Should I Buy? – Batman Arkham Asylum

Me reviewing Batman, this’ll be impartial. Let me start by saying that this is the best superhero game ever. That’s not hyperbolic. This really is. And it really shouldn’t be.

Most games based off of licensed properties from other franchises are mediocre at best, or only fulfill niche markets. Normally this is because the game is just a cheap cash-in, and if it’s being made to emulate the plot of a film or tv series it’s an even bigger problem because the developer has got a lot of restraints  placed on them and only a limited amount of time to make the game in.

This came out the the year after The Dark Knight, so Batman was all the hype. And for some reason, DC handed the license over to a company that had only made one forgettable PS2 game before, and that was released all the way back in 2006. So licensed game, inexperienced studio, big film to cash in on. The perfect recipe for disaster. Instead, we got a Game of the Year.

First of all, Arkham Asylum uses the ‘adaptation by spirit’ approach. It drew from many elements of the Batman mythos and media to create something new and unique. The plot (that Joker takes over Arkham Asylum and challenges Batman to survive the night) is based on Grant Morrison’s A Serious House on Serious Earth, the voice talent comes largely from Batman: The Animated Series, the level design draws from the Tim Burton’s use of German Expressionism in Batman and Batman Returns and so on. All that, added with all the little details in the character profiles and interview tapes shows Rocksteady did their work.

But that alone isn’t enough to make a great game. They did that by making this game do what no other superhero game has ever done as well. Hell, something most games don’t do period. Playing that game, you feel like Batman. Whether it’s fighting huge groups of thugs, silently picking them off one by one from the shadows or using your gadgets to traverse the environment in ways that just make you feel powerful.

I think they benefited by choosing a superhero who has no powers. Strange as that sounds, it allows them to create a character that’s powerful without having difficulties contriving excuses for challenge. Sure, you can take down hordes of guys without a scratch, but you might get sloppy and get hit by a lead pipe.

Gameplay can be divided into three sections. Runny-jumpy-climby, sneaky-sneaky stealth and biff-pow combat. Moving through the game world feels great, as you can zip around with your gadgets and use them with Batman’s natural athleticism to reach almost anywhere you can see.

When you’re stealthing it up, it’s because the hordes of burly henchmen in this area have got guns, which not even Batman can stand up to in a straight fight. The reason the developers refer to this as ‘Predator Mode’ is because that’s exactly what it feels like. These guys don’t stand a chance, and you’re picking them off one by one and making them fearful. In fact, if you do it particularly well they’ll start to believe that you can’t be human, that you’re some supernatural force. Listening to them get terrified (and therefore, sloppy) is great fun.

The combat is very simple. You press a button, you punch things. If an enemy has a sign flash over their head, you press another button and counter them. There are a few more advanced techniques, but the two button approach is the real core of combat. It sounds boring, but it works very well because it’s incredibly satisfying to see yourself in the middle of this tornado of punches and brutal attacks.

Arkham Asylum also boasts a range of Batman villains to serve as bosses. These fights…don’t match up to the rest of the game. Though Mark Hammil’s performance as the Joker easily rivals Heath ledger’s, and blows Jack Nicholson out of the water.

The Riddler has also left plenty of puzzles for Batman all over Arkham. Completing the completely optional Riddler Challenges give you extra experience (which will also recharge your health) and cement your position as the World’s Greatest Detective.

There’s a lot more that could be said about individual areas and design choices, but this isn’t the place for that. What I will say is that it’s a little short, but comes with combat and stealth challenge maps that can prolong that. But in terms of value for money, this is great. Buy it.

Price: £10 (Preowned average – CEX)

Steam: £14.99


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Top 5 Superhero Games « ScreenBarrier

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