Batman: Arkham Asylum review
Dark Knigtmares Await...
- Visuals and voice acting
- Grim atmosphere
- Mature plot and setting
- Free-flowing combat
- Array of gadgets
- Predictable plot
- Challenge room difficulty
Superhero games 101: You are an unlikely guy who inherits powers and then gets to choose to use them for good of bad whilst trekking the urban vistas of an all-too familiar city. I am sorry to inform you, but this conventional formula for hero games had been shot out of the sky and has been shattered on the ground. When we heard that Batman would be receiving his own title, there was the lingering though that we would be presented with a lacklustre linear experience that had the Joker waiting for us at the end. Though some of this is true, the fairly unknown Rocksteady and big guns, “Square-Eidos” have completely bowled over every notion that was drawn towards this game being a potential failure.
The Batmobile hurls down the waterlogged streets of Gotham City, with Batman at the helm, and a ghost-faced villain beside him. After a few minutes of hellish laughter, the metals gates of Arkham Asylum burst open as the black armoured vehicle ascends upon the ancient compound, built for the criminally insane...
The tale of Arkham Asylum takes place over a single night, depicting the foreseeable escape of the Joker, as he takes over the compound, releasing all of its inmates to do his bidding. Trapped in the madhouse without any escape, Batman must confront every nightmare he has ever faced to put a stop to The Joker and survive a night of hell.
The story itself is a little unimaginative, being a scapegoat just to show off the many villains in Batman’s grim past, but it is woven beautifully. Apart from the Joker, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Scarecrow and a host of many other old faces turn up for the party.
The is a mixture of free roaming and linear action. Each event or mission will take place in the many sections of the compound, some of which will be revisited. Batman will have to enter the particular section, complete a mission, and then move to the next location. It may sound dull on paper, but it’s very hard to look at the design so blandly when the game is in motion.
Unlike Batman games of the past, Arkham Asylum is the game that nails what the Dark Knight is all about. You can either take tactical approaches towards crowds of enemies, or you could just go in all guns blazing. Some segments of the game will pit you against gun-toting enemy, which means that you’ll need to sneak around them and take them out silently. This is also helped by Batman’s vast array of gadgets such as the Batclaw which can yank enemies from ledges, and explosive gel, used to destroy weak walls.
The game is split into a number of divisions. Firstly, you have the navigation and detecting mode in which Batman will go from place to place to find his next objective. You have the ability to sprint and glide between locations, which can also be teamed up with Batman’s ability to zip up to high ledges or across horizontal plains.
Once you are encountered by the enemy, you will be engaged in one of the most free-flowing and intense combat systems in gaming. You will be able to deliver an array of light attacks and stuns via the action buttons to weaken your foes, but the flowing element comes into fruition when you are introduced to countering. Enemies wont just let you batter them to a pulp, if one is getting beaten, others will move in for the attack, and as they are about to hit Batman, a flash will appear that will indicate that the player needs to counter. From the counter, the fight can continue, and this combination of fast-paced brutal attacks and evasions makes melee the most addictive element within the game.
The last segment is stealth, in which you simply hold down the crouch button to move around, making sure you aren’t seen. This is helped by the fact that you can trigger Detective Mode, in which you can see your environment in an X-ray style vision, pinpointing every enemy and their status. Sentries aren’t completely useless either, the AI affords them to stick together when they know the Batman is around, and if spotted, they will trigger alarms instantly, making evasion that little bit harder.
Apart from the story mode itself, Arkham Asylum also offers extensive challenge rooms, with some extras available for free to download. These challenges either take the form of stealth-based missions or huge brawls in which you rack points to earn medals. PlayStation owners will be elated to access the exclusive Joker pack, which lets you play as the Joker in similar challenges.
The Unreal engine was a bit of a strange choice to power the game, but nonetheless, the result is pretty polished. Cartoon-like conventions have been replaced with huge hulking character models with an extreme attention to detail. Batman himself looks pretty much like a human tank, but thankfully his appearance suits his attitude within the game world. As for the asylum, Rocksteady have made it into a nightmarish locale. Especially the Scarecrow parts of the game in particular, every location is pretty grim and some can even play tricks, reminiscent of games such as F.E.A.R, though the game is aimed at a teenage audience.
The voice acting is pretty solid too, borrowing talents from the animated TV series which can seem strange at first, but it definitely grows on you. This matched with the visuals and the eerie sound effects and soundtrack make the game a treat to look at.
If you are a fan of the Dark Knight, this game is tailored to fit your needs, especially if you happen to be buff on Batman’s history, with plenty of references left with in-game secrets. With such a thrilling combat system and presentational value to match, the fairly cliché tale of the game can be forgiven. As for a sequel, there is a good chance we might see one, but it is unlikely we will be returning to the Asylum...
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