BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM is one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. After spending so much time swimming amidst the sewage of Grindhouse and horror titles, it’s refreshing to be climb back into the mainstream realm with something so technically polished, artistically well realized, as well as innovative. This is a game that hits so many notes right that the blemishes which do mar it seem almost tragic. Whatever the case, it’s fitting to say that if you needed a hi-end modern action-adventure game to get lost in for hours on end, ARKHAM ASYLUM will do perfectly.
The best thing about this game (for me) was the fact that you really don’t have to be a Batman fan to enjoy it. In fact, if you’re not, the better because this game is an excellent introduction to the him and his dark, exotic world, and certainly one of the best audio-visual representations of him available. The game begins with the titular masked crime fighter Batman driving his archnemesis (smiling killer-clown, the Joker) to the gates of the fictional Gotham City’s maximum security prison/sanitarium Arkham Asylum (apologies to Lovecraft). All looks under control as Batman personally escorts the restrained Joker down to the bowels of the asylum’s more intensely controlled areas. But as Batman pauses to allow the guards to lock Joker up in his cell, Joker viciously knocks out his captors and escapes. Immediately the asylum transforms: prisoners and psychopaths are released and overpower the security and establish themselves as the new authority. The Joker reveals to Batman (behind the safety of a locked door) that he had already taken control of the asylum, and the whole event was a ruse to imprison the masked crimefighter himself! Thus, Batman trapped alone (but not helpless) within the bowels of the asylum must navigate its labyrinthine structure restoring order to chaos until he can finally bring his cackling archrival to justice and once again…imprison him?
I put a question mark at the end because the redundant nature of Batman’s actions is one of the primary traits of his character that has always confused me. If Batman is so vicious, then why is it that he refuses to simply kill his opponents and be done with it? This is one of the driving points of the narrative of ARKHAM ASYLUM if you think about it. If Batman had simply done away with the Joker while the psychopath was at his mercy, there wouldn’t be any breakout. There is a strange irony to this if you think about it. Batman cannot kill, but the Joker has absolutely no compunctions about killing innocents. This leads to a vicious cycle. Joker kills people, Batman locks him, Joker escapes and kills more people, Batman locks him up, Joker escapes and kills more people, etc. If you think about it, through refusing to fix the root of the problem, Batman is inadvertently causing the deaths of hundreds (if not thousands of innocents) by allowing Joker to live to cause trouble for another day. Perhaps he’s afraid of the Joker becoming a martyr for the psychopaths of the city? Maybe a comic book fan can explain this better to me.
Whatever the case, this is one of the intriguing aspects about the Batman character, a complicated protagonist that has attracted a diehard fanbase for over 30 years now.
The fact that I could ponder on the nature of such a moral dilemma is a testimony to how engaging the storytelling here. The quality of writing is definitely of a very high standard for a video game, and (I’m guessing) practically on par with the source material it originated from. This is thanks in part to the presence of Paul Dini, who also wrote the award winning animated series. Batman will be encountering many of his old friends and foes from the comic book series in this game, and they are all developed exceptionally well here. One of the smart moves the narrative is that it doesn’t bombard you over the headwith exposition. Rather it simply introduces you to the defining qualities of the characters upfront, and then provides you short biographies and audio files you can use to educate yourself about them in the meantime. Like so many modern games, the cinematic qualities of this title are very pronounced and tautly directed. When Batman enters his Batcave, he exclaims “ON.” (in a distinctive guttural voice) and the entire structure transforms at his command to serve him, which is just an awe inspiring sight. The voicework is exceptionally good. Kevin Conroy is perfectly bass and commanding as Batman and Mark Hamill certainly sounds like a drooling lunatic. This is what I mean when I said the game was very artistically well realized. Thanks in part to excellent visuals and a bloodboiling, percussion heavy soundtrack, this is a game that really pulls you into its dark, gothic world and doesn’t let you go.
But no matter how good the narrative or presentation is in a video game, the gameplay always takes precedence. Suffice to say, the gameplay in Arkham Asylum is actually pretty darn good. This is a third person action/stealth/adventure title clearly influenced by the greats of the genre, especially METAL GEAR SOLID. Batman spends most of his time scouring Arkham island either tracing clues toward his next objective or fighting thugs. He’s got a ton of abilities at his disposal, including using his grappling hook to get to hard to reach areas, using special X-Ray contact lenses to scan the world around him, using his massive cape to glide from tall landmarks like a vampire, and more, lots more.
