Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game that crept up on me unawares. I've never been a big Batman fan, and my interest and attention have been on other releases. In fact, I hadn't even considered renting this title, let alone purchasing it. All of that changed the week of August 25th. The game was released and immediately began receiving rave reviews. The 360gamercast community in particular was very laudatory of the new Batman release. When Jeff Gerstmann gave the game the highest possible review score under the Giantbomb system, I was persuaded to pick up the game. I had a $25 American Express gift card, and Best Buy was holding a sale, so I was able to pick up the game for $20 out of pocket. Not bad.
The game is very good, but falls just a little bit short of the hype and praise it has been receiving. It's very difficult for a game based on licenced intellectual property to measure up to original story lines like those contained in Bioshock and Dead Space (the standards for excellence in the single player action genre). With that said, Batman: Arkham Asylum comes very close.
The stealth action and puzzle solving portions of the game are very enjoyable. Exploring the map and retrieving the Riddler's challengers also add to the fun factor. I found the hand-to-hand combat difficult at first, but once I realized it isn't just mindless button mashing, I fared better when throwing down with large groups of bad guys. One final draw is the upgrade system that the game employs. Much like Shadow Complex (the recent Metroid clone released on Xbox Live Arcade) the protagonist receives upgrades to his suit and weapons as he progresses through the game. These upgrades allow the player to return to previously explored areas to access areas that were unaccessibleduring the first pass.
My only knock on the game is that the boss battles are repetitive. Without spoiling it too much, you'll fight a lot of brainless brutes who like to charge at you.
I completed the game in about 12-14 hours of playing time. I'll be spending another hour or two finishing up the Riddler's challenges that I missed in my playthrough. There are also different challenge rooms to master that will require numerous additional hours to complete.
I recommend Batman: Arkham Asylum. Enjoy.