Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

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Genre: Superhero Action/Adventure

Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Players: 1

Developer: Rocksteady Games

Price: $59.99 (USD)
The history of Batman in video games is a troubled one, although I have to say he’s faired a bit better than most other superheroes that have undergone the video game treatment (ie, Superman), but there has yet to be a truly definitive Batman video game. Well, until now. Without hyperbole, I can say that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best licensed superhero video game ever, and even if you aren’t a fan of the Caped Crusader’s exploits, the genuinely excellent gameplay should make you overlook the fact that you are controlling a man in bat tights.
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The premise of the game is simple, and doesn’t stray beyond it for the entirety of the game, but it’s enough to propel you forward and give you a sense of urgency: In short, the Joker, after being returned to Arkham Asylum by Batman, manages to escape, release all the prisoners, and hold the guards, and Batman, hostage, threatening to blow up random locations in Gotham City if anyone dares to set foot on Arkham Island. Naturally, as Batman, the player is called upon to stop the sociopathic madman.
In order to accomplish this task, Batman must call upon all of his skills, from utilizing his vast array of gadgets and doohickeys, to his superb detective skills, and his mastery of the martial arts to fend off Joker’s henchmen, and his extremely twisted Rogue’s Gallery.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil from Batman: The Animated Series, reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker, respectively, and give top notch performances. Fans of the series should be thrilled by their inclusion, and it really helps to make the game feel like a true Batman tale.
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Batman’s journey will also take him into the very depths of Arkham Asylum, with all it’s dark secrets, and as much as I’ve grown weary of Unreal Engine 3, it does a truly impressive job of rendering the world that Batman and his foes inhabit. The grime, soot, and grit of Arkham Asylum is brought to life with relatively sharp textures, excellent character model details, and some genuinely inspired art design. Visual effects like Batman’s “Detective Vision” view add to the immersion.
The controls are, for the most part, smooth and responsive. Outside of a few trouble spots like running up stairs (sometimes Batman can get caught in a stairwell), everything else about the games control scheme is smooth. I would have liked to have been able to adjust the sensitivity when aiming things like a batarang, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
Combat is simple, and yet has room for depth. Players can attack with one button, dodge, counter, and stun, and it is all handled with an impressively fluid animation system, allowing players to chain together large combos on multiple enemies. It is definitely satisfying to take out 5 or 6 thugs at one time, without taking any damage, due to some deft countering.
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Gameplay wise, the game is also simple. Players explore Arkham Asylum as only Batman can. That is to say; stealth and gadgets. From grappling to higher perches, sneaking behind foes and incapacitating them without anyone being the wiser, scanning the environment for clues, and slinking through the numerous air ducts that permeate the asylum, the game does an excellent job of making you feel like Batman, although I wish their was more of a play on the darkness and shadows (kind of like Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, which Rocksteady cited as an inspiration for Batman: AA).
Players gain experience points by defeating foes stylishly that they can then apply to their skills, allowing them to eventually blow up walls, throw multiple batarangs, take more damage, and deal more damage, to name only a few upgrades. Boss encounters are few, but nonetheless entertaining, and the new visual takes on the classic villains are often disturbing and overall, well done.
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The Playstation 3 version of the game sports some exclusive challenge levels featuring the Joker, which are wickedly fun and play differently enough from Batman to make it worth a try.
VERDICT: BUY – Batman: Arkham Asylum does for Batman what Spider-Man 2 The Game did for Spider-Man last generation: Makes the player truly feel like they are Batman, and gives them a great selection of gadgets to play, a beautifully realized world and reimagining of some Batman’s greatest foes, and fun, satisfying fisticuffs, all wrapped up in an entertaining Batman story full of great Joker humor and excellent moments. This is most certainly a must buy for fans of Batman, and, at the least, a rental for those that aren’t.
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2 Responses to “Batman: Arkham Asylum Review”

  1. I seriously love they got the voice actors from the old cartoon show. Mark Hamil’s joker is personally my favorite. He has an excellent balance between genius and psychotic.

    Likewise, Kevin Conroy really knows how Batman is supposed to sound. None of that Christian Bale gruff mumbling.

    I hate what they’ve done to Harlequinn though. She looks more like a hot topic reject than the psychotic girl we all know and love.

    Other than that, the game looks really good. I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes.

  2. I rented and completed Batman: Arkham Asylum recently and loved it! I’m going to buy a copy as soon as I can.

    They did a wonderful job in making the player really feel like the Dark Knight himself. They avoided the temptation to go too far with Batman’s abilities and gear and they gave everything a certain air of credibility and believability despite Batman being very much the comic book hero.

    Even the wonderfully fluid combat animations weren’t over-the-top yet still managed to make the player feel superheroic.

    I really appreciated how they made combat so simple yet still managed to make it challenging while avoiding raising the player’s frustration levels. Stringing together a fluid set of combos and racking up the points never got boring for me because it felt so satisfying!

    Everything about Batman: Arkham Asylum’s production screams high quality with strict attention paid to detail; from the superbly crafted environment and the re-envisioning of classic characters, to the awesome voice work and silky smooth animation.

    I definitey agree… IT’S A MUST-BUY. Even non-Batman fans will get a kick out of it.

    Batman: Arkham Asylum belongs in every gamer’s library.

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