Monday, August 30, 2010

Batman: Arkham Asylum

I am vengeance... I am the night... I am...

  • Genre: Action-adventure, stealth, beat-em up
  • Publisher: Eidos Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive
  • Developer: Rocksteady Studios
  • Platform: PS3, 360, PC

Batman. The greatest superhero of all time. If you disagree, well, you are wrong. It is agreed almost unanimously throughout the internet that Batman, given preparation time, is capable of defeating any opponent and tackling any obstacle. Unfortunately, there has never really been a video game that did justice to the caped crusader. Has Rocksteady Studios finally succeeded where so many have failed? In a word, yes.

Batman: Arkham Asylum opens with Batman foiling archenemy Joker's attack on the Mayor's office. He then escorts him to Arkham Asylum, only to watch him escape yet again, seizing control of the Asylum and setting his henchmen loose throughout it. It is up to Batman to grapple, sneak and brawl his way to the clown prince of crime before he can execute one of his most elaborate schemes yet.

The game is mostly played as an over-the-shoulder third person action game (though occasionally switching to first person for certain aspects). The player must help Batman make his way through an island full of people (and plants) that would very much like to see him dead, mastering the Dark Knight's arsenal of bat-toys along the way, ranging from a grappling hook and batarangs to explosive gel. The game frequently pits you against groups of as many as 10 enemies at once, a considerable threat for most video game protagonists, but barely a work out for Batman. Combat is comprised of four main buttons: Punch, Stun, Counter and Dodge. The freeflow combat system allows Batman to quickly switch from one enemy to another, closing large distances between enemies in an instant and making it easy for the player to quickly respond to threats and counter attacking enemies. Batman moves like lightning and takes down rooms full of enemies with style. While its true that combat mostly consists of mashing one button, it looks cool and feels satisfying, and I found myself eager to run into another group of goons to stomp into the ground. But make no mistake, this game is much more than a simple brawler. There are many situations, typically involving armed henchmen (with seemingly superhuman accuracy), where a head-on assault will result in instant death, requiring stealth take-downs and careful gadget use instead. These two primary game play types are broken up by frequent riddle-solving and item collection challenges set up by one of Batman's more obnoxious villains, the Riddler, as well as sidescrolling platformer segments scattered throughout the game in the form of Scarecrow's hallucinogenic nightmares.


The games mood and art direction seems to be a mix of the most recent Batman films and the 90s animated series, a winning combination. One of the best aspects of this game is it's voicework, featuring the return of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamil, and Arleen Sorkin to the roles they played in the animated series, roles which have become the definitive versions of Batman, Joker and Harley Quinn in the minds of many fans. There is top-notch voicework throughout the game, featuring many other well-known names as Steve Blum, Cree Summers and Tom Kane. In addition to influence from the many past incarnations of Batman, the game has borrowed many elements from recent games. The entire asylum has a very Bioshock feel to it, complete with audio logs and Oracle filling in for Atlas, and the stealth aspects of the game have clearly taken a few pages out of Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell's books. Yes, we have seen many of these gameplay elements before, but never all in one game, and certainly never while wearing the shoes of the goddamn Batman.

If there is one major flaw in this game it would be the boss fights. There are only three or four unique boss fights, and the others consist of copy-pastes of the Bane fight. Sometimes it will be one Bane clone, sometimes two, sometimes two and a room full of thugs, but the slight variety in presentation does little to mask the fact that you have to fight half a dozen of what is essentially the same boss. It comes across as kind of lazy. Other than that, it is a highly enjoyable game, one of the rare good superhero games, and even rarer good Batman games.


The Breakdown:

  • Plenty of variety in gameplay
  • Great combat and stealth elements
  • Fantastic audio
  • Poor, repetitive boss fights

The Verdict:

You get to be Batman. What else could you want? If you haven't played this game, go get it. It's fairly cheap at this point ($30 in most places) and provides 10+ hours of superhero badassery.

15 comments:

Harry said...

Great game.

Caspar said...

really solid review. thanks alot. might give the game a try when i haev time

Fons said...

Definitely giving this a try

roguez4lifez said...

great review of an awesome game :D

Olly said...

nice review, gonna have to try this game sometime :)

J Mo said...

Nice review! Makes me want to check it out

Skrull said...

Nice review there

Nick said...

Dude, I can't wait for the new one.
Can you check me out? scatteredpennies.blogspot.com

Owner said...

I love superhero games...deff gunna try this one out

Fuuuuuuuu said...

awesome post!

Psycho Man said...

I enjoyed this game and this review. I used to buy games just because they seemed interesting, but now I always read reviews like this.

Vito said...

he is the goddamn batman

Vernin The Rat said...

I agree about the boss battles.

Typical tech monkey said...

This game is awesome, just watch out for your savegames. Mine got garbled just before the Poison Ivy fight and it was annoying as hell.

WallabyWay42 said...

Nanananananananana batman! Lol I havent played this game yet but due to your thorough summary I may think about it now.

 
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