The Dark Knight. One of the most iconic figures of all time. Its a wonder why there aren't more video games being developed about his crime fighting antics. Every few years a new Batman does get thrown out there, but whether it be the gimmicky LEGO Batman, the film-esque Batman Begins, or even the classic SNES game Batman Forever, none really capture the true side of the legendary Caped Crusader, or the dark side of his most evil of villains. Developed by the up-and-coming - and very talented - Rocksteady Studios, Batman: Arkham Asylum looks to take the crown of the greatest Batman game ever made, and it may even look to take 2009's Game Of The Year, but can this atmospheric action game pull it off? Read on to find out.
This generation of consoles has seen many developers combining the most different of video game genres in order to create something special, and the result is always a new look and feel and something a bit fun, but usually lacking in depth and under-developed. What Batman: Arkham Asylum does is take the most fluent action adventure aspects of modern gaming and fuse them together perfectly with state-of-the-art stealth gameplay and top it all off with a handful of unique gameplay elements. You may ask how do all of these gameplay types work together? Easy, with Batman's many unique and stunningly awesome gadgets. Players will be able to unlock and use a wide variety of the infamous Batman gadgets in order to take down Gothams most evil scum anyway they see fit, and it's this variety which keeps the action fresh and the game intense.
Arkham Asylum is Gotham City's madhouse, and houses all of Batmans most evil foes from the sadistically Victor Zsasz to the seductive Poison Ivy, and many in between. The game sees the Joker take over Arkham and ensure that its secluded island stays just that - secluded - from the law enforcement from the mainland, by calling a bomb threat on the sprawling metropolis. The Joker then releases all of Arkhams inmates and orders a island wide hunt for these criminals number one enemy, who just so happens to be stranded within the walls of this insane asylum; the Batman. This helps keep Batman occupied while the Joker goes about his 'real' plan. Its up to you to put a stop to it before its too late. It's this story combined with the perfectly rendered cutscenes and awesome dialogue that keep you in the zone with Batman: Arkham Asylum and not wanting to put the controller down.
Batman: AA uses a very fluent combat system, that sees all of the main moves executed from one single button, which is very easy to pick up, and quite fun to master. Batman can take on many enemies at once by systematically changing from one to the other, and back again, all while pounding the attack button and unleashing devastating and very cinematic combos and moves. But its not just a one button wins all scenario all the time. As you progress, you will be faced with stronger and faster inmates that will require use of Batmans cape stun move and his many dramatic counter attacks, which can be used when being attacked from any direction, making for some very large scale and enjoyable battles.
But Arkham Asylum isn't all round-and-pound action. Often, if you try to take on legions of these crazed psychopaths, you can become overwhelmed and get slaughtered by the merciless hands of your foes, especially if a few of these guys have gotten their blood-stained hands onto the guards weaponry. Its times like these that you will have to put your brains before your brawn and plan out your attack. Do you want to set an explosive trap and lure your enemies near before detonation, or do you want to sneak up and take them out one by one using shadows as cover to get near before stringing them up high for all to see? Its entirely up to you, and with options like these and large rooms and areas for your attack, each and every fight will be different and will keep you involved that you will feel like you will never want to stop playing, it's just that good.
Its becoming less and less common for games to feature 'boss' battles, and when they do, its obvious they've came along way since the dodge and hit, rinse and repeat three times style battles from the classics. But with so many great foes roaming Arkham Island, boss battles are just another must-have for Batman: Arkham Asylum. The games few boss battles are all very cinematic and thought provoking. They require thought and action being given at all times and a hefty dose of quick reflexes and a little bit of patience. Although this may seem like too wide a variety of elements needed to take out one bad guy, Rocksteady have actually created some of the most memorable and great boss battles ever, and not just because they feature the mightiest of all of Batmans unyielding enemies.
The game features no multiplayer modes to speak of, and with most titles, that's quite a horrible thing. However, with Batman: AA, the lack of multiplayer could be praised, as with its unique gameplay styles of the game in question, a multiplayer mode would just bring down the overall experience and would have taken away from the time Rocksteady put into the magnificent single-player. But if competition really is your thing, worry not. Arkham Asylum features challenge maps, which differ from predator mode, to combat mode. Predator mode requires players to take out enemies as fast as possible, but still without being seen. Combat mode makes players try their hand at pulling off large combos in order to make the most points out of the waves of enemies presented. All of your scores are then posted on individual leaderboards for each level, where players can compare their scores with their friends and foes in order to truly come to the conclusion of who is the greatest. Through out the games single-player adventure, you can unlock more of these challenge maps.
