Technically proficient and better than the sum of its parts!
After the summer draught I’ve been looking forward to the new releases. After the seemingly mediocre Wolfenstein I decided to purchase Batman, the stronger of the two. Batman does leave a very strong first impression. It is a solid product without any real technical flaws. The graphics are great without any real dips in framerate and loading times are nearly non-existent (while playing of HD).
I’m not going to go into any depth in analyzing the story, it is enough to drive the gameplay with the joker taking control of Arkham Asylum and Batman being trapped inside the walls. This serves as an excuse to allow Batman to fight against some of the greatest villains of Gotham City.
There are a couple of different aspects of the gameplay. The first one is the brawler gameplay which is the least interesting of the gameplay modes but take up a majority of your time. The brawling gameplay is fluid but lacks any real depth. There is a punch, counter and stun button. During combat you are continually mashing the punch button and watching batman perform some really amazing, cinematic combat. The villains signal their attacks and when they do you can press the counter button to avoid damage. Some villains require you to hit the stun button before attacking otherwise they will block. You also have the ability to dodge attacks. It is a simple combat system that give you the feeling of really fighting 10-15 enemies at the same time and the combat looks extraordinary. However if you take a step back and take the combat for what it is it’s nothing more than button mashing with quick-time events. A large part of the game consists of fighting in this brawler mode.
The best part of Batman Arkham Asylum is definitely the stealth rooms. Some rooms require you to take out several enemies at once while avoiding drawing the attention of others. In general the enemies in these rooms are armed with automatic carbines and since Batman isn’t bulletproof stealth is really important. The enemies aren’t stupid and if they find a body they will start grouping up, walking around in pairs and covering each other. Their nervous chatter is also great and gives you hints about what they are going to do. If I’m going to nitpick I can say that for a “stealth” mode it is very easy to stay stealthy, you can usually walk around in the open as long as you hold down the crouch button and no one is looking directly at you and if you are discovered jumping away between a few gargoyles or around a corner is usually sufficient to let them forget you. At the same time, a lot of your attacks seem to draw a lot of attention even though they should be relatively quiet.
Another aspect of batman is the exploration. There are several secrets or “riddles” to solve in this game and some of them are very awesome. For instance, there are some riddles that require you to align up two parts of a question mark spread out in the environment. There doesn’t seem to be that many of these but it is pretty satisfying when you solve them. Other secrets include question marks which unlocks challenge levels and more. There are also taped recordings of villains talking to their doctors, which are really entertaining. The only downside to the exploration is the detective mode. The detective mode is a visual filter that turns everything blue and objects that you can interact with are highlighted. In this mode you can also see enemies through walls, structural weaknesses in walls that you can blow up and more. You will find that you play a majority of the game in the detective mode and won’t experience the moody environments. It is a real shame.
In conclusion, Batman is a tight game, you can see that it has had very high production values but you can also tell that in adapting it to a wider audience they may have had to simplify some aspects of the game a lot. It is well worth the money and in the end the game is greater than the sum of its parts.