Batman: Arkham Asylum Review
Sorry it’s taken me a while to get this review up but blame Royal Mail for always being on strike, oh, and the fact I just can’t put this down. As I mentioned back in my demo impressions this is pretty much the best superhero video game ever made. The story is amazing; the graphics perfectly set the mood and the gameplay? Well that is super.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is unsurprisingly set in the asylum but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are outdoor locations too. After playing the demo I feared the game would just be a series of rooms and corridors but thankfully I was proved wrong. The asylum is a whole island and features many different areas although the story doesn’t allow you to free roam choosing which area to tackle next you can freely go back to them to find all the Riddler challenges. So the game is still pretty linear but it works perfectly with the story and allows you to explore in moderation.
You spend the bulk of the game fighting the Joker’s henchmen which involves either straight up brawling with them all or taking up stealth tactics and hunting them down one by one. Much has been made of the free-flow combat and it doesn’t disappoint, despite on the face of it being only 2 buttons to attack it is surprisingly deep. At first I presumed it was overly simple with attack, counter and stun moves but then I realized how much timing plays an important part. After a while I really did get the hang of how to take out a large group of henchmen without any trouble. It’s rewarding to get to grips with and very satisfying. When it comes to stealth you are offered a wide variety of moves and gadgets to take them out and it always fun to watch them panic when they realize you taken out their buddy. You don’t have to worry about speed though as there are no reinforcements a-la MGS4 so you are free to wait for them to space out and pick them off one by one.
Apart from his fists Batman has always had his gadgets, and they well represented, from batarangs to explosives to the grappling hook, everything you need is at your disposal. You also get Detective Vision which is kind of like thermal vision but with x-ray, at first I thought it was just a gimmick for the detective sections of the game but I soon realized how important it could become in combat, even to the point where I spent most of the game in this view, which was a little disappointing as the graphics are very easy on the eyes. Throughout the asylum there are hidden packages to find thanks the Riddler along with some of his trademark riddles, These were most fun to find until I found out that one of them is a map, which practically turns it into a simple process of looking where they are and going there. That took the fun out of the game for as I found I could just walk to the area signalled and just spam the detective view until I found the riddle/trophy taking out all the skill of finding the secrets.
Along side the main story are challenge rooms, these come in two variations and are unlocked via the story mode. These are either fighting or predator rooms where you face wave after wave of enemies or engaging in stealth tactics. There is a medal based scoring system for these challenges and in the case of predator rooms you have to meet three different requirements whilst completing the room, these can be tasks such as taking out a henchman with a batarangs to taking out 3 with a destructive wall. These offer plenty of replay ability thanks to timers and leader boards helping to extend the game’s lifetime.
The graphics are truly stunning and make perfect use of the Unreal Engine, there is some slight tearing in V-sync but otherwise there are no faults in the game’s performance where the controls always stay responsive too. There is little to fault; the boss fights are excellent, the dialogue is brilliant and the source material is perfectly utilised. I could say the story mode doesn’t last long enough but with plenty of challenge rooms always being added for free through DLC with online leader boards, it’s hard to complain. This simply is an un-missable game that everyone with a slight interest in action/adventure games must own.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Batman: Arkham Asylum provided by Eidos Interactive.