Gaming Today Reviews Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
I have to admit to having a healthy dose of skepticism about Batman: Arkham Asylum. After all, the history of superhero-based video games isn’t exactly all rosy and happy. Just in recent times, there’s been a good Hulk game, a bad Hulk game, an Iron Man game with horrid controls, and a Wolverine game that was actually quite good.
My trepidation was somewhat relieved when I got my hands on the demo and found it to have great atmosphere, great pacing, and great voice acting. Now I’ve had my chance to play the full game, and in short, it far exceeds any expectations I had.
Arkham Asylum opens as Batman transports his arch-nemesis, The Joker, to Arkham Asylum. Soon after arriving there, the Joker breaks free of his restraints and takes over the asylum, leaving Batman to pursue him through a myriad of obstacles the Joker puts in his path.
One of the much ballyhooed features of the game prior to its release was the dynamic combat system, and it does not disappoint. The flow of melee combat is excellent, and the gadgets that one would expect Batman to be packing around become a major part of dispatching your enemies. Batarangs knock foes prone, explosive gel incapacitates enemies, and Batman can even pull foes to him with his grapple.
Chaining together long strings of combos gains you experience that can be spent to improve Batman’s abilities and to unlock new gadgets. Even more fun is the ‘Detective Mode,’ which allows Batman to see his enemies through walls, see their current heart rates and states, and even tell if they are armed or not. Watching a goon’s heart rate increase when he finds the unconscious body of his buddy is satisfying in and of itself. This mode helps tremendously if you’re trying to be very sneaky (my preferred method of playing). While staying completely stealthy is rarely required in the game, it’s more challenging if you try to be the true ‘Invisible Predator.’
Combat is excellent, but where Batman: Arkham Asylum really shines is in its presentation. Arkham is dark, creepy, and reflects the fact that the Joker and his goons have had their way inside its walls. While I don’t want to give away anything that you might encounter in the game, I’ll just say that the morgue scene is very well done, and reminds me a bit of parts of the original Max Payne.
Not only is the atmosphere well done, the voice acting is outstanding. The Joker’s paranoia and lunacy shine through as Mark Hamill brings years of experience in the role to the game, and Kevin Conroy’s Batman is quite fitting. Classic villains like Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and the Scarecrow bring their own unique personalities to life through the quality voice and visual presentations.
I also got a chance to try out the ‘Play as the Joker’ feature in the PlayStation 3 version of the game. While it’s only available on challenge maps, it’s not just a skin. The Joker has a full complement of personalized moves, and even packs a pistol for taking out those really tough guards. It’s enough to make the decision of which console to play this one on a pretty easy choice.
All in all, Batman: Arkham Asylum lives up to all the hype. To this point in 2009, nothing I have played surpasses this game. If I had to submit a vote for Game of the Year right now, there’s no question that Arkham Asylum would get that vote. RockSteady has grabbed ownership of this title, and made a strong case for more games in the same vein, and I have no doubt that Eidos will happily acquiesce.
If you haven’t played Arkham Asylum yet, you need to go out and at the very least grab the demo, and then the full game. Don’t miss out on the chance to play the best superhero game of the year.
Batman: Arkham Asylum receives a 9.5 out of 10 from me, and is definitely a title worth a purchase, even now when money is tighter than normal.