|Written by Oliver|
A Gamingheap Review...
Batman: Arkham Asylum
|PlayStation 3 Case Art|
Other than the area around you, there is of course the unique look of the menu system and the overall interface of the game to account for. Many of the screens, particularly the character bio screens and joker trophies are layed out like comic strip panels which is something I really relished because it brought Batman back to its comic-book roots. The character-bio screen is also something I liked because it showed pictures of all of the enemies and criminals Batman has had to deal with, again establishing that link between the game and the original comic books. It felt to me like this extra detail about old characters helped the game to relate back to the comics and not just be a non-generic action-adventure game with Batman shoved in to fill the space.
Combat looks spot-on. Most of the time you'll be fighting with your fists, which can sound rather dull, but it is actually very fun. Slow-motion combos are thrown in and there's a few variations in enemy type. Batman, of course, has his trusty batarangs as well as an assortment of other hi-tech (and lethal!) weaponry up his sleeve. My personal favourite is the remote-controlled batarang which allows the player to control where the batarang goes, hitting several enemies at a time. I have not witnessed a visual glitch as far as I can remember.
The Joker has just been captured after attacking the Mayor's Office in Gotham City and Batman escorts him to Arkham Asylum. However, a recent fire at Blackgate Prison has forced some of the Joker's old gang to be transported to Arkham as well. Batman suspects something is up as the Joker was far too easy to capture but keeps it quiet. At that time Harley Quinn manages to override the asylum's security systems which in turn allows the Joker to escape, henceforth taking control of Arkham Asylum. Then, the Joker threatens to detonate bombs he has planted in Gotham if anyone other than Batman tries to get into the asylum and stop him. Oracle helps Batman via his radio as he tries to rescue Commissioner Gordon who gets kidnapped by the Joker. Throughout the game, Batman meets many of his old foes including Scarecrow, Bane, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Zsasz and Poison Ivy just to name a few! Unfortunately the majority of these characters only play very minor roles, some only seen once or twice. It would have been nice to see some more of these characters instead of Joker dominating the game. However, having said that, all the characters are recreated amazingly, just how you'd want them to be, fully capturing the essence of the original comic-books.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is, at heart, a third-person, action-adventure stealth game. I think the main element developers, Rocksteady wanted to achieve was to show how Batman can strike fear into his enemies by stealthily swooping down and taking them out one by one. Well, I personally think that Batman: Arkham Asylum shows this better than any Batman game I have played as of yet (I have played some older ones, specifically Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu for the PlayStation 2) allowing you to use stealth to take out targets instead of running in and using melee the whole time. Many foes will have firearms which if fired can kill you in seconds. Consequently most people will find themselves relying on stealth to get through the majority of the game. As Batman you can use the grapple hook to reach up to high ledges or hide on top of gargoyles. A good technique is to hide on top of gargoyles and then swoop down and silently take down one guard at a time before grappling back up to the gargoyle lest the other guards detect your presence. When the guards come across the body of their fallen comrade, they act in many different ways. If the dead guard had a weapon then one of the others will grab it and use it against Batman. Using detective mode (more on that later!) you can actually check how fast their hearts are beating. Most of the time they will become nervous and group around each other for protection. Batman can also hide under grates in the floor allowing him to sneak around underneath foes. Admittedly the stealth attribute could be a lot better though, there is a bit of a limit to what you can do other than sneak up and strangle guards or just hide up above them. Sometimes the AI can be ridiculously stupid too and you'll often watch Batman take out a guard without the other guard about 1 metre away noticing a thing.
Riddler challenges appear to, one for every area in the game. When you first enter the area, the riddle will appear at the top of the screen. You the must find the object the riddle is referring to and scan it in detective mode. Detective mode features throughout the game and allows Batman to see through objects and analyse things. Looking at an enemy in detective mode will tell Batman the enemy's heart rate to see if the enemy is calm, nervous or even unconscious or deceased; how many enemies there are in the current area and if they are armed or not. On many occasions in the story, Batman must find a person via a DNA sample. For instance, there is one part where Commissioner Gordon is taken by Joker's henchmen and Batman must follow the trail of nicotine from Gordon's pipe by analyzing it in detective mode. Other than the main singleplayer story there are many combat challenges where you have to get the best score possible. Scores are posted on the global leader-boards.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game, the combat was fluent and addictive, the stealth attribute brought Batman to life and the Riddler trophies were fun to collect. At times there were a few problems, like when you try to swoop down to take out an enemy and Batman manages to catch himself on a ledge, instead just falling to the floor instead of subduing the guard. The aforementioned AI bugs and limited stealth did have a negative effect on my gameplay experience too. I still had a lot of fun playing however.
The game's main characters are voiced by Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin reprising their roles as Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn, respectively. To put it short, the voice acting is outstanding! Batman sounds just right, dark and mysterious yet loyal and ready to fight crime. The Joker is pefect with a capital P! Mark Hamill's voice is like it was made for the Joker! Throughout the game, Joker's voice is constantly heard on the Asylum's tanoy system, with him making bad puns and jokes and laughing hysterically. In my personal opinion, I think it's Mark Hamill and the outstanding voice acting in this game that makes it what it is. The music is, at times, dark and gloomy to support the heavy atmosphere created in this game, but changes during combat to a frantic melody as Batman takes out his foes.
There's nothing more to say about the sound other than it is perfect. I cannot think of one problem I had in this area of the game.
When people said to be that Batman: Arkham Asylum was the best Batman game ever, they were certainly telling the truth! Arkham Asylum creates the perfect atmosphere for a Batman game, relating to a more serious side shown by the newest film trilogy, directed by Christopher Nolan. It brings Batman back to its comic book roots with comic book panel menus and loads of detail on Batman's past foes and back-story. The gameplay is fun and addictive, allowing you to stealthily swoop down and silently subdue enemies whilst sending fear coursing through the mind of their nervous comrades. As well as an exciting and fluent melee combat system there are 250 fun riddler challenges to succeed in and go back through the game to collect. To conclude, Kevin Conroy playing Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn are just the juicy cherries on top of a rich and delighted masterpiece which will keep you engrossed until you've thrown your last batarang!
+ Arkham Island looks nice
+ Mood and atmosphere perfect for a Batman game
+ Game brings Batman back to its comic book roots
+ Voice acting is top-notch
- AI can be ridiculously stupid at times
- Stealth is good, but too limited
My Rating: 8.5/10