Batman has had a terrific run on the big screen in recent years, but his history in video games has been nothing short of abysmal. Thankfully, Batman: Arkham Asylum finally does some justice to one of comic book’s most loved heroes. Right from the get-go, the story sucks you in and keeps a firm grasp until the moment the maniacal Joker is taken down by The Dark Knight and the city of Gotham is saved, once again.
I had a smile on my face the very second the menu screen faded in and the dark music set the stage for what I hoped was a terrific adventure. The lengthy opening cut-scene set the stage perfectly and before I knew it, I was taking down Joker’s thugs one-by-one in some of the best hand-to-hand combat I’ve ever seen in a game. Batman: Arkham Asylum is a refreshing change in the combat department, since Batman doesn’t use traditional weapons. There are no machine guns or sniper rifles. Batman is equipped with gadgets that will assist in taking down bad dudes, but nothing that will do the job for him.
Slow Down There, Partner
Each room requires an assessment before you start taking goons down, as you are quickly wasted once someone gets a lock on your position. And this is where BAA really shines. Stealth tactics are a must in order to survive. Thankfully, Batman’s gadgets come in handy when you need to survey your surroundings. Detective mode can be initiated at any time, which highlights armed and unarmed bad guys in your area, and also brings attention to vents that can be entered, walls that can be demolished, and generally provides useful tips in finding your way around the asylum. I found that I was playing with detective mode enabled most of the time, which hampers the visuals a bit. It would have been nice if there was a way to identify thugs with detective mode, then leave them some how visible on the HUD once it’s disabled.
Familiar (Evil) Faces
The “super villains” in BAA are in their comic book form, which was a good move in my opinion. They’re much more over-the-top and extravagant than they would have been if the style of the recent movies was adopted. Many old favourites are present, and even a couple lesser known villains. You encounter each of them on a different level, and some of which you actually don’t end up taking on directly, which was a bit of a let down. I really wanted to beat the piss out of Scarecrow!
The story itself is quite good, and keeps shifting directions as you uncover Joker’s master plan. Character voice overs are very well done and there’s plenty of chatter through-out the story. Even aside from cut-scenes. As you take down Joker’s thugs, you can hear them talking amongst themselves and they’ll often yell out in hopes of drawing you out of the dark.
One of my favourite aspects of the game is the AI, and how they respond when threatened. For example, as you walk into a room full of half a dozen thugs, you can see they’re condition on your HUD. Initially, they are calm. But as you start picking them off, that changes to nervous, and eventually terrified. They act differently in these varying conditions as well, and will do things like run and climb up ladders which they wouldn’t normally do if they’re at ease. Setting traps for thugs is quite fun, as you have plenty of options when it comes to clearing a room. One of my personal favourites tactics is booby-trapping a downed thug with explosive gel. When the others come to investigate – BOOM! They’re all knocked to the ground, which gives me just enough time to swoop down and incapacitate each and every one of them. It’s quite satisfying!
Plenty of Bang for Your Buck
Once the story mode is complete, there’s plenty of reasons to continue playing. The Riddler has placed trophies through-out the asylum which can be collected, earning you some tasty Achievement points. There’s also a challenge mode which drops you into combat and stealth scenarios that are all sorts of fun. There’s no multiplayer what-so-ever, but I can’t even think what they could have done in this department. This is definitely one single player package that feels complete, despite the lack of online play.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game that I have been looking forward to for some time, but I refrained to get my hopes up as I assumed it would be another shitty Batman game to add to the pile. Thankfully, that is definitely not the case and this game shaped up to be one of my favourite video game experiences of 2009.
With the dearth of games coming out this quarter, I was almost going close my eyes and pick at random! However your review has convinced me that whatever I do, Batman: Arkham Asylum needs to be on my list. I’m going to limit myself to Batman and Uncharted 2 for now, and bide my time till everything comes down in price (Modern Warfare 2 didn’t make the cut for me, this time). Anyhow, great review!
P.S. Loving your ratings graphics by the way- just noticed the wooden blocks spelling out W-I-N, which is a touch of genius.
I would say if you have to narrow it down, Batman: Arkham Asylum is definitely a safe bet. Check the demo out – if you like that, you’ll love the full game. It’s that, x10.
I’m pretty damn excited for Uncharted 2! And we’re actually not too far off that one now.
I laughed out loud when I noticed "WIN" on the blocks.
Everytime you review a game that I’ve played, I somehow usually feel the same way you do, which has led me to purchase games you’ve given high scores to. I haven’t been disappointed yet so the way I see it, I should get this one as well and hope it doesn’t break the fantastic image the latest movies have given my favorite superhero!
Indeed, we’ve been pretty on par with games lately, as I’ve noticed on Twitter. This one just shines quality, through-and-through.
Why didn’t you get the PS3 version? don’t care about the Joker’s challenges?
I considered it, but Achievements and the better controller swayed me back to Xbox 360. Also, since the content is an add-on for the PS3 version and not included on the disc, that says to me that we’ll be seeing it as DLC for the Xbox 360 version down the road.
I’ll be fair and say that this wasn’t on my radar. Then I played the demo.
Honestly…….it’s been awhile since a game has called to me in my sleep and has made me get out of bed an hour early everyday so that I can squeeze in some time before work, and yet here we are.
Batman is simply fantastic.
Hah, that’s awesome Russ! Pure dedication to a great game.
I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this for so long now! Releases here in NZ on September 3rd so only a few days away, can’t wait.
Great review as always Matt, although I had to jump over a couple of bits that I thought might give away bits of the story 😉
I guess you’ll be picking it up tomorrow – enjoy!
I don’t think there are any spoilers in my review – I try and avoid that sort of thing. Anything I mentioned would be known to those that have at the very least watched a trailer. Unless you’re referring to, "…the moment the maniacal Joker is taken down by The Dark Knight and the city of Gotham is saved, once again." That’s a given, no? 😉
Totally agree. Really enjoying Batman so far. Opening scene has that high quality, cinematic feel, which continues throughout the game.
Only complaint so far is the one you mentioned about the Detective Mode. Feel like I need to constantly switch that on when walking through the levels so I don’t miss any hidden areas. Problem with that view is that it "takes you out" of the immersive experience.
Other than that, great stuff.
Seems to be a common beef, but I can’t think of a way to get around that, since you need detective mode for hidden items, destructible surfaces, etc.
My copy arrives today and I’m looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about. This will be the first superhero/film game I’ve bought and I hope it lives up to all these stellar reviews going around.
Like what you’ve done with your site. As others have mentioned the ratings artwork is ace.
Played the demo, loved it, and I bought the game today. I probably can’t afford all the sweet games that will come during this and the fourth quarter.
Played the demo, loved it, and I bought the game today. I probably can’t afford all the sweet games that will come during this and the fourth quarter….
I agree with you in just about every respect. Batman: Arkham Asylum is one hell of a game, and its "Freeflow Conbat" is probably one of the most amazing hand-tohand combat systems that I’ve ever seen in a game of this type. I also liked being able to see Mark Hamill give the Joker a considerably more mature tone as opposed to his performance in the made-for-kids cartoon series. It was awesome.
"Tell me Bats, what are you scared of? Me in a thong!?"
Oh wow, I didn’t know The Joker was voiced by Mark Hamill! Looked it up on IMDB and found that he did a bunch of voice work for Batman cartoons doing The Joker. Very cool.
This is the best game i have played for a long time. Previous to this I was addicted to [Prototype] but this game has trumped that big time! The graphics are good, but the game-play itself is amazing. i agree with the detective mode comments, this could have been improved but it still doesn’t take away from the overall development. A***