Giant Bomb Review

104 Comments

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

5
  • X360

Arkham Asylum is a very nasty place, but Rocksteady gives you enough tools to make foiling the Joker's latest plot thrilling from start to finish.


Batman's suit gets ripped up as you progress through the game. 
Batman: Arkham Asylum is not messing around. This isn't some throwaway licensed product where you punch dudes and drive cars, occasionally stopping to throw a batarang just to be "true" to the license. This is a full-on experience devoted to all of the different facets of being Batman, from the gadgets that help him along, to striking fear in the hearts of his opponents by carefully lurking in the shadows, to taking challenges head-on with little more than his feet and his fists, to straight-up acting like a detective, hunting around for clues. This all translates into an adventure full of variety, with each different aspect coming in at such a high level of quality that it just keeps impressing you over and over again, right up to its final moments.

The game opens with Batman returning Joker to Arkham Asylum, the mental institution that houses all of the super criminals of Gotham City. But Joker's admission hardly goes smoothly, and before too long, he's running the asylum, complete with a master plan involving a drug called Titan that turns men into gigantic, jacked-up murder junkies. Along the way, you'll encounter plenty of regular thugs, as well as a swath of lesser Batman villains, such as Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, and Scarecrow, who brings with him some Eternal Darkness-like sanity effects that turn into full-on hallucination sequences. The characters are treated well, which makes each encounter with a main villain feel memorable, even if most of them aren't traditional boss fights.

In a lot of ways, the gameplay in Arkham Asylum feels similar to the Metroid/ Castlevania style of exploration-focused adventure. In the early parts of the game, you'll immediately start seeing areas you can't reach or walls that you can't get through. You'll return to these areas later on, once you've acquired the proper gear. Though the game is very linear in the way it presents its objectives, the island feels wide-open, and in most cases, you're free to roam around as you please. The game contains plenty of collectible objects to reward explorers, and you'll also have challenges to solve. These are especially cool because they come your way in the form of clues from The Riddler that give you a sentence or two about the thing you're looking for and what area of the world you can expect to find it in. The riddle approach, along with some in-game maps that help point you at trophies and other items, prevents the collectibles from getting too tedious over the course of the game.

The cool part about playing Arkham Asylum is that you're never doing any one thing for too long. As you move from one area to the next, you'll transition between up-close fights with multiple thugs, stealth areas where you'll want to carefully take down enemies from behind, and plenty of enemy-free rooms where you just need to figure out how to navigate the area. The fighting feels nice and has a combo system that lets you easily transition from one target to the next. You'll face off against these guys in groups, forcing you to watch your back. When an enemy attempts to hit you, a little marker will appear above his head, giving you time to hit a counter button to prevent the attack. You'll also unlock extra moves as you gain experience and upgrade your abilities. It's rarely difficult, but Batman animates well enough to make the combat really satisfying.

As you collect items around the island, you'll open up bios and other bonuses. 
The stealth aspects of Arkham Asylum are often optional, but as Batman is not some kind of super-powered, invincible guy, guns are baaaad news. You won't die from one shot, but any sort of prolonged exposure to armed enemies results in a quick death. So there are plenty of spots where you'll do well to stay out of sight. Batman: Arkham Asylum makes the stealth side of things more about flexing your considerable abilities to toy with your foes instead of locking you down into some kind of rote pattern-memorization exercise. When you aren't holding down the run button, Batman is effectively silent, letting you drop in behind enemies with ease. Many of the stealth areas have gargoyles around the edges of the room that you can grapple up to hang (and hide) on. If spotted, you can usually just grapple up to a gargoyle, grapple to a different one, and so on until they lose you. But the enemies don't just "reset" back into set patterns. They slowly start freaking out and get more and more tense as you eliminate their posse one man at a time. Also, later on in the game, the enemies start wearing collars that make noise when their wearer is incapacitated, drawing all attention to that part of the room. This makes things a little trickier.

Then, of course, there's the exploration itself. At any time you can flip into "detective mode," which is an alternate viewing mode that lets you see scent trails, DNA, or other things you might be using to track your current target. This mode also lets you see through walls, letting you get a good sense of what's coming up, where enemies are positioned, and so on. It also highlights things like ventilation ducts and other points of interest that might blend into the background if you aren't careful.

All of the different aspects of Batman: Arkham Asylum come together along with some great graphics. The principal characters look really great and extremely thick. The meaty character models make the fighting look downright painful. The island itself also looks great, with a great amount of variety, with torn-up cell blocks, a mansion, a big greenhouse, and a sizable exterior with guard towers, statues, and so on. The atmospheric nature of the game is also furthered by its audio. There's a lot of great voice work throughout the game, and there's a lot of it to listen to, including collectible tapes you'll find that feature some of the game's criminals being interviewed by Arkham's psychiatrists, giving you a bit of insight into the characters. Also, the combat itself is bolstered by some great smacks, chops, and thumps.

