Developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive, Batman: Arkham Asylum signals the latest attempt by video game developers to crack the lucrative superhero genre. Hot on the heels of Chris Nolan’s reboot of the Batman movie franchise, Arkham Asylum adopts a similar gritty approach to its presentation. Is Arkham Asylum able to separate itself from its mediocre predecessors or is it another case of gaming companies needing to return to the drawing board? Read on to find out.GAMEPLAY
As expected, Arkham Asylum places you in the boots of the Dark Knight himself as he attempts to thwart yet another plot from his arch nemesis ‘The Joker’. The game kicks off with Batman escorting The Joker to Arkham Asylum, having just foiled his attack on Gotham City’s Mayor’s office. Whilst being escorted to his cell, Joker is able to free himself and take control of the Asylum with assistance from Harley Quinn. Joker begins to lead Batman, or ‘Bats’ as he likes to call him, through a series of hazards for his amusement whilst Batman is tasked with uncovering the extent of Joker’s plan.
‘Hey Bats, you said we were going to Disneyland!’
A third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective is employed in Arkham Asylum as you guide Batman around the Asylum’s many dangers. Throughout the game you will go toe-to-toe with Joker’s lackeys from Blackgate Prison, transferred to Arkham following a mysterious fire there. Which brings us to Rocksteady’s simple, yet revolutionary combat system. The ‘Freeflow’ combat system, as they call it, has three main elements: attack, counter and stun. By using a combination of these techniques, Batman is able to dispatch his enemies with devastating efficiency. The main design element behind the combat in Arkham Asylum is that it rewards players for skill, accuracy, timing and rhythm. Of course, Batman will also have an arsenal of gadgets at his disposal with the Batarang, Bat Claw and Explosive Gel to name a few. As you progress through the game, new gadgets will unlock and experience points earned can be used to purchase such things as enhanced armour and new takedowns. Moving away from the combat, several situations in Arkham Asylum require Batman to take a more stealthy approach and assume the role of Predator. Picking off enemies one by one using silent takedowns and your many gadgets provides a nice change from combat scenarios.
Another key feature in Arkham Asylum is Batman’s ‘Detective Mode’. Activating this mode places a blue filter over the screen and allows Batman to identify threats and analyse his surroundings in order to progress undetected. Detective Mode is useful when advancing through Arkham, so useful in fact, that you will find it being used more often than not.
Detective Mode is very useful…a little too useful
All of these elements combine together seamlessly to provide the basis for the most immersive Batman experience ever to grace a console.GRAPHICS
The textures and character models in Arkham Asylum are all of the highest quality. Rocksteady’s attention to detail and vision for a gritty, dark environment have been well and truly realised. The stunning visuals and fluid animations help set the mood for Batman’s adventure throughout Arkham. The only real shame in all of this is that many people won’t be able to fully appreciate the game’s stunning visuals due to the vast amount of time spent using Detective Mode. Aside from this, Batman: Arkham Asylum is still a feast for the eyes, especially when played on a High Definition television.
Arkham Asylum’s detailed graphics are a sight to behold
The graphics in this game are superb but the sound department is where Arkham Asylum really shines. An ensemble of voice actors lend their talents to help immerse the player deeper into the depths of the Asylum. Special mentions must go to Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (The Joker) who both elevate the game to another level. Their sublime voice acting matches so perfectly with their characters. The musical score is also top notch which further enhances the mood envisaged by Rocksteady.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are superb in their roles
Arkham Asylum’s main story arc should take the average gamer around 10-15 hours to complete. Scattered throughout the Asylum are 240 Riddler Challenges ranging from simple pick-ups to heavy thought-provoking riddles, bound to keep you occupied long after the main story is over. Also included are Predator and Freeflow challenges in which the player competes for high scores and challenge medals across different levels and difficulties. Whilst the absence of some form of multiplayer hurts its replay value, there is plenty here to keep you coming back.
Riddler’s challenges will keep you busy
Forget everything you thought you knew about superhero video games. Arkham Asylum is hands down the best game ever released in the superhero genre and may even be amongst the greatest games we have seen this generation. Amazing storytelling, gorgeous visuals and superb gameplay make this the benchmark for all other comic book games. Rocksteady has established itself as a premier video game developer and the gaming world eagerly awaits the release of its sequel, Arkham City.SCORE: 9.5/10PROS
+ Gritty, detailed visuals
+ Top notch voice acting
+ Innovative combat systemCONS
- Detective Mode a little too useful
- Strategies needed to defeat bosses can become repetitive
- Lack of multiplayer may annoy some