What makes controlling Batman and exploring the island so fun is not only the diversity of abilities the caped hero has at his disposal, but also how intuitive they are to use. Most of Batman’s unique abilities are mapped to a single button, and the game clearly lays out when and where you can use them. See that white circle above you? Press R1 to activate Batgrapple and zoom up there! Need to find out where to go? Press L1 for X-Ray Vision and everything is made clear. A big chasm you need to cross to reach your next objective? Select Batline with D-Pad, hold R2 and press L2 and Batman will fly across like area like he’s on a hang glider. An intuitive, simple setup with satisfying payoffs is ESSENTIAL for an addictive action game from the original LEGACY OF KAIN: SOUL REAVER to the original DEVIL MAY CRY. ARKHAM ASYLUM, for the most part, makes controlling Batman and his gadgets a breeze.
The gameworld is structured as a moderately open-world experience ala METROID, which means that Batman is free to explore any part of the island at his pleasure assuming he has the correct ability to access that location. For instance, some breakable walls can only be brought down with the Bat-grapple (Batman’s homemade towline cable) and Batman literally tugs at it until the whole thing comes crumbling down.
Thanks to inspired level design, there’s a ton of stuff you can do on the island as well. Asides from beating up random thugs or chasing the next supervillain, there’s a multitude of hidden trophies (courtesy of Batman’s archnemesis the Riddler) scattered in hidden locations around the gameworld. You’ll have to use all your abilities to scour every nook and cranny looking for these perks. And you’ll want to too because finding these secrets gets you Xp points, which you can use to learn even more abilities for Batmna or enhance existing ones. So not only does ARKHAM ASYLUM make the process of exploration entertaining, it rewards you appropriately for doing so. Such consistent positive reinforcement is the definitive mark of any exceptional title, and it’s what redundant games like CONDEMNED fail to accomplish.
Let’s talk about the combat system, one of the most innovative evolutions of the 3rd-person beat-em-up genre I’ve seen in years. True to ARKHAM ASYLUM’S general presentation, these fights are very cinematic with Batman performing a variety of acrobatic martial art style kicks, vaulting over his opponents, swooshing his cape around dramatically to stun them, etc. Once again, though, the game understands that the secret of a good game is an intuitive and rewarding setup: easy to learn, hard to master. Like Capcom’s forgotten cult favorite GOD HAND, there is only ONE attack button in ARKHAM ASYLUM. With this command, Batman can throw a variety of punches and kicks to damage his enemies. But the real meat comes from the counterattack system. By pressing Y just before the enemy attacks, Batman will parry the blow and deliver a fancy looking return smack. But it would be boring if the player just sat there waiting for enemies to attack so he could counter them, so the game encourages you to mix things up with normal attacks by implementing a timed combo system. Like DEVIL MAY CRY, the faster and smoother you can string attacks together, the higher your combo rating. The higher your combo rating, the more XP you’ll receive after the battle is over. Once again, positive reinforcement to ensure that you do your best to manage the system the game has laid ot for you
Contrary to derisive criticisms I’ve read, I did not find the combat to be overly easy by any means. Later on in the game, you’ll be taking on as many as 20 thugs at a time, some of them equipped with nasty tools like knives and guns as well. Then when you throw in the hulking mutant enemies, things get even more complicated. These towering opponents attack fast and cannot be countered. The only way you can deal with them is by dodging their blows (double tapping A) and manually counterattacking with your one attack button. Now imagine doing this while simultaneously fending off the blows from 20 normal sized thugs. You can see how things get complex real fast.
Now I rarely give any game I rate a +5. Those scores are reserved for games that are so sublimely perfect that I can revisit them a million times over and be immersed again without fear of it looking the least bit old or stale. Generally, I make the distinction between a +5 and a +4 based on the observations of a non-gamer. For example, there was one time when my father visited my cave while I was playing the original SERIOUS SAM (released around the turn of the century), and he enthusiastically remarked “That game looks awesome!” I knew at that point that SERIOUS SAM was an instant classic. On another occasion, he visited me while I was playing BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM, but this time his remark was “Why does Batman walk so stiffly?”
This incident served a deciding factor for me. While ARKHAM ASYLUM was probably (for its time) undoubtedly the best Batman licensed game that has ever been produced on the face of the earth, it still is not without its rough spots. First of all, it’s the victim of awkward animations and slightly sluggish response times. Batman DOES walk rather stiffly when he’s in his non-running animation. This languid advance only gets more awkward in situations of extreme peril, like when you’re fighting super opponents like Bane. It wouldn’t be so bad except there’s a slight delay between his walking and running animation when you hold down the A button. But when a hulking super mutant is trying to swiftly ram you down, you need to be in running mode FAST if you’re gonna survive. The sight of of Batman being killed just because he refused to get out of his stoic, sluggish trot in time is embarrassing. Even with actions like dodging, there always seems to be this pause before Batman decides he wants to do with himself. Such delays can be fatal during some of the faster paced action segments.
