Friday, September 18, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

There has never been a good Batman game. Period. He's been the subject of shooting games, racing games, fighting games, but not one of these games have ever captured the true essence of the Dark Knight until now. Arkham Asylum builds not just a complete Batman experience, but an all-around gem of a game.

First, let's talk story. The Joker has lured Batman into a trap at the famous Arkham Asylum. He busts loose and then orchestrates a jail break that Batman must deal with. Along the way there are twists and turns, but it's important to note that the story was written by the guy who was in charge of the awesome Batman: the Animated Series. Mark Hamill is back to perfectly voice the Joker (which is good, because the Joker does a lot of talking), and they also got the voices of Batman and Harley Quinn to return. All of them are pitch perfect and they make the game feel right.

Next, let's talk look. The graphics kick ass, as they should, but the design also nails the atmosphere and mood of Batman. Arkham is spooky and gritty, and Gotham is always looming wonderfully in the background. As the game progresses, Batman starts to feel the wear and tear. You can visibly see cuts in his cape, scratches on his face, dents in his armor, and his facial hair even grows as the night progresses. The music's dark and majestic tone also rules, though it doesn't have the iconic score from the show or movies.

Finally, and most importantly, let's talk about the guts of the game: the mechanics. I would say the gameplay is a cross between Assassin's Creed and Metal Gear Solid. Like Assassin's Creed, you're a superior fighter often forced to face 5, 10, sometimes 15 people in a group. Like AC, it's a lot of fun because your equipped to rip them apart one by one, though it is a challenge. Batman's martial arts are in overdrive as you hear all the punishment he dishes out (hearing bones break is especially sweet). Like Metal Gear Solid, stealth is your best friend. The Dark Knight is no match for guns, so you have to cling to the shadows, walk in grates under the floor, move through vents, and strike from the rafters to dispatch the enemy methodically. Remember in Batman Begins when Bale first becomes Batman and takes out the guys at the dock without being seen? It's just like that. Like I said, the points of attack are different, but so are the methods. You can hang upside down from a gargoyle and snatch a guy from the ground. You can lure enemies away from their post or sneak up behind them. You can knock a guy out, then put exploding gel by his corpse so that when someone else investigates, they get blown up.

What's also cool is the open world feel to the island. It lends itself to plenty of exploration. My only knock against the game is that some of my favorite baddies are missing, but with sales through the roof, you better expect a sequel.

Does this game represent Batman accurately? Yes. He doesn't kill people, he doesn't use guns (just cool gadgets), he utilizes his skills as master fighter, expert hunter, and cunning detective. It captures the psychology of Batman with some trippy levels and hallucinated sequences. And it's pretty dark, as it gives a chilling look at the minds of the criminals.

Like I said, this isn't just an awesome Batman game...


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