UT3 engine. But what this game has that those other games have is proper use of colour (I am Canadian, the U is supposed to be there, get used to it). One of my first complains with almost every game that uses the UT3 engine, is that they are a little bit too reliant on HDR, they crank up the bloom and fill the game with Brown and Black, it can actually be a real eye sore. But with this kind of game, that is supposed to be set in a dark, gloomy and depressing environment, it really works. The type of setting that the game has really compliments the graphics engine, they work together to produce the impressive visuals that you get to see. Nothing really seems out of place with these visuals.
The character models and animations are really good, there are no jerky or out of place animations, and in a 3rd person action game that is really hard to do. Hand to hand combat is not an easy task to properly model and animate in a video game, but in this game it looks really believable, if you get into a big enough fight, it almost looks like your watching a Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee movie. The further through the game you get, and as Batman takes more and more punishment, you get to see his costume get scuffed and destroyed more and more, a lot of thought went into how this game was going to look.
The only let down that I can think about with the graphics is that you are actually going to miss a lot of the impressive visuals because you are going to spend a lot of time in detective mode. All of the character models that I was just talking about get replaced with an X-ray.
This is where the game should get a lot of praise. Any developer can shell out the money for the UT3 engine and have a game with good visuals (at the expense of looking like just about every other game on the market), but fun gameplay that does not take away from the experience is something that is really hard to come across. This game is one of the very few games that I have ever played that manages to combine stealth and action segments properly. Most other games that I have played keep the Stealth sections separate from the Action sections. It is truly fun to start stalking a group of enemies and trying to make the afraid of being taken out by the big bat Batman. If you were to do it properly, you would be able to hear the conversation between the baddies that you are trying to attack, but you should be careful because if you take out the entire group except for 1 of them then he will start shooting wildly in the air once he hears the slightest noise.
I said earlier that the combat was great visually, but as good as it is visually, it is even better when you get to control it. Pulling off a long combo where you attack anywhere between 3 to 15 opponents is really easy to learn but difficult to master, but most important of all, it is really fun to do. Attacks, Blocks and Counters are all really easy to pull off, and they do exactly what they are supposed to, and you always find the right attack landing on the right opponent, I never had a moment where I was trying to attack somebody but Batman lunged after somebody else, it just did not happen, every attack landed on its mark (the only time it didn't was when I was hit first).
The boss fights in this game could go either way, half of them were really unique and original and the other half were just recycled boss fights. All of the titan mutants that you have to fight throughout the game are just the Bane boss fight over again, which is my one major complaint that I had with this game, but really that only happens about 4 times throughout the course of the game, some of the other boss fights are really cool. I personally thought that the Scarecrow boss fights were the absolute best moments of the entire game, and I found myself wanting to play them over and over again.
I was also impressed with the length of the game. I was one of the lucky people who bought the game within the first 3 days, so I managed to get it for a discount, but the length of this game surprised me, I would have gladly paid full price for it. Once you plug in this game you are treated to almost a dozen boss fights, a lengthy main campaign and lots of extra replay value with the challenge maps.
I was completely blown away when I got to listen to this game. The soundtrack is pitch perfect, and the fact that they brought in all of the voice actors from the cartoon was a great touch. Mark Hamill's performance as the joker was just mind boggling. When he was playing the role for the animated series, the character was heavily censored, after all the cartoon was meant for children; but in this series he gets to play the joker that I have always imagined I would get to hear. Kevin Conroy gives an equally impressive Batman performance, and the same restrictions that were placed on Hamill have now been lifted for him.
Voice work aside, the music for the game is very fitting with the atmosphere, it can be creepy, chilling, emotional, or it can get you pumped for a fight. The music is important for setting the mood of a game and this music does its job, no complaints.
While this game is very impressive all around, and it is the Batman game that I have been waiting to play since I was a little kid, it is still not perfect. I already nit picked about the boss fights, but there are some other problems. There were some graphical glitches every now and then and I also thought that the Riddler challenges were not needed and took away from the gameplay. Those very small issues aside I would recommend this game for everybody I know. Batman fan or not, they should play this game just because it is a good game, even people who are not fans of Batman would be able to sit down and enjoy playing this game because it is just a good game. I recommend this one as a purchase and not a rental, in fact just writing this review have given me the urge to give it another play through.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/04/10
Game Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (US, 08/25/09)
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