Batman: Arkham Asylum Review
This is the best Batman game ever made. This is perhaps the best comic-based game ever made. It's probably also the best stealth-action game this year. So, what makes this such a great game?
It makes you think like Batman. It's that simple. You have to think like Batman in order to survive. There are three aspects to Batman: Arkham Asylum. The brawler, where you're dropped into a room of unarmed goons and have to knock them all out. The predator, where you're dropped into a room of armed goons and have to take them all out without being noticed, and finally exploration. You have the entirety of Arkham island to explore.
I'll tackle the brawler part first, as it's the most straightforward. Your strikes are mapped to the X/square button, you counter using the Y/triangle button, you stun melee-wielding foes with the B/O button and you dodge attacks by doubletapping the A/X button. Stuns and dodges doesn't count towards your combo counter, but your strikes and counters do. Your combo ends if you strike, counter or stun without hitting anyone, if you don't immediately hit anyone, or if you are hit by one of Joker's thugs. After the first two hits, all hits will knock the opponents down, so it can be tough getting a good combo going against a small amount of opponents. You'll also learn a few special moves through upgrades.
Predator is a completely different mode of playing, and this is where Arkham Asylum shines. This is where you'll start using all of Batman's small gadgets, like special purpose batarangs, explosive gel and the batclaw. All of them get upgraded as you go through the story mode. Setting up traps is truly satisfactory, luring Joker's goons into explosive charges, taking out three goons with batarangs while you descend on a fourth with a diving kick. The best aspect of the stealth is that it forces you to think. One misstep and your health is halved. After all, Batman isn't Superman, he's very vulnerable to gunfire. You could argue that swinging from gargoyle to gargoyle is a cheap way to evade enemy attention, but the alternative would make the game almost unplayable.
Finally, the exploration. While the game will take you through all the areas in the game, the Riddler keeps you coming back. The Riddler has 240 challenges scattered throughout Arkham Island and he taunts you to find them all. These challenges range from smashing Joker teeth with your batarang, finding hidden Riddler trophies and aligning two parts of the Riddler question mark. To help, the Riddler has also hidden a secret map in each area, which shows roughly where the challenges are. You also earn experience for each riddle solved, 200 each. You can almost fully upgrade Batman on riddles alone.
One game mechanic I haven't mentioned yet deserves it's due. The detective mode. This is invaluable to the game. Batman uses this to find clues in the environment, track people and most importantly, spot Joker's goons. The minute you enter an area, detective mode will immediately tell you how many enemies are in the area, and if they are armed or not. Armed goons will be singled out as red, while everyone else are blue. You might think this will easen the gameplay, and you're probably right, but the game was designed with this in mind and without it, Batman would end up lying on the ground in the pulp of blood a lot more frequent.
The story is just what you expect it to be, only better. I'm not gonna spoil anything for you here, suffice to say it starts with you taking Joker into Arkham Asylum, but the Joker escapes deep inside the asylum, and with a little help from Harley Quinn and a few other inmates, he completely takes over the asylum. Soon more and more Batman villains get involved, leading to several boss fights. Regrettably, these boss fights are seldom as exciting as fighting the goons. Many of them feel clunky and the last one especially left me wanting for something else. That said, the game's ending is satisfactory, don't be mistaken.
Mark Hamill's performance as the Joker is outstanding, and he has by far the most lines in the game, following you from room to room via security camera and TV screens, commenting as you take down his goons. Kevin Conroy also deserves special mention as Batman, as well as Arlene Sorkin as Harley Quinn, all three actors come from the Animated Series, and inhabit their roles with confidence. The rest of the voice cast are good as well. The music seems inspired by the recent movies, I've stopped myself a few times thinking "is this the music from the Dark Knight?", a few seconds later confirming that it's not.
The game looks good, though you can clearly see on the character models that this is an unreal engine game. Characters have slightly oversized limbs and they kinda look like they were comic books heroes from the Gears of War universe. They definitely look like the characters though and the costumes look great, they really look like the characters. The environments look great, the game is dark and gritty. Arkham Asylum take on a horror quality. That said, this isn't bloody or gory. Other than a few facial scars, and while the way Batman handles thugs is definitely violent, it's not really the bloody or gory.
So, you're done with the story mode, solved every riddle and gotten every upgrade. Well, now you have the challenge mode. The challenge mode is where you take on enemies in areas from Arkham Asylum. You unlock these challenges through story mode, and there are the regular version of the area and an extreme version. They are divided into brawler and predator. In brawler, you get scored for doing combos and special moves. In predator, you have special objectives, like completing the challenge without being noticed, or special takedowns. This at least adds to replayability.
For it's few flaws, this is really a great game. Sure the game could've benefited from better boss fights, but the rest of the game is pure gold.
As for achievements, I completed the story on normal difficulty and got around 600 points.
I played the 360 version, the PS3 version has an added bonus in form of a playable Joker in challenge mode.