BATMAN'S IN FOR ONE HELL OF A NIGHT AT ARKHAM ASYLUM!There is a reason why Batman is so beloved by so many people, he's human afterall and one of the easiest comic book characters to relate to. He can't fly naturally, he can't shoot webs from his wrists and the last time I checked he wasn't able to become an angry green monster of destruction. It's because of all these factors that Batman as stayed in the hearts of comic book fans, movie lovers and gamers. While Batman's recent movie adventures have been highly regarded and his comic book tales continue to make great reads, gamers haven't exactly had a whole lot to celebrate when it comes to the dark knight. But all that could finally change with Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Developed by UK based developers Rocksteady Studios, Batman: Arkham Asylum does what few past Batman games have even tried attempting, making a game based upon the strengths of the character in question. We've seen all sorts of genres touched in the name of Batman, but few have been as well realized as this latest attempt. Publishers Eidos have been rolling out the red carpet for Arkham Asylum and once you start to play, you'll soon realize why. While at first it feels like a solid Batman videogame offering, it's soon obvious that great thought went into making this a 'great' Batman game by providing gamers with all the required tools to live out their Batman fantasies.
The Joker as been caught by Batman, all a little to easily and the Dark Knight senses something isn't right. While in the process of being reintroduced to the famous Arkham Asylum facility, Joker breaks out of custody and escapes into the halls, corridors and gardens of Arkham Asylum. It's up to Batman to recapture the Joker and bring an end to his diabolical plans. Now I shan't give away to much of the story, but it's both a setting and a tale that makes sense. Through the games twelves or so hours of play, you'll come across many of Gotham City's iconic villians from Killer Croc to Scarecrow, of whom I shall talk of later. The Arkham Asylum facility helps make the story fit together well and allows for all sorts of weird but wonderful encounters.
It's probably best put, that Batman: Arkham Asylum would be a great game with or without the Batman name. Yes being able to experience the story from Batman's perspective is a plus, but it could have easily been unknown super government agent 34 in Batman's place and it still would have made a great game. That's probably the best possible praise I could give the actual gameplay, offering a great mix of stealth, combat and puzzle solving. Arkham Asylum simply feels right throughout, and while certain areas of the game are far from perfect, you are never tasked with doing each of the three for long enough to realized their shortcomings. For example, enemy A.I can be rather stupid at times, but the almost perfect mix of these gameplay mechanics help stop these weaknesses making such a huge difference.
Combat is freeform, which means that it's both dynamic and allows for some experimentation. While it can appear somewhat easy at first, you soon realize that there are tougher challenges ahead where timing and a certain skill is required. It's a rather simple mechanic which requires you to hit the X button to attack and Y button to counter, countering is trickered when an attack symbol appears over the head of an enemy. Simple it may seem, but there is a certain amount of button mashing to be had and eventually it's a mechanic that feels a little repetitive towards the end. But Batman: Arkham Asylum still offers great satisfaction when it comes to beating people up.
It's not all about the combat though, Batman is of human flesh and skin and can't exactly survive a battering of bullets. Stealth becomes key and as Batman you must put fear into the hearts of your enemies. Arkham Asylum allows key moments when you'll be required to tactically take down a room of Joker's hentchmen, this is where you'll use many of Batman's unique gadgets from the famous batarangs to his explosive gel used to blow up walls and floors. This is also where the most satisfaction can be had, and the real 'I'm Batman' moments appear. Taking out enemy after enemy stealthily requires some tactical planning, but you'll be desperate to do it just right. In fact there were even times where I would restart from a certain checkpoint just because I wasn't happy with the way I took down those hentchmen in the room. It's all about Batman's style.
The third and final key gameplay mechanic is detective mode, which requires Batman to use is skills to solve puzzles or follow trails in an attempt to see where a certain individual as gone. This as also been implemented well, and never feels out of place. It is the least active gameplay feature of the three, as you'll only be required to do a certain amount of snooping around Sherlock Holmes style, but there is enjoyment to be had and it's yet another feature that helps you actually feel like Batman. That's what makes this game great, your Batman and the mechanics in place are neither overused or poorly thought out. They fit together perfectly offering a tight experience like no other comic book related videogame yet. There are issues to be had with minor areas of the game, but there honestly not worth complaining about.
Overall Batman: Arkham Asylum is a real treat for all, it's hard to be to tough on the weaker areas of the game when the key important features all work so well to create such a fantastic Batman adventure. The encounters with Scarecrow will go down in the memory of many gamers, offering some moments I shan't spoil for you if your yet to play and I haven't even got on to fully discussing the Riddlers involvement. Who as put riddles and collectables for you to find throughout the Arkham Asylum facility, it's worth noting that I had mixed feels about these extra objectives, while they are a welcomed additions they did on occasion get in the way of my actual enjoyment of the story.
It would be so easy for me to write up another seperate review on all the minor features of this game and already this review is longer then I was expecting. From the fitting tributes to the many villians of Gotham City to the stunning performance of Mark Hamill as the Joker, I could write an whole seperate review on that alone. It just all fits together perfectly to create one of the games I fully expect to see high on the list of many gamers Games of the Year. I haven't even touched upon the many wonderful gadgets you get to use, the upgrade system and the audio tapes so well thought out. This is a Batman fan's wet dream, and even if you don't like Batman, you'll find something to love about this fantastically created title.
SCORE 5 STARS OUT OF 5!
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