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.