And then there’s the boss fights. With the level designs, crowd combat system and everything else so polished in the game, you’d think the boss fights would be equally awesome. Some of them, like the fight with the aforementioned Bane, are decent. However there are others, like the fight with Batman’s vixen opponent, Poison Ivy, which feel like a mediocre throwback to 3-D action games like GAUNTLET LEGENDS. Without spoiling too much, I just want to say that the sight of a towering opponent being felled by a few flimsy batarangs feels very anticlimactic in any context. Then there’s the final boss fight, which is horribly predictable and simplistic. It’s laughable to think that I died close to 10 times on the fight leading up to the final boss, but was able to beat the final boss himself in a single go. Very underwhelming. The ending is also very abrupt too. For such an awesome game, you’d think these rough spots would be fleshed out more, but very few things in life (if anything) are perfect.
But don’t let these setbacks depress you too much. Batman fan or not, this is definitely the kind of game you should not have any qualms about spending money on if you’re equipped with the right hardware and want a true next-gen game. Generally, it retails for about $20 for the console (Xbox and Playstation) versions. My impatient brother went the Steam route and bought it for $7, so I was forced to play the whole thing on a small screen. A minor disappointment but still notable…this is the kind of game that should be played on a big screen. Whatever the case, if you have the money, spend the $20 or wait for a Steam sale. Unless you hate Batman, I doubt you’ll find much regret here. As far as interactive entertainment goes, this is almost as good as it gets.
This is another game that has been reviewed over and over again. There isn't much more I can say that hasn't already been said. This game is as awesome as everybody says. A definite must play. It is another one of those games where you are really able to suspend your disbelief. When you play this game, you don't just feel like Batman, you ARE Batman! As if the game weren't awesome enough on its own, the guy who voiced Batman in the animated series returns … more
In general, superhero video games are bad adaptations of the comics on which they are based. Usually, at best they are just an average game (the only exception to this being when a superhero game has a great co-player mode, such as JUSTICE LEAGUE HEROES from a few years ago). That changed with the release of BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM. I didn't have an opportunity to play the game until earlier this year. However, after having played, it is in my opinion the best superhero game ever made so far. … more
I'm pretty late on this one. Arkham Asylum is one of the rare games that is universally praised by everyone, and for damn good reason. I stayed away from it cuz, well, superheroes are kinda lame, but finally Doomrider talked me into playing it, and I'm glad he did. It's damn sweet, and even if you think superheroes are completely lame and for dorks, you should still play it. It's got some of the best beat-em up gameplay I've seen this gen, jumping into … more
As I sit down to write this review I am in a little bit of shock. I don’t think that anyone wanted this game to be good more than me, though not even I could have imagined that it would be such as masterpiece. As someone who plays just about everything that comes out, its hard to find a game that essentially does it all but Batman: Arkham Asylum pulls it off beautifully. After finishing Batman: Arkham Asylum, I had to seriously reevaluate my Top 10 and Top 5 games of all time, this game made … more
Video games haven't been too kind to Batman. Often times when we think of a Batman game, the first thing that comes to mind is that the game just isn't going to be all that spectacular. What is it about the Batman that hasn't always worked in the past? It's hard to point out. What we can point out, however, is that Batman Arkham Asylum doesn't fall into that category. In fact, it is easily one of the best Batman games to be released. From its humble beginnings, the game is fine tuned video game … more
Batman: Arkham Asylum is the total package of video games. The gameplay is fantastic, there's an amazing story and it features a superhero. Through the years, game developers have tried their hands at making the ultimate superhero game. Most have failed as many of them have been movie tie-ins. What Rocksteady and Eidos have done with Arkham Asylum is create a world and feeling that The Dark Knight can thrive in. Playing as Batman in the game, you get the feeling that … more
Batman Arkham asylum is the new game by publisher Eidos and the game is developed by Rocksteady using the Unreal engine. This is not a movie licensed title but a NEW original game of DC Comics famous Batman character. The game was was written by Paul dini and features the voice talents of Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy who are now staples to the Batman series having originally voiced these characters in the smash hit 90's cartoon "Batman The Animated Series". PROS … more
Batman: Arkham Asylum, developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos, is easily one of the best Batman games ever and really makes you feel like you’re actually in the shoes of the Caped Crusader. And it’s not just about the fighting and gliding around (even though that’s great too). It’s also about being the greatest detective, facing past and present psychological fears and regret, and everything that makes Batman an icon as well as a vulnerable human being. It’s … more
In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Dark Knight takes on his greatest challenge yet when he becomes trapped with all of his most dangerous villains inside the insane asylum of GOTHAM CITY - ARKHAM ASYLUM! Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum –Gotham’s psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City’s most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum. Using a wide range of Batman’s gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker’s demented scheme. Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner, Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series. With amazing graphics and a moody, immersive setting, Batman: Arkham Asylum offers diverse gameplay options that push the envelope for all action, adventure and superhero games.