Another thing - besides the amazing combat, the deep story, the epic boss battles, the shadowy stealth and the fact that you are playing as the almighty Batman - to keep you interested is that while exploring the great Arkham Asylum, the Riddler has given you 240 challenges. These range from finding hidden trophies, terminating annoying chatterboxes, discovering secret items, and what is arguably one of the best features of the game, riddles. The Riddlers riddles will have you thinking, guessing, wondering and thinking some more until you discover the answer. Each area of the game has a riddle or two to solve, which are very, very well thought out and written and you just won't want to stop till you've solved these devious things. Not just for the little goodies they unlock in game, but for your own personal inner detective. Lets face it, we have all wanted to be a detective at one stage in our lives.
Batman: Arkham Asylum gives players what may easily become known as one of the most atmospheric and mysterious game worlds ever created. The attention to detail is amazing, and with each and every little detail comes a hundred more. It doesn't matter where you are in the asylum, you're sure to be baffled by the graphics and engine of the game. The atmosphere created by the shattered glass, the dark night sky creeping through the windows, even the mess on the floor all helps to put you deep into the game world, where you won't ever want to leave. If you didn't know you were playing a Batman game, you could swear you were in the world of the latest survival horror game. Maybe it's this very dark, gloomy world that is what makes Batman: Arkham Asylum the best Batman game ever made.
Also, the games protagonist and each antagonist in the story is sculpted beautifully and given very believable expressions and personalities. This is shown in their animations and movements and when shown close ups, you get a sense of rivalry that is never before experienced in a mere video game. You actually feel like these inmates are your sworn enemies and get a heart-felt desire to take them down, it's all just so very realistic, despite the overwhelming size and look of some of these monstrosities. Basically, each and every character is animated wonderfully and acts accordingly. Batman: Arkham Asylum will do what Assassins Creed has done for the past two years of gaming; make every other games animation look second hand and used.
Usually, blockbuster titles will feature one or two known voices, but Batman: Arkham Asylum gives players a huge range of known cast voices, which players will recognize from all manners of games from the past ten years. Mark Hamill ever reprises his role as the Joker as he has for nearly every Batman form of media for the past 15 years, and the voice of Batman himself is none other than Kevin Conroy, the man who's voiced your idol since you were a baby. And with an all-star cast, comes an all-star script. What may seem like a script full of cliched one-liners and emotional dialogue is surprisingly true to the long-running comic book series and will please fans and new-comers alike.
While running around the island full of nutters, whenever you can manage to draw your attention away from the scenery, take some time to stop and listen to the subtle score that goes hand in hand with the dark atmosphere. This is when you truly realize why you have been enjoying yourself so much. A musical score in a game is an often overlooked aspect, but without one, no atmosphere, especially a dark one, would be the same.
What weighs a video games value? Is it the replay value of the main story? Or perhaps the depth of the multiplayer if there is one present? Could it be how long it takes for you to complete? Well, whatever make a game worth what it costs, Batman: Arkham Asylum has it, and more. The main adventure mode will give players a decent amount of time for a playthrough, and even tempt them over and over for another play. And when getting a little bored, wait, that's not really possible, lets just say overworked on the main story, the many challenge maps will take hours of spare time off your hands, and you will love every second of it. But its not necessarily the amount of time spent playing Batman: AA that will make you feel like it was well worth its price-tag. Its how good that time was. Arkham Asylum provides some of the best gameplay ever seen in a video game, and even if the story was half the length, it would still be worth every penny.
You may have noticed that during this review I did not mention anything about Batman: Arkham Asylum that was bad. The reason for this? Simple; there is not one bad aspect of the game. Batman: AA is essentially a perfect video game, whether your a Batman fan or not. It has amazing graphics, believable atmosphere, unique gameplay options, great dialogue and voice acting, a decent amount of replay value, and the Batman to top it off. There isn't any glitches, graphical or physical, to speak of. There isn't any load problems. There simply isn't anything wrong with it. No gamer out there has a reason not to love and buy Batman: AA, and if this game doesn't make Game Of The Year, there is something seriously wrong. Do yourself a major favor, and dive into the world of the Dark Knight.
AAG Score: 10/10
1. Unique gameplay style
2. Great graphics and atmosphere
3. Epic Boss fights
4. Tons of fighting options
5. Gadgets are great
6. Riddles are very fun to solve
1. Could it be too perfect?
Reviewed & Written by John Elliott