Review by RageBot
Very good through and through, with a little control issue.
The world has seen its share of games based on the Caped Crusader, most of them are based on the movies. Usually, a movie-based game sucks, even to these days (Iron Man 2 is a perfect example, a game so bad my mouth was wide open for hours). Batman, however, is a rare exception, and most games bearing the bat sign are decent. This game is indeed not based on any movie, but who cares? It's good.
The game begins at its end. Batman finally captures its arch-nemesis, the Joker, and delivers the malevolent, maniac menace back to the asylum, where he belongs. Something goes wrong, however, and the Joker is loose. Apparently, this was all set up by the Joker, to kill the Dark Knight once and for all. He even went out of the way to transfer hundreds of his goons from prison to the asylum. Now you are trapped in Arkham Asylum, while the Joker and his henchmen are wrecking havoc, and you must do anything to stop them, and prevent any loss of lives.
To proceed in the game, you'll have to go through fighting stages, stealth stages and boss fights. Fighting incorporates a combo system that is similar to Hack & Slash games such as Devil May Cry. The more enemies you hit in a row, the higher your combo gets. To get a really good score, you must be aware of your surrounding and have decent reflexes. When enemies approach you, a blue lightning bolt appear above their head. That is your cue to tap triangle and counter them. Countering increases your combo, but if you counter prematurely, you make a wrong move and your combo ends. The higher the combo gets, the more experience points you rack.
In stealth stages, enemies wield guns, and they will gladly point them at our masked protagonist. Such fight is a lost cause, and Batman will die after ten seconds of gunfire. Therefore, it is imperative that you incapacitate all enemies without being seen. To your aid, gargoyles are positioned conveniently on the walls, high above. You must latch on to the gargoyles via R1, and plan a way to subtly and silently creep up on the enemies. The best way is to land behind enemies and render them unconscious. You can also hang enemies from the gargoyle, or glide over to them and kick them hard, but then enemies will hear you. Plan your attack carefully.
Detective mode will really help you along the way. Activated by pressing L2, you'll be able to see your enemies colored light blue, or red if they wield guns. You'll easily notice which way they are facing, the floor they are at (marked by the size of their vivid x-ray style image) and their condition. Enemies will grow nervous after seeing a few of their friends unconscious. During that phase, they will turn their back more often, and might even hunt you in pairs, making the stage much harder. Using Detective Mode will really help you at this point.
Along your way, you'll gain experience points. You get them by defeating enemies in both fighting and stealth stages. After you gain some experience points, you can upgrade your suit or devices. You can incorporate new combat moves, or use your devices in new ways that will help you overcome tough stealth stages, or simply get a health boost. Mandatory experience points gained by battles, however, will not be enough for you to unlock all upgrades. That's where another famous villain, the Riddler, can help you.
The Riddler has planted many trophies for you to collect and riddles to solve. How do you solve the riddles? The solution is always an object in the room where you're at. You take a good look at the object, using R3 to zoom if you need, and hold down R2 to scan. The game will tell you when you're successful. Even if you are not, you'll get hints on solving the riddle, hot-and-cold style. Most riddles are easy, but some of them require thorough knowledge of the DC universe, referring to many enemies, from Mr. Freeze to the Mad Hatter. As for the trophies, Detective Mode is your friend once again. Since you get new devices once in a while, you'll want to backtrack, as every time, more riddles and trophies are available to collect.
Boss battles are few and far between each other, featuring either mutant goons transformed by Joker's toxins, or another of Batman's villains. Any villain you see, you'll eventually have to fight. There are also parts where you enter a world of Batman's greatest fears. You'll know when such a part is going to come, because the game will look as if you're on LSD. You'll then have to dodge the eyes of who else but the Scarecrow, while you reach for the spotlight and shine the bat signal right on Scarecrow's torso.
My only peeve in this game is a control issue. It seems too many commands are issued to the same button. For example, to hang from a gargoyle, you press the circle button. Since you've just descended a little, you'll think that pressing circle again, you drop, but no! It's the X button! Instead, the circle button only makes you go back up on the gargoyle. To make it more irritating, you press X to hang from a ledge, but X makes you drop off the ledge! In addition, it seems the left analog stick is a little too sensitive, and you'll sometime climb up ledges when you won't want to. Such issues sours the otherwise fantastic game, it's really too bad.
All along, the game preserves the dark atmosphere typical to Batman's world. Everything looks macabre and foreboding. You'd think that to complete the whole thing, you'll get some gloomy tunes, or at least some classic hard rock tracks, right? Wrong, it's nothing but ambient nonsense. The only thing you hear is a drum beating, as if it's a jungle game.
All in all, this game is good, but because of the control issue, I really don't recommend buying it for more than 30 bucks or so.
Final grade: 8.2/10
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Batman: Arkham Asylum (Platinum) (EU, 10/25/10)
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