- Publisher: Eidos
- Developer: Rocksteady
- Also On: PS3
- ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
- Genre: Action
- Pros: Great presentation; fun exploration and stealth; neat gadgets; awesome story; Scarecrow & Riddler steal the show; solid voice acting
- Cons: Weak combat/Boss fights; too tempting to play in detective vision mode
Batman: Arkham Asylum is based on the 90’s cartoon, “Batman: The Animated Series”, which most Batman fans consider to be the definitive take on the character. The story begins with Batman already having the Joker in custody and is bringing him to the Arkham Asylum prison. Something about the scenario doesn’t feel right to Batman so he escorts Joker into the depths of the compound to spring the trap that he knows is coming. From there the story and game really takes off. You’ll get to beat up a few other classic Batman villains and try to solve the mystery of why the Joker was so eager to get back into prison.
Two additional aspects of the story I want to talk about are the roles of The Scarecrow and The Riddler. The Riddler has hidden 240 puzzles around Arkham Island and you have to find them. Some are just trophies, some are visual puzzles, and some are riddles you have to find a specific answer for. As you hunt for them, The Riddler taunts you and talks to you and it is very cool. Secondly, The Scarecrow. His shtick is he uses a special toxin to tap into your deepest and darkest fears. The psychological horrors he puts Batman through (and the over the top boss fights that follow) are some of the best parts of the entire game.
The second aspect of gameplay is stealth. There are some rooms filled with armed enemies that you have to take out one by one, or other rooms where you can’t set off alarms/be spotted by guards, so you have to sneak. In these sections, the gameplay greatly opens up because you can use a bunch of different gadgets and unique moves to take out enemies or trick them into moving where you want them to. You can play the same room a dozen times and never have to use the same tactics. The stealth rooms are simply amazing.
One final part of the gameplay I want to address is Batman’s “detective vision mode”. This gives you x-ray vision so you can see where enemies are, whether they have weapons or not, and you can also see where breakable walls, hidden vents, and other hidden items are. These are all good things, obviously, but since the game is 100% easier to play with it on, it is tempting to never turn it off. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on how much you want to roleplay as Batman. I didn’t care about being Batman that much, so I used it a lot. Not a complaint - I'll take ease of play over pretty graphics any day of the week - just a comment.
That brings me to the graphics. The game world is detailed and great looking and the characters are amazing looking. The animation is also silky smooth and great all around. But it is also guilty of that next-gen, Unreal engine crime of being way too gray and brown (in AA everything has kind of a greenish tint too) and dark and everything sort of blends together. I preferred the cool blue contrast of detective mode because it was easier to see stuff.
The sound is pretty much perfect all around. Great sound effects. And particularly great music that changes and becomes more complex as you play through the game. And amazing voice acting from Mark Hamill (Joker), Kevin Conroy (Batman), and Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn).
All in all, Batman: Arkham Asylum is an amazing game that will make Batman fans very happy, but it is also a game that is good enough you don’t need to be a Bat-fan to appreciate it. Not merely a good superhero game. A good game, period. It is also has fairly good replay value. The story will take 12-15 hours to beat and collect all of the Riddler trophies, and then there are also special combat and stealth challenges you can play that’ll add another few hours to the game. And when you’re all done you’ll want to start over and do it again. Batman: Arkham Asylum is simply a great game that I highly recommend for a purchase.