Sunday, September 6, 2009

Review - Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3/360)

Superhero games have somewhat become known for being not a very good idea. The known good superhero games have either a movie tie-in (Spiderman 2), or a mashup with a plethora of diverse characters (Marvel vs. Capcom). But not all superhero games have to be like Superman 64 or Aquaman. For example, games like Amazing Spiderman and Hulk: Ultimate Destruction weren't bad games, yet didn't quite receive critical acclaim. This is where Batman: Arkham Asylum comes in. Metacritic shows that Arkham Asylum received an average score of 92 out of 100. And the game is completely deserving of that score.
The story of Arkham Aslyum starts with Batman, once again, taking Joker back to Arkham Asylum. But this is all a part of a ruse set by the Joker. Joker, with the help of some freed inmates and an obnoxious Harley Quinn, take over the Asylum and Batman travels the asylum to try and stop them. The writing feels just like any Batman comic you've ever read, although it does sometimes make you wonder how the game pulled off a Teen rating.
Graphically, the game looks great. Textures are almost overly detailed and the characters look like their comic book counterparts. The only time where a hiccup was noticed was when Batman's arm looked as though it went through an inmate's head during a punch. What may take some getting used to is the third-person over the shoulder viewpoint that most of the game takes place in. The environment of the game reminded me a lot of Bioshock. There are also references to a plethora of Batman characters, which makes exploring the environment well worth exploring. As far as the sound goes, the characters are all voiced by their counterparts from the animated series. All of the sound effects are well done and the soundtrack suits the feeling of the game.
Throughout the development of this game, what's pulled the most attention is the combat system. The game uses a freeflow combat system, allowing Batman to jump from enemy to enemy. The combo system is fairly simple (you have one button to strike and one button to counter) yet it still feels like you are fighting like Batman. Batman is also armed with gadgets, like the batarang and explosive gel, which aids in opening new areas and disarming enemies. Other than combat, the game fulfills the Batman experience with stealth rooms and Detective view. As you explore the asylum, some rooms will have inmates armed with rifles. In true Batman form, you're required to take out these enemies without attracting attention. You can do this either by sneaking up behind the enemy and taking them down, glide kicking them from your perch on a gargoyle, or hanging from a gargoyle and snatching them up as they pass below you. The Detective view allows you to see things as Batman does. When activated, a blue tint comes over the screen, and enemies are highlighted. The Detective view also highlights possible escape routes, alternate paths, and clues. The only gripe I have with this is that the game requires the Detective view so often, that the actual view of the game isn't seen as often, which is a shame since the game looks so good.
Overall, Arkham Asylum is a fantastic game with minor flaws. The story mode took about 10-12 hours to complete and there is a Challenge Mode that gives the game some replayability. Whether you're a hardcore Batman fan or a casual fan of the movies and/or comics, the game will entertain you. Developer Rocksteady has said that if the game does well enough, a sequel may be in the works. So please, at least check out this game, because it really is one of the best superhero games out there currently.



Sidenote: If you have a PS3, the PS3 version allows you to play as the Joker. Xbox does not get any exclusive characters, but that might change with downloadable content.