Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

23 09 2009

Batman Boxart

Intro

RockSteady’s newest game is a third person action adventure game with a creative mixture of stealth elements based off the famous DC comic book superhero Batman titled Batman: Arkham Asylum. This game was recently released on August 25th 2009 for multiple platforms including the PlayStation 3.

In Arkham Asylum you play as Batman who has just easily captured the Joker which leaves The Dark Knight very wary. Upon returning him to Arkham Asylum Batman’s instincts are proven right when apparently the Joker deliberately allowed himself to be captured and with the help of Harley Quinn escapes the watchful eye of Batman. The Joker soon takes control of the island and reveals his grand scheme. So with only radio help from the oracle and armed with his full arsenal of gadgets Batman must investigate and stop the Joker. Of course the Joker has other plans and leads Batman through an elaborate journey of Arkham Asylum where coincidentally many of Batman’s other villains are being held.

The one true question is whether this specific title can cleanse itself of the problems that have riddled the previous Batman titles and other comic book based video games or break the mold and truly be unique? Continue reading to hear my take.

Single Player

First off I haven’t played a game in awhile where it felt like everything was so thought out and polished from the pacing of the game right down to the great Batman feel of the game. For instance the pacing of the game was spot on transitioning between action, stealth and puzzle solving flawlessly. This meticulous pace extended into everything including the story, combat and even into the exploring aspect. As the game progressed your abilities expanded allowing you access to areas you previously could not. This made the game appear wide open yet focused your attention enough to progress you through the story. All of this allows the game to never feel stale as it effectively used these tools to make you feel and act as if you truly are Batman.

Batman SS8

The audio and graphics of the game are top notch. The graphics are stunningly realistic and visually on par with the best the PlayStation 3 has to offer even though I spent a majority of my time in detective vision, more on that later. The realistic graphics further helped me to be completely immersed into the game and overall atmosphere. Yet one of the universally praised aspects of this game was the audio and more specifically the voice acting. The voice work in this game is one of the best I have experienced in a video game period. This is obviously due to the fact that the voice work was done by the voice actors of the animated series again further engrossing you into the game and making it that much more believable. It actually felt like I was controlling an animated story rather than playing a video game.

Batman SS2

As far as the actual game play it was also very satisfying as you progress through the story with a balanced mixture of combat and stealth. Like I previously stated the game follows a somewhat linear path yet does allow for some exploration however some areas are restricted until you unlock some of your gadgets. These gadgets along with many other things can be upgraded by earning experience points from puzzle solving and various forms of combat. To keep the game progressing it has included a feature called “detective vision” which among other things highlights objectives and different objects that Batman can interact with. Which led to one of my problems, the detective vision was so good and informative that I rarely turned it off and therefore was unable to experience much of the detail in the levels.

Batman SS10

Like almost everything else in the game the combat felt true to the series while remaining effective and fun to use. The free flow combat is very fluid and easy to use, requiring only two buttons, yet is deep enough that it is hard to master. The combat system relies more on timing rather then simply mashing a set number of buttons or memorizing an exact button sequence. The stealth mechanic was difficult for me at first as I felt severely punished once I was seen but as the game introduced new ways to take down and escape from enemies I enjoyed that aspect as much if not more than the combat. Finding new ways to effectively use the environment and silently take down your enemies never seems to grow old. One of the standouts in combat for me was the incredible boss fights. All of the fights seemed to uniquely cater to the characters strengths while still managing to be fun and challenging to complete. Yet they were not so difficult that they became tedious or repetitive which for me is the sweet spot in regards to the difficulty level.

The story was another bright spot in the game while also being the perfect length, it took me around 12-14 hours to complete on normal difficulty which is a shift from most licensed video games. The story was in-depth and had enough substance that it made you want to progress and unveil more of the story. Yet the story wasn’t so riddled with back story that it became confusing, the story is as simple or in-depth as you wanted it to be. For instance it did provide back story via audio interviews and character bios of Batman’s enemies but those were not mandatory to complete or understand the story. Ultimately the story was refreshing, powerful, and understandable all while still being completely fun to play.

Batman SS9

Despite the fantastic story I didn’t find much reason to replay this title even though it does have wonderfully integrated trophy support as well as several challenge rooms. The riddler challenges were fun but 240 seemed overwhelming. Granted these riddles are not mandatory but simply add more depth to an already intriguing story.

Of course the game is not without its flaws although all of them are petty issues. Most of these issues, like random gargoyles placed everywhere are so easy to overlook since they are implemented so well into the game. Also at times restarting a mission was cumbersome since I occasionally had to replay a huge section of the game that I just beat however the presentation of these death screens were so intuitive it was easy to overlook especially considering how eager I was to jump back in the game.

Overall

My initial impressions of this game were completely wrong, not that I thought this game was bad but I heard all of the praise yet I was resistant to believe any of it. Well now after playing the game I can honestly say that Batman: Arkham Asylum deserves all the praise and hype it has received.

I was unsure how much I would or could enjoy this game while not being a huge Batman fan at least as of recent times. However this game seems to bring the nostalgia back while still providing an intriguing back story for those not familiar with all the characters. Whatever the reason was I found the story to be compelling and the overall game play to be addictive leading to a truly enjoyable experience that I honestly can’t say I have had with too many games.

Although for me personally there wasn’t much reason to replay this title despite loving my initial play through. However I just can’t seem to come up with a reason not to support this great game. Therefore I suggest you must at least play this game to experience it for yourself whether or not you rent or buy it. Although if you are a fan of Batman or just want/need this title to play whenever your heart desires then do yourself a favor and go pick up one of the best games to come so far this year. You will not regret it.

The wife’s take:

This is a new section I hope to include in all future reviews, by its name I imagine you know what it is however I will explain further. In this section I will include one or two sentences about the game from my wife’s point of view. I find her female non-gamer point of view to be very enlightening and could be beneficial to some readers, plus she is kind enough to let me play these games in the first place. Let me emphasis that when I say non-gamer I mean that down to its core. I also want to make clear that these are her words and her thoughts therefore will not be included in my review “score” as they may completely vary. In the future depending on feedback I may actually make this a separate post so of course any and all feedback is welcomed. So without further a do here are my wifes thoughts on Batman: Arkham Asylum.

“The game is very realistic; it’s beautiful but very gritty in tone. Batman appeared really stiff and was never in a hurry. I imagine the game to be enjoyable as I didn’t hear much complaining, at least about the game.”

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To read about our stance on the review process click here for more answers. Find all of other reviews here; better yet bookmark that section so you won’t miss any of our future reviews as well. If you would like other information to be included in the reviews give us some feedback and let us know, or if you would like us to review a specific title drop us a line we welcome and encourage your feedback. Enjoy!

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2 responses

24 09 2009
GregHorrorShow

Great review, I’m really looking forward to playing this. Just need to finish off Wet and then I’ll give it a go.

Nice touch adding your wife’s comments, always good to hear someone who wouldn’t play it themselves opinion on games.

16 02 2010
Game of The Year: 2009 « Beyond The D-Pad

[…] Sneaking past others to the # 2 spot is… Batman: Arkham Asylum […]

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