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Review

Batman: Arkham Asylum [PS3]

October 17, 2009

One of the most anticipated games of the year and understandably so, Batman: Arkham Asylum from Rocksteady and Eidos is quite the cinematic gaming experience with a variety of gameplay styles and a more then adequate storyline to boot. Though there was skepticism, from trailers and screenshots seen before the game was released, that the suspense and fear aimed for in the game wouldn’t exist due to the fact that you were playing Batman, that skepticism was soon thwarted after playing the game. Batman: Arkham Asylum nails the feel that it was going for, and definitely presents quite the plethora of different situations throughout the game that you need to adapt your gaming style to.


The Batarang, Weapon of Choice for Batman
Beginning with yourself playing Batman escorting the Joker once again into the bowels of Arkham Aslyum in pretty much the longest cinematic cutscene ever, but at least you get to make Batman walk. Soon enough though the Joker has broken free and has all his minions running around taking over the island, all the while taunting you as only the Joker can. You then proceed to fight, glide, and delve into why the Joker is taking over Arkham Asylum as his twisted web of mystery is slowly unraveled. Also featuring some of Batman’s other nemeses such as Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Victor Zsasz, Bane. Most notable of which is Scarecrow who constantly crops up throughout the game and proceeds to torment you through his hallucinogen-induced nightmares. Of course the game surrounds much of the story so I won’t spoil it, however you’re in-store for quite a ride.


The Joker, always smiling.
The Asylum is broken up into different areas with a number of enemies in each, however the areas can change as the story goes on, and you find that passing through the same place more than once can still present surprises. Combat and Stealth attacks provide Batman a means to traverse these areas with ease. From the first punch, Batman: Arkham Asylum teaches you how to play the different gameplay styles that feature throughout the game. If you ever played any arcade fighter then you’ll know the standard, “Attack, Counter, Stun, Attack, Attack, Counter, Attack, Final Finishing Move”. And yes it does have those Final Finishing Moves we came to either love or despise at the arcade as if to remind you of how awesome Batman really is. The final blow to the final enemy in the area you are within is always slow (bullet-time) and at the same time the camera orbits around Batman and his opponent so you can enjoy every moment of smiting your wretched foes. As the enemies get more armed they become harder to attack and so the way you approach the combat changes.


Batman knows how to give a punch, as dramatically as possible.
However as much as hand-to-hand is effective, it does do well against a gun. Here comes the Stealth Attack scenarios of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Using rooftops and stone gargoyles as perches to observe the position of enemies you can use Batman’s grapple to swing to other strategic positions throughout the area. The game continues to provide new gadgets to allow you to get to positions previously difficult to access, as well as other means to attack the enemies in your surroundings, namely using every type of Batarang known to man; or bat. Stunning enemies, glide kicks, and silent takedowns provide ample resources to eliminate groups of armed inmates.


Using the high ground provides a good strategic platform to attack from.
Then there’s the Modes that Batman can enter. Clicking a button allows Batman to enter into Detective mode, where he can see the skeletal x-rays of people through walls, as well as see secret passages and objects of interest. Here’s where Batman: Arkham Asylum lets itself down. This mode is limitless, so why would you ever take it off? Let’s be honest, Batman: Arkham Asylum looks very very good ingame, the detail that goes into things, however all this is meaningless when in Detective mode as everything is toned blue and enemy skeletons are generally red.


Detective Mode is far to helpful to leave just to look at the pretty scenery
While I gripe over the Detective mode that i used way too much that now in the real world i expect to be able to see glowing skeletons everywhere and get disappointed when i cannot; there’s also the consideration of the combat. Although satisfying to see how you can take down a hoard of inmates, the fights usually dissolve into “Glide Kick from above, then punch everyone that’s around”. Even the boss fights were generally able to be completed by, “Wait for opponent to charge, throw Batarang, wait for opponent to be stunned then attack him, jump on his back and use him to attack the surrounding inmates, continue process until everyone are dead.” Let’s not forget the whole Killer Croc scenario, where you were forced to make Batman walk slowly not so much to avoid Killer Croc as to avoid another Quick Time Event. Hardly a reasonable boss fight after the game hyped up Killer Croc at every waking moment.


While Killer Croc looks intimidating, fighting him is all about pushing the right button at the right time. Also known as a QTE.
The most satisfying gameplay change though was when you ran into Scarecrow. Suddenly your game slowly… well… starts going insane on you, forcing you to live through Batman’s most horrific nightmares (avid Batman fans will recognize when Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed especially). Each time you face off against Scarecrow the game takes a shift to become a side-scroller in which you must jump, duck, climb, and fight your way while all this while avoiding the burning gaze of Scarecrow. Somewhat clichéd is the fact that each of these stages is completed by shining the Bat Signal Light at the giant Scarecrow.


Scarecrow’s Nightmares give you a chance to smash Skeletons without having to be in Detective Mode
The game also provides a number of secret challenges to find while playing the game, messages from the Riddler, references to Two-Face and the Penguin all add to the Batman universe. It definitely causes you to think twice about chattering teeth.

Presentation wise it’s stunning, absolutely stunning. It feels very dark, very grunge and yet has it’s own look to it at the same time. Scarecrow’s hallucinogen results in incredible morphs between the environment you were just playing in, and twisted scenes from your past. The characters definitely emulate their same counterparts from previous characterizations within the Batman series, all with their own unique attributes.


They won’t even see you coming…seriously
Overall Batman: Arkham Asylum fulfilled expectations and then some. Definitely an experience as of yet unknown to the Batman franchise though obviously stemming from the more recent Batman films. Available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC it’s definitely one to save up for as it’s a gaming experience you won’t soon forget.

Storyline – 4.5/5 (An intriguing storyline that keeps you on the edge of your seat, if gets a little boring at the end)
Gameplay – 3.5/5 (Combat was well executed in the beginning but got monotonous after awhile. Boss Fights let it down, as did QTE’s)
Presentation – 4/5 (Visually intricate however Detective Mode means you don’t get to enjoy it as much as you could of. Scarecrow’s moments made up for it though)