Repost: Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

There have been many games that involved the Batman franchise and universe. Even with Lego Batman, there was always something missing. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady and Eidos took the universe and created a title that took all the elements that have been missing from previous games.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is now the standard that most licensed games have to follow. Rocksteady understood the license of Batman, the characters, and the settings and presented them in a way that gamers and comic fans alike appreciate.

Gamers start the game with the return of the Joker back to Arkham Asylum; Batman questioning why the Joker gave in so easily in their last conflict. Once returned behind the security doors in the inner areas of the asylum, Joker springs his trap for Batman, assisted by Harley Quinn. From there, players have to unravel the mystery of why the Joker wanted back in the asylum so badly.

A first playthough runs around nine to fifteen hours, depending on how quickly players move from area to area. Along with the primary missions, the Riddler annoys Batman with environment puzzles that unlock bonus content, there are interview tapes scattered around and hidden, and other side missions that develop the history around Batman and his rogues gallery along with the asylum itself.

Visuals are among the best on PlayStation 3, with small flairs of detail in-game that make all the areas pop out. There isn’t a place where the game looks duplicated even though players will move through areas more than once. Arkham island is the setting and there are areas and characters that Batman needs to interact with to solve Joker’s plan.

The sound is also excellent, the voice acting of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy among the best of any game I’ve played before. All the main characters are voiced with convincing dialogue and even the simple thugs talk during gameplay with perfect tone and pitch. The environment comes alive in the sound, and even though the game is a little front heavy, the surround sound shows up in big scenes.

The biggest fear many had with the game was the gameplay and combat systems. The “free flow” system that Rocksteady talked about so often is perfect, moving from thug to thug isn’t button mashing, but a dance of attack and defend. Counters play a huge part of the combat, stringing double digit combos gain more experience and possible instant upgraded takedowns. Defending against the different types of enemies is more fun in the challenge modes with groups of enemies in larger numbers than in-game.

Boss battles don’t cover every introduced rogue which actually makes the game flow a lot smoother than expected. Players will talk or interact with a lot of the rogues, but actual “boss” battles aren’t that often. Unlike other license games, each rogue is important to the story, but it’s not essential to fight all of them. The final battle between the Joker and Batman is easily one of the most iconic of final encounters. The Scarecrow level dispersed throughout the middle of the game are a great break from the main gameplay and open the psyche of Bruce Wayne as opposed to just Batman.

Throughout the story, Batman receives new gadgets that assist him in completing new objectives, but from the start of the game there are areas in the environment that cannot be accessed. Working backwards, there are many secrets that were now available to find. Along with new gadgets, Batman earns experience points through fighting the general thugs and boss battles. There are 20 upgrades, some open new combat combos, upgrade gadgets, or increase the durability of Batman to take more damage.

What the game excels in is the story. Paul Dini wrote the plot for Arkham Asylum and knowledgeable fans know that he wrote and produced Batman: Animated Adventures which produced some of the greatest translations of comic book stories. Harley Quinn was introduced through the cartoon and has since become a staple character in the comic book series. The pacing of game is rock solid, each new objective clearly working along with the story.

The PlayStation 3 exclusive Joker content is interesting. Playing as the Joker in similar challenge scenarios is an nice addition, but there isn’t too much different from the Batman challenges. Challenge mode is difficult, especially the stalking challenges. Joker has them as well, but they don’t seem to play as well. It could be because so much time is spent as Batman that playing as Joker is a little disjointed in how to approach some of the challenges. The challenges feature online leaderboards and there are some excellent players already online.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is now the defining Batman title. There lacks a comparison with any other Batman title, and even removing the license still results in a great action title for consoles. Rocksteady needs to be applauded at using the license one hundred percent and also be allowed to try their hands at either a new Batman title or another license-based game. It will be interesting to see what else Rocksteady can do after all the attention they will receive for this triple-A title.

Review Copy Provided By Publisher