Batman: Arkham Asylum Review
Batman has always been a fan favorite of many people, whether they are comic enthusiasts or not. For people of my generation our biggest exposure to Batman was Batman: The Animated Series during the 1990s. Rocksteady and Eidos seem to have seen this and chosen to bring in a writer of the series, Paul Dini, as well as the remarkable voice actors that voiced the many heroes and villains. The fundamental question of Arkham Asylum is did Rocksteady bring new life to Batman in the video game world?
Yes Yes Yes, for the love of god yes they did. Rocksteady managed to create an excellent game that is undoubtedly one of the best games I’ve played this year, hell in recent years. While using the Unreal Engine, an engine I’m not a big fan of, Rocksteady, like 2k marin etc etc before them, managed to use the engine in a unique way outside of the standard norm. While still bearing the look of a UT3 engine powered game, it lacks the bulky armored character design that has been plagueing the industry as of late (Thank you Epic games /Sarcasm). The game looks great, the island of Arkham Asylum is a larger than life character on its own that is constantly changing and evolving.
The game has two vision modes, normal and Detective Vision. Detective Vision basically gives you X-Ray vision, allowing the player to see through walls, identify armed enemies and their current state (I.E afraid, terrified, calm etc) as well as highlighting hidden objects(More on that later) and objects that batman can interact with. While many people complain there is little reason to leave detective mode off, I don’t really see that as a problem. If you are vigilant in your search for items you’ll only use it when you need to.
One of the biggest stars in the game, is the voice acting. Oh my the voice acting, if it was a women I’d marry it in a heartbeat. While the younger readers think of Batman: Begins and The Dark Knight as the go to portrayal of Batman and his villains, those of my generation know that Keven Conroy and Mark Hamill are the definitive voices of Batman and the Joker, respectfully. Kevin and Mark reprise their roles from the animated series among other voice actors reprising their roles as well. The person you’ll be hearing the most is the Joker, whether it be over the intercom system, talking to you directly or from your death screen, so it’s a good thing that Mark is an awesome voice actor. The music in the game is also very well done, with music that defines Batman.
Having the story, and the game set up on Arkham Island allows the writers/developers to bring in multiple big name villains from the Batman universe into the game and allowing it to make sense. The writing in the game is pretty well done with only the Joker speaking at length. When characters speak its for a reason and rarely will batman talk to himself, and if he does you’re just hearing his thoughts. While the story isn’t extraordinary it’s good and works with the game well. As everyone knows there are a wide array of villains in the world of Batman, and while not all of them are featured, the Riddler sees to it that the others get a nod. The Riddler has left, what else riddles and hidden trophies throughout the island. Many of the riddles center around other villains and solving them give you profiles on them. These profiles range from talking about villains like Two Face, to the Great White Shark, yea ever heard of him?
The profiles give a lot of information on the characters and give those unfamiliar with the Batman universe some knowledge. Also lying about the island are interview tapes, these tapes are well interviews with various villains that are featured through the game. Like the tapes in Bioshock, they add back story and history to some of the characters and lets the player understand their psyche.
OK OK I know! Enough with the story and presentation stuff lets get to the good stuff! Well Batman: Arkham Asylum’s gameplay is superb.The gameplay especially excels in combat, whether it be the extremely fluid hand to hand combat or the stealth sections of the game. The hand to hand combat is extremely fluid and simple, one button to attack, one to counter, one to dodge and one to stun. Moving from enemy to enemy looks like a ballet of fisticuffs that when done right, is a sight to see. The stealth sections, where batman is facing enemies with weapons is also fun, gliding and hiding in the shadows, setting up traps and picking them off one by one as they panic is extremely fun.
As the game progresses, Batman gets access to new and upgraded gadgets, because really, what is Batman without the gadgets? Most of the gadgets have combat and traversing abilities, allowing Batman to finish off enemies easier or reach otherwise impossible areas. To compliment the gadgets there is an experience system. Experience is gained from combat, stringing together long combos, or from solving/finding the Riddler’s Riddles and trophies. These riddles and trophies are the easiest/fastest way of gaining experience and taking the time to find/solve them will help you in the long run.
As you gain experience the player will get the ability to unlock upgrades. These upgrades range from new combat moves, upgraded gadgets and extra health. While some upgrades are a novelty, others are absolutely crucial for survival, i.e the extra health (Truth me you’ll need it, especially on hard mode).
Outside of the story mode the game also sports challenge maps. These challenges have players facing off hordes of enemies racking up the points to beat the challenge or going through preteder challenges, having the player face off against armed thugs and picking them off in specific ways. At the beginning these challenges are pretty easy, especially when just unlocking 1/3 bat trophies, however the higher end ones can be down right impossible sometimes and add a far bit of replayability.
The game sports DLC which so far seems to just be more challenge maps, and for the Playstation 3, challenge maps where the player plays as the Joker.
As it stands I am a big Batman fan, and that has almost no bearing on why I like the game so much. The terrific voice acting along with the memorable characters from the universe do help, but the gameplay, execution and presentation of the title stands up all by itself. This game is a game that everyone should play at least once and considering it is on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, it isn’t hard for people to get a hold of it. Buy it, Play it, love it, the Dark Knight rises from the ashes to produce another excellent product.