Developer: Rocksteady Games
Release Date: 8/25/2009
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The Good: Excellent sound and visuals, great story, feels just like a Batman game should
The Bad: Combat is very hard to master, some of the Riddler’s Challenges are a pain to find, it ends
Everyone has a favorite super hero/villain when they are kids and grows up dreaming about them, reading their comics, and even cartoons, but what about video games? Super hero games were far and few between until the recent super hero spike when Spider-Man came out. Spider-Man 2 (based on the movie) was freaking epic and really showed that a super hero game can be done right. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was another epic super hero game showing that, for one, Marvel has balls and will let their super characters kill (DC has yet to grow a pair), and that a movie based video game can be done right. So, what really defines a good super hero game? Well, the roster is probably the first thing since that’s what people look for on the back of the box or in previews. Another thing would be the game play since we want to feel like we’re super powerful, and that’s what Arkham Asylum does best.
The game, first off, is very cinematic since you start out at Arkham with the Joker strapped in and being hauled off to a high-security cell. Of course, he escapes and that’s where the nightmare begins. You start out fighting off some inmate goons and learn the combat. There is a lot of game play elements here so stick with me while I explain them all. CQC combat is great since it’s called “free flow” combat. You aren’t supposed to touch or analog stick and just use the face buttons for a light attack, heavy attack, counter attack, and various other things you can do. When you knock down an enemy they’re temporarily dazed so you can lay a ground attack on them to knock them out for good. When you see an icon appear above an enemy head you hit the counter button and Batman will quickly jump to that enemy and counter in all his martial art butt kicking glory. The combat is amazing since there’s a lot you can do and looks great. You can use a quick Batarang to knock back enemies, or you can use your bat claw and pull multiple enemies toward you. The whole point of the combat is to create a combo without stopping and this is probably the only flaw in the game since it really reflects the challenge mode (more on that later) so this will be my biggest gripe. The flaw here is that there has to be an enemy within hitting reach at all times or your combo breaks. Yes, you can use the Batarang or bat claw to close gaps, but some times this isn’t easy if you have to quickly face an enemy. It takes perfect precision and a lot of grueling practice to nail the big combos, but otherwise, during the main game, you can just ignore this.
Another game play mode is detective mode which allows you to see everything in a blue x-ray type view along with the skeletons of enemies and their status. Detective mode is essential on finding Riddler challenges, breakable walls, and even sneak up on enemies. Detective mode is used about 80% through the game and I feel it was too heavily relied on since you can’t see how amazing the game looks most of the time since it all looks blue, and X-ray like. In detective mode, you scan objects to acquire some of them and this includes riddles.
Being a predator is a huge part of Batman since that’s what he is. He uses fear to deal psychological damage to an enemy and thus weakening them. In certain rooms, you’ll have a lot of enemies and you can swing from gargoyles and take them out however you see fit. When someone passes under you can hang down and do an inverse take down, so while he screams and dangles everyone rushes to his aid. This is when you swing to another gargoyle and use a Batarang and cut him down and scare the crap out of everyone. While they spread out you can do dive kicks, or even drop down behind them and take them out silently. The stealth mechanics are great and easy to execute without lots of trial and error. Of course, later in the game, you MUST use your predator skills since some enemies will have collars that alerts everyone if his heart rate rises to much, which means you’re in the room.
Now I should mention the story since it’s excellent. While you’re running around the asylum trying to find Joker you run into your old pals such as Killer Croc, Ivy (who is HOT), Harley Quinn (who is also extremely hot), and throughout the game you can pick up on how the super criminals got to Arkham through audio tapes (part of the Riddler’s challenges), and while not every Batman villain is in here you can read up on their bios by finding and completed Riddler’s challenges.
You might ask what are these Riddler’s challenges? Well, they are a big pain to find since there are so many types, trophies, audio tapes, actual riddles, and many others. There are over 250 of them, but there is an easy way to find most of them. If you find the secret map for each section of the game you can pretty much tell where they are due to the floating green question marks on the map. Most secrets can’t even be found until the game is completed or gadgets are required. When you find these riddles you unlock challenge maps, 3D models, and bios along with achievements.
Speaking of gadgets all of Batman’s beloveds are in here, but you only start with the Batarang. You eventually acquire the bat claw, bat-grapple, explosive foam, zip line and more. There are upgrades for your bat suit, weapons, and combat skills which can be bought through points earned by completing missions. The game is very free form since you have several building on Arkham Island you can travel to at will so certain gadgets are required to get through certain areas.
Challenge mode allows you to use your skills to get certain scores and reach certain time limits and they are challenging…almost impossible for the impatient or novice so approach at your own risk. As good as I was at this game I found the challenges hard to conquer and get gold medals in.
When it comes to how the game looks and sounds it’s amazing. The game uses the Unreal Engine 3 so you can expect graphics that rival Gears of War 2. Batman’s cape flows and he gets damaged in real time, everything looks dark, crisp, and scary just like how Batman should be. The atmosphere is great and will even creep you out some times. The voice acting is top notch and so is the dialog (Joker will make you laugh numerous times). The game runs a fair length at about 15 hours depending on how you play the first time (and if you try to collect everything). Batman is one of the best games of this generation and even Batman haters should check this out.