azuresupernova's Batman: Arkham Asylum (PlayStation 3) review

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Review 86/100

Overview


Batman: Arkham Asylum is good. I stress this greatly. If Arkham Asylum were a bath, it would be comfortably warm but lacking bubbles. There are so many things done wrong, it's a shame because the things done right make it a pleasure to play. Let's break it down.

Presentation 43/50

 
8/10 Graphics -

It’s getting too common these days to say a game has ‘good graphics’. Most of them do and so does Arkham Asylum. Batman’s model accumulates a number of cuts and tears as he progresses and most models look pretty good. The one that stands out for me was Killer Croc, intimating and realistic.

10/10 Environment -

The environments are equally good looking and atmospheric. The graphics lend Arkham a hand in becoming a characteristic environment. As the game progresses, Arkham slowly plunges deeper into chaos and the environment reflects that. The handiwork of villains left behind; nods towards the inhabitants of now vacant cells and just watching the island descend into chaos are just a few things which are enjoyable to witness.

9/10 Sound -

I really liked the soundtrack, the tense strings when stalking the empty corridors of Intensive Treatment work and the transition to a more energetic track when you get spotted by an enemy or engage in combat are fluid. Though more often than now, the deathly silence provides more intensity. But there’s much more to Arkham than the music. For instance, Joker and his constant taunts via the Arkham’s tannoy system. The voice acting is top notch too, with Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy (voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series) lending their talents to Joker and Batman respectively.
8/10 Atmosphere - There’s emphasis on the atmosphere in Arkham. As pretty much from square one, you’re presented with this fortress. To then watch it descend into chaos is brilliant. You can really feel the Joker’s influence on Arkham, as it twists and decays until it no longer feels like the same place.

8/10 Legacy -

I was determined to mention this in the review from the second I started playing it. Arkham Asylum tries hard to cram in so much Batman trivia. Throughout Arkham you’ll find the cells of inmates past, many of which you’re bound to recognise even if you’ve only ever grazed the surface of the series. And if you don’t know that much, by the end of the game you will. Cracking on with The Riddler’s challenges will unlock character bios and finding Interview Tapes will reveal some (often disturbing) conversation that sheds light on some of Arkham’s most famous cases.

Gameplay 33/50

 
7/10 Combat -

It‘s a double edged sword, the freeflow works well but it sometimes sucks the challenge out of combat. Square is your attack, Triangle is your counter, Circle is to stun and X is for evading. Getting the timing down can be tricky at first, but once you’ve mastered it then combat is a one hand job. Batman auto-targets the nearest enemy, switches between attacks and countering seems too easy. In the hardest setting you’ll need to utilize the Bat’s gadgets in combat, Batarangs and the Grapnel Gun can be life savers.

7/10 Detective Mode -

Once you’ve tested it out, you’ll wonder why you don’t just play through the game with it always turned on. It shows you enemies through walls, points out weak spots on the wall and helps you track people. The answer? Well you could, but you’d miss out on the beauty of Arkham. It’s simple

8/10 Stealth -

The stealth element is key to the game and suits Batman. When a gang of armed inmates are around the corner, a head on approach results in the Bat turning into Swiss cheese. Instead grappling around above their heads and picking them off one by one is your best bet. Although there really isn’t an option. There are a couple times where you can’t be seen and way too many forced brawls. The stealth feels like it has so much potential, but only a small percent was used.

4/10 Boss Battles -

This is where my real issues lie. The sad truth is that, there really aren’t any. Out of six possible battles, only one of them would I actually consider to be a boss battle. The biggest disappointment however was Killer Croc, Hide n Seek in the sewers wasn’t what I had in mind. Most of them all seem to feature a similar formula: Work your way towards boss villain, beat up some thugs whilst the villain watches, watch a cutscene of Batman beating the villain. Battles with the likes of Killer Croc, Scarecrow and Joker are built up so much, it’s like over inflating a balloon and then tugging around the ruptured remains on a string. Some of the repeated ones are fun at first, but get tedious.

7/10 Upgrades -

Yes, there’s a nice little upgrade system in Arkham Asylum. As Batman beats up thugs he’ll gain Experience Points which can be used to purchase upgrades for your combat, health and gadgets. However, none of them are really game breaking and you never feel the need to purchase anything other than the Armor Boosts. Some such as the Triple Batarang are useful, but the only important gadget upgrades are acquired through story progression.   

Bonus Points 10


 
The game really deserves its bonus points, right here in this little feature: The Riddler’s Challenge. I loved this personally. It’s a scavenger hunt at the core of it, but something about it feels rewarding. It tests you. There are five types of challenges: Joker Teeth, collecting Riddler Trophies and Interview Tapes, Riddle Me This and Alignment Puzzles. Each in their own are rewarded with XP and completing every single one of his challenges is a fun optional side quest, but taking your time to find every last one doesn't feel like it's breaking the flow of the game thanks to The Riddler's niggling interuptions throughout. 
  

Conclusion


Batman: Arkham Asylum is good. There's enough story and atmosphere to keep most players immersed, the legacy of the Bat himself is also slash-dotted throughout the whole game. If you fancy a good eight hours of gameplay at a varied pace, Arkham Asylum is probably for you. Just remember, mastering the combat system feels more rewarding to watch than it does to control and the boss fights are kind of lackluster. I recommend pursuing The Riddler's Challenge to get the most out of this game. It gets 86/100 points from me.
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