Detective mode lets you detect... stuff. 
The game will probably take most players somewhere around 12 hours to complete, depending on how ruthless you are about grabbing collectibles. You'll unlock challenge levels along the way, too, giving you the ability to focus on the combat or replay some of the stealth rooms from the adventure, but when removed from the context of the main game, I found the challenge rooms to be a little flat. Also, it's worth noting that the game isn't very difficult on its normal setting. The game's few fights against life-barred bosses use simple patterns, and the standard combat isn't likely to cause much trouble, either. The game has a hard setting, but it removes things like the indicator for when you need to counter during a fight... which sort of just makes combat frustrating. Also, Batman's cape obscures the action in spots, which can get annoying. The glide maneuver, where Batman opens up his cape and blocks a good quarter of the screen, makes dropping down directly onto enemies a little difficult.

But Batman: Arkham Asylum's minor issues only serve to remind you how strong the rest of the game is. Its different elements mesh together in a way that keeps it feeling fresh over the course of the game, and the story moves in such a way that even players who aren't big Batman fans will come away satisfied. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
104 Comments
  • 104 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Edited by zombie2011

Finally now everyone can shut up about where the review is. I'll wait for a price drop $60 for a 12 hr game is a little steep for me.

Posted by MrMiyagi

Great review. Great game.

Posted by Coolarman

I want this game but i also want to save my money for MW 2 and Borderlands

Posted by OmegaPirate

Great review -couldnt agree more - i honestly cant stop myself playing this game over and over- a problem as it only gets put on when my batman obsessed gf is over :'(

Posted by FunExplosions

I'll get it now.

Posted by ZeroCast

Finally, the true word is out, time to buy this game.
Posted by The_Philosopher

About time :)

Posted by jonnyboy

To be honest a 5 star review isn't really unexpected, nor will the inevitable 'Game of the year' nomination to follow soon. That said I've played a little and I'd really like to follow the story through to the end, being a fan of the books, especially the Frank Miller ones.

Posted by JJWeatherman

Finally, people will stop complaining about this not being up!  : )

Posted by Pie

Although way too late probably the best reveiw ive read for this

Posted by Damien

I hope this stops the people from bitching now.

Edited by baba2

This justifies the game perfectly, nice review. :)

Posted by Feanor

I know that Jeff had a lot of disdain for the Batman ip before going into this review.  I'm happy to see he didn't let that get in the way.  I respect his reviews a little bit more now.

Posted by Absurd

I think I'll buy it soon.

Posted by F1

Looking forward to playing this!

Posted by gimmysumcowbel

this game is so incredibly good. im like half way through i think and im loving every moment of it. i really dont want it to end

Posted by Dany

I really wanna play this game, wished i had my 360. Great review btw! interesting to note that if ryan was reviewing it the perception of the review would be more neutral, maybe even negative then posative.

Posted by Yummylee

Game even won itself guiness world record, so yah it totally delivered on the hype and then some. 
Still ain't getting it at its full price mind you, just too many games i'd much prefer coming up pretty soon now that septembers arrived.
Online
Posted by Carlos1408

Sounds great, I had paid almost no attention to this game until recently but it looks a lot better than i expected. :D 
I'm considering picking this one up... However, I might wait for a price drop, I dopn't know yet...
Posted by Claude

Man, I want this game. I usually get my nephew's copy of a new game to play, but he bought a PS3 and bought that version of this game. I don't have a PS3. Sucks to be broke, but down the road when things look better, you can count me in.

Posted by CL60

Nice review !

Posted by giyanks22

Awesome review jeff even if its a tad late.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I should probably borrow this game from my friend.

Posted by RHCPfan24

Haha, the review is finally out!!! This will shut up all the complainers!!! 
And Jeff, nice review. :)

Posted by freakin

I thought Ryan was going to review this, and from the sounds of it he wasn't blown away by the game.  I guess the bomb fears the hateful nerds.

Posted by InFamous91

will buy....well, after price drop =)

Edited by BoneMachine

I picked this up for $40 here in Canada the first week it was out. A steal by all accounts. The Joker is spot on and the Asylum is atmospheric and full of small interesting details. Kudos to rocksteady for such an awesome game.

Edited by DanielJW
@freakin said:

" I thought Ryan was going to review this, and from the sounds of it he wasn't blown away by the game.  I guess the bomb fears the hateful nerds. "

I don't think they do, when did Ryan say he was reviewing it? He just said there was a review forthcoming. 
 
Great review by the way, I'm happy it's up, people can stop their complaining now! =D
Posted by Brackynews

Spot on. Though I'm sorry to glean that Ryan didn't care for it.
 
