Reviews// Batman: Arkham Asylum

Posted 21 Aug 2009 17:00 by
Games: Batman: Arkham Asylum
If you thought any of the words 'Biff!' 'Sock!' or 'Kapow!' might have been an amusing way to start this review, I hate you and want to punch you in the spleen.

So... yes, I take Batman quite seriously.

Actually, that made me a little bit afraid of this game. So far this year on the superhero front I've played Wolverine, which I thought would be great but turned out to be mediocre, and inFamous, which was superb. As of Friday last week, I could not remember the last time I played a really good superhero game featuring one of the characters I love to read about, and I was starting to figure that, since developers could turn out perfectly good, big-selling superhero games without actually having any superheroes in them (or licensed characters, anyway) that publishers might get savvy and stop bothering to pay for use of my favourite men in tights. The good news is, Arkham Asylum reinforces the notion that licensed superhero games don't have to suck balls and there's mileage to be had in using an established franchise.

So, the plot. Batman's taken The Joker to Arkham (again) but (shock!) The Joker's got loose. He's also set a bunch of other assorted sociopaths from your favourites list loose. It turns out, however, that the aim isn't just general chaos, oh no. The Joker, for all his batshit-crazy tendencies, has a plan. The Joker didn't get to be the arch-nemesis of one of the world's finest superheroes by just being a bit whacko.

The plan involves Venom, the drug used to make Bane super-strong (he broke Batman's back in the past), and an army of crazy folk. Yes, it's a premise clearly aimed at putting Batman in a closed game area with all his enemies. As far as premises clearly aimed at putting Batman in a closed game area with all his enemies go, this one's all right.

The script is written by Paul Dini. Dini, if you don't know him, was a producer and writer on Batman: The Animated Series; he had a solid run on Detective Comics that ended recently and is currently writing Batman: Streets of Gotham and Gotham City Sirens. He has some solid Batman credentials. He also does a solid job here. The plot's interesting enough that I paid attention (not that common an occurrence for me) and it's rewarding to see lesser-known characters such as Aaron Cash (from Arkham Asylum: Living Hell) in there.

The script leads you from one scenario (find such and such, rescue so and so, apprehend Psycho X) to another without feeling forced and without you necessarily noticing you've been handed another 'mission'.

Anyway, there's some gameplay in there, too.

It starts with combat. 'FreeFlow' combat, to be precise. The way this works is that combat basically just consists of attacks and blocks. That might sound tedious, but actually it's thoroughly rewarding. Rather than stringing together overly complex moves, it's about getting the rhythm right ? being sure to counter enemy blows then moving smoothly into an attack, stringing together as many moves as possible to maximise your XP. Occasionally things will slow down and you will see a bad guy slammed on his arse in rather lovely slow motion. Seeing all this in action really hammered home the thought that Batman is a crazy, scary man.

Some of the upgrades you get (more on that in a bit) add extra moves that combine button presses. But the bulk of the fighting is made up of the simple backwards-and-forwards provided by attack and counter.

There's a hefty stealth component (again, more on that later) that breaks up the free-for-all combat, but Rocksteady has still bothered to include boss battles and combat variations, such as a floor that will electrocute the mucous out of you, to keep things from getting repetitive.
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Games: Batman: Arkham Asylum

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deleted 31 Aug 2009 16:14
I am very veyr pleased with this game, in fact i will go as far as to say its awesome, and the fact it includes batman and batman as batman should be makes it all the better.

also good review
Joji 3 Sep 2009 12:30
I think a lot of developers have been scared to use elements of what Bioshock used, but here it works perfectly to bring the whole of Arkham together. Its also strange that in a Bioshock way, Eidos releasing this game around august got it perfect attention time.

I ahven't picked up a copy yet, but its defintely on my buy list. You don't have to be a Batman fan to like and enjoy it, and I have to say, for once I'm glad to see Eidos get success with something that isn't Tomb Raider. While they bath themselves and the Rock Steady team in success and champagne, perhaps some question need to be asked.

The most pressing one, should they put Lara croft on ice, and concentrate on more original games with better game designs? I'm of the mind that while TR help put Eidos on the map, like Square and FF, its also clouded their judgement. If Eidos had more faith in their teams, we'd see more cool games like Urban Chaos RR and BAA, and I pray that while they morph into Square Europe, they take a few more chances. Action games are also a genre, that has eluded Sqaure for the most part over the years (cough ...Dirge of Direness...cough), so BAA will have them bouncing off the walls. Remember, this is usually Capcom or Sega's playground.

As for a Batman sequel, I wouldn't be at all surprised if one is green lighted by Square, behind the scenes. Anyone would be mad not to build on this kind of good stuff, and we all know Square likes a safe sequel bet (cough ...FF...cough). I know, some will bring the, 'don't do a ,this is perfect, don't spoil it' argument, just like was done with Bioshock. However, these are tough financial times and potential sure fire hits are rare gems. I'd love to see what Rock Steady, could do with a more open Gotham comic universe at its fingertips, and I seriously doubt DC/Warner would say no either.

Great review, Spong.
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