ravenhoe's Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC) review

A visceral, dark and super-polished rendition of the Dark Knight and probably the best Batman game out there

As every other geek on this planet, I am a big fan of the dark knight (even though I thought his last film was not that good despite the hype) and I am thrilled to say that this has been the purest Batman gaming experience I had the pleasure to taste so far. Yes, there are some shortcomings, but all fade away in the bright light of quality that Rocksteady delivered with Arkham Asylum.

The visuals, sounds, music and the great voice acting (especially Batman and the Joker) create a very broody, yet exciting atmosphere, a perfect fit for the dark undertone of the Batman comics, while maintaining the thrilling spirit of adventure that makes this franchise so energetic and popular.

The setting is a tad weird, a large island, which serves as an asylum, certainly makes it much easier to create the game in terms of level desing, yet I would have prefered some more realistic locations, in line with the comics / films / lore. On the other hand, the setting gave the designers the freedom to throw in all sorts of bosses (a who is who of batman villains, most of which are second class villains, I reckon they are saving Catwoman and The Penguin for some other time) and levels. The remote setting makes it possible to have a whole island taken over by plantlife without you getting the weird feeling that you are playing some weird Japanese RPG.

The combat is visceral and so is the level 'solving', even though I found the game quite easy to beat, unless you are trying to find each and every secret level and item that is, but I am not a completist and here to beat the single-player story and that's it, thank you very much.

When it comes to first person combat, be it medieval melee or martial arts, most games either lack the finesse and excitment of combat or have control schemes that make your fingers go all entangled on your ass (Severance, TMNT, Dark Messiah of M&M etc.). Batmam AA manages to make the combat easy to get into, yet you still feel that you are in charge of the action the whole time. The pacing is also very nice, with some parts relying on your stealth skills while other are just bedlam and brawling like there is no tomorrow.

The idea of leveling Batman up is neat but never really takes over the game like some RPG game would, but it is a nice addition to add some depth and tangible feeling of progress as you fight your way through hordes of people with make-up issues.

The story is nice, not a lot of twists and Joker wants to take over the world (O rly?). As usual, all the villains are never inclined to kill Batman when they have the chance but rather let him live, only to have him thwart they plans before curtain fall, ... what the heck, that is what it's like in the movies too eh ?

All in all, this game is loads of fun and I sincerely hope that the other games in the series (City and Origins) add a bit more spice to the levels and the story, but retain the tight and super-polished gameplay. SLICK !

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