I started on Hard and haven't regretted it.  It took about 10 minutes of practice to survive the tutorial fights, then I was good to go.  Ye Olde Schoole of Hard Knocks. :)

Posted by punkxblaze

This is a review. This is -the- review. The best review. I'm not going anywhere with this comment, but it's nice to see the review up. The best review.

Posted by JJOR64

Damn.  Maybe I should get this game now.

Online
Posted by lemon360

nice

Posted by John_Bender

Bought the game, up to second scarecrow battle, really enjoying it so far. It's worth full price from my limited experience but Jeff's review seems that I've made the right choice. Hope the game doesn't let up.

Edited by TheRealDJ

Glad he came around to loving this game. Was worried he might not based on the QL and bombcast. But after playing this myself, I loved it(except for the killer croc fight). But everything else was really spot on, and the few sections that weren't quite as good were short enough that they don't frustrate you at all.
 
Edit: Oops, thought this was a ryan review at first. But still cool they gave it such a good score.

Posted by lemon360

great that canadian walmarts sold the game for 40 bucks
Posted by TheRealDJ
@DanielJW said:
" @freakin said:

" I thought Ryan was going to review this, and from the sounds of it he wasn't blown away by the game.  I guess the bomb fears the hateful nerds. "

I don't think they do, when did Ryan say he was reviewing it? He just said there was a review forthcoming.  Great review by the way, I'm happy it's up, people can stop their complaining now! =D "
In the bombcast, Vinny said "Maybe you're not the guy who should be checking this out" since Ryan was so negative about it already.
Posted by MagusMaleficus

Woah--five stars? This should persuade even the most jaded gamers to give B:AA a closer look. I mean, shit, Jeff didn't sound terribly enthusiastic about it before playing it...now this. Sweet.

Posted by Three0neFive
@TheRealDJ said:
" @DanielJW said:
" @freakin said:

" I thought Ryan was going to review this, and from the sounds of it he wasn't blown away by the game.  I guess the bomb fears the hateful nerds. "

I don't think they do, when did Ryan say he was reviewing it? He just said there was a review forthcoming.  Great review by the way, I'm happy it's up, people can stop their complaining now! =D "
In the bombcast, Vinny said "Maybe you're not the guy who should be checking this out" since Ryan was so negative about it already. "
That's just the was games journalism works. if you have someone who hates RTS games you don't make them review Starcraft 2, for instance.
Posted by ArclightBorealis

Sweet review.

Posted by DelroyLindo
@JJOR64: Game is totally worth getting. I actually didn't enjoy the demo, but I needed to break my Trials addiction so got it anyway. Game is ace.
Posted by MrKlorox

Really? Five? I was guessing it would be three. The demo didn't really seem that great, but cool none the less. I'll be checking this out in a couple weeks on PC.

Posted by GameBrahma

The game play mechanics and visuals during the combat scenes in this game are poetry in motion.  I had a chance to review this game last weekend and I was very impressed.

Edited by Trilogy

I'm glad Ryan didn't review it. It seemed like he had a case of the "I don't like it that much because it's popular" syndrome.

Edited by Delta_Ass

Ya know, I wonder if Jeff became a bigger Batman fan after playing this game...

Posted by Ubiquitous

Nice review, I'm not sure how i feel about this game, i thought the demo was very underwhelming, with the simple combat and such. I'll probably give this one a rent. 
 
 @GiantBomb 
I think there is a typo in the 5th paragraph.
"...more about flexing your considerable abilities to toy with your foes instead of locking you down into some kind of rote pattern-memorization exercise."     
 Just thought I'd bring that to your attention.
Posted by Ubiquitous

I could also be ignorant to the use of the word rote in the english language though.
Posted by Zeik

rote 
-A memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention or comprehension

Posted by spilledmilkfactory

i wasn't sure about this game initially, but it turned out great. one of my favorite games of the year so far, if not my favorite.

Edited by Microshock

Why are these reviewers constantly playing the 360 version for every multi plat? The PS3 version had the joker and the batcave and one of the multi platform games that actually looked better. 
 
It's pretty annoying because i want to know how the joker stuff is but no. Listen, when a game like Fallout 3 has DLC only on PC or 360, review that version. But when the PS3 version is the better version, you still review the 360 version?

Posted by Zeik
@Microshock said:
" Why are these reviewers constantly playing the 360 version for every multi plat? The PS3 version had the joker and the batcave and one of the multi platform games that actually looked better.  It's pretty annoying because i want to know how the joker stuff is but no. Listen, when a game like Fallout 3 has DLC only on PC or 360, review that version. But when the PS3 version is the better version, you still review the 360 version? "
It's because that's the version of the game they were sent by Eidos. You can even see it in one of the recent mailbag videos.
  • 104 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3