Batman: Arkham Asylum Review
Is Arkham Asylum the best Batman game ever?
Yes. Yes it is. Over the years Ive played just about every Batman game ever made, and I have fond memories for a few of them (such as Batman Returns and Batman: The Animated Series for the Super Nintendo). None of them, however, really ever captured the essence of Batman. They were, for the most part, just plain-old beat-em-ups where the only strategy involved was trying to conserve your Batterangs for boss battles. Arkham Asylum changed all that.
Finally, we're given a game where Batman can be Batman; equal parts detective, sneaky ninja and martial artist. While other games tended to ignore the first two aspects, Arkham Asylum features a balance of all three (it should be noted that Batman Begins tried this too... just not anywhere near as effective as Batman: AA). You spend an equal amount of time following evidence trails, sneaking in shadows, and kicking Jokers thugs teeth in. This also means you get to use Batmans greatest weapon; his own mind. In other games you can run up on a gang of thugs with guns, no matter how numerous or well armed, and can walk away with but a few scratches. Not so in Arkham Asylum; two thugs with machine guns can take you down. This means you have to use your brain for a change, slowly and meticulously taking each enemy down. You'll need to think out your strategy and use patience, just like Batman, and I applaud Rocksteady for getting it right.
Now, onto the review itself. Batman: Arkham Asylum is a fantastic game that excells in each area. Utilizing the Unreal 3 engine, the developers greated a dark, lurid setting for Batman to explore. Arkham Asylum is a strange hybrid of old, crumbling architecture and high-tech security. All the walls, buildings, and furniture look worn and decripit, a deep contrast to the shiny metal and LCD glows of the technology build around it. This creates a cool, almost creepy atmosphere in the vein of BioShock or even Resident Evil. No detail is spared on character models, either. Joker, Ivy, Scarecrow and especially Batman look larger than life.
The sounds are just as good, filled with riling music that adds perfectly to the sountrack. Best of all is the voice work; Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil reprise their roles as Batman and Joker, repspectively, with impressive voice work from the rest of the cast. From the Riddlers ever constant condescending remarks, Killer Crocs harsh rasp Poison Ivys seductive tone, each character is brought to life. Even the common guards act and talk differently, some imploring their allies to work together while others go off on their own, determined to bring down Bats by themselves. I've rarely seen enemy AI act so convincing before.
The gameplay is equally as good. The controls may seem a bit odd at first (at least for the 360 version I played), they quickly become intuitive and work very effectively. As stated earlier, there is a good variety of stealth, detective, and combat missions, all of which flow fluidly into one another so I never found myself board by even the most menial tasks. If found the detective vision rather neat; not only can you follow footprints, DNA and other evidence trails, you can look for weak spots in your surroundings and tell which guards are armed or not. Thus, Detective vision becomes crucial to devising any strategy. All the gagets are fun to use, and jumping between them during tight situatins isnt very hard. The combat system also works beautifully, even matter than the Assassins Creed style combat it was modeled after. You can beat up your enemies while easily countering the attacks of others in a series of awesome animations. Though you can beat a lot of arse, your enemies typically get up two or three times unless you perform a 'takedown' action. Ultimately, this means while you beat the crap out of your enemies, its easy for them to get up and overwhelm you, making each battle a challange.
Storywise, Arkham Asylum feels like a real Batman story. The Joker tricks Batman into catching him, escapes, and tries to befuddle and demoralize his enemy while hatching an insidious plot behind their backs. I wont ruin any surprises, but as always, things are more than what they seem, and Batman finds himself in a dangerous, winding situation that seems to have no end. It should be said that a lot of plot twists keep the game fresh. There were times I thought I was going to, say, fight Killer Croc only to wind up in another Scarecrow level, or confront Ivy and end up fighting Harly Quinns goons.
As for the bad... there isnt much. The game is a bit short, but not as short as some make it out to be. The environments are kind of restricting (think of how you had to run between the three cities in Assassins Creed), though the game added a lot of depth to Arkham Asylum. Also boss battles are few and far between, with others being reduced to fighting a bunch of enemies while the boss is in the background. Thats kind of a let down. I dont understand why the developers wouldnt allow you to slug it out with some of your enemies... but whatever. The game excelled in every other aspect so lets not look a gift horse in the mouth and enjoy the game for what it is; the Best Batman game ever. Period.
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