“Batman: Arkham Asylum” Review

Before we get started here, I didn’t follow up my last entry with my next plans. Having finished Higurashi, the next VN on my “to-do” list is probably the Katawa Shoujo demo, and probably Ever17 after that. Having finished Batman here, I’m not sure what will come next on PS3. Possibly Mirror’s Edge.

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So I “finished” up Batman: Arkham Asylum. I say “finished” because while I normally play a game through until I’ve beaten it and gotten all of the achievements/trophies (with some exceptions), I gave up on this one at the Freeflow challenge trophies. So we’ll just say I’m done with it. I’m gonna go ahead and rate this one as a full review since it’s a self-contained game. Not exactly something I could have done with Higurashi. So let’s get this thing done, shall we?

To begin, I’m going to rate this game on three categories and average the score for an overall. The categories are gameplay, graphics, and sound. Each will be rated on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest.

Gameplay: 8/10 – The only real issues I have with the game are right here. The game itself is great. It’s unbelievably great. We get access to all of Batman’s usual gadgets (batarangs, grappling hooks, a cape that somehow lets him glide great distances) and a handful of other ones (exploding gel, portable zipline, a few batarang variations like a remote-controlled batarang, batclaw). As Batman, you can do pretty much anything. If you want to take guys out stealthily, you can do it. Just sneak up behind them and press a single button to instantly take them out without anyone else noticing. If you want to go in Rambo-style, you can do that too. In fact, that’s one of the stronger points of the game: The freeflow combat system. The combat system lets you decide how to take out enemies with complete control. For example, you can start out the fight using the ultra batclaw to snag three guys and send them stumbling to the ground. On their way over to you, you flip over one. Here comes another guy to hit you. Counter his attack. Stun the guy over there. Flip over the guy next to him. Punch him to the ground. Throw some batarangs at the other guys. Do a ground pound takedown on the guy over there to take him out of the fight. You’ve got your combo well built up, so do a special combo throw of one guy into others or use an instant takedown to put a guy out of commission without even having to fight him. If you can avoid getting hit or breaking the combo, you can build up massive combos (there’s a trophy/achievement for 5x, 10x, 20x, and 40x combos) and earn a ton of experience that can be used to enhance your abilities and unlock new gadgets and techniques. It’s great fun. Unfortunately, here’s where my problems are. The freeflow combat can get a bit wonky on you. If there are three guys to your right and you want to flip over one of them (say, one with a stun baton), you may end up flipping over the wrong one. In the process, the guy with the stun baton may turn around and attack you with an unblockable attack, leaving you little time to react. Things like this are a major pain and will cause a lot of frustration. Additionally, in some fights, like the next to lass boss, the freeflow combat system can get in the way. You may be fighting guys and a push of the attack button with a badly aimed direction can send you flying halfway across the arena into an attack you should have been able to avoid. This also caused a gripe for me from the challenge maps. The combat challenges suffer from being stingy with points. I’ve had several instances of completing fights with a perfect combo and not being hit at all, but because I didn’t end fights with the right moves, my score just wasn’t high enough to score the medals I needed. There’s also no indication of health for enemies, so you may punch or counter a guy that you had intended to finish off with a higher-scoring move and lose that opportunity. The predator maps, on the other hand, and all stealth sections in general, are great. They require little fighting and are much more focused on Batman’s ability to strike quickly and silently while striking fear into his enemies. (In fact, when the enemy count gets to a certain point, they reach a “terrified” condition where they become extremely paranoid and begin firing randomly if they thing they hear something. Joker will also egg them on over the intercom when this happens.) I’m gonna have to take some points off for the freeflow combat causing some minor frustration on two fronts, but otherwise, the game excels at what it does.

Graphics: 10/10 – The graphics are amazing. The dark island at night creates the perfect atmosphere of not knowing what could happen next and the tiniest of details makes for convincing environments. As the game goes on, Batman even begins to show a little battle damage, which drives home the point the game makes of how one night can go so wrong so quickly at the asylum. Little things like that really make it shine. And don’t get me started on the Scarecrow segments. Those are beautiful. My only main gripe with the game is that it maxes at 720p resolution and it looked kinda grainy on my 1080p TV, but 1080p is a hard thing to pull off for games due to the sheer processing power involved in running at that resolution constantly, so I can let it go. After a while, you stop noticing it completely. Additionally, there’s a lot of content here. Riddler riddles and special trophies/achievements will keep you busy for a while even after you’ve beaten the game.

Sound: 10/10 – This, in my opinion, is where the game truly shines. The music and sound effects perfectly set the atmosphere. The music actually has a bit of a throwback to the 90s Batman cartoon. You can hear similarities in the music that will make you think of that classic theme. Speaking of the 90s cartoon, here’s the major point of the sound: The voices. The voices are almost all carried over from the 90s cartoon. This is an especially important point for Batman and Joker. Especially Joker. Mark Hamill is, in my opinion, the greatest Joker ever. He’s only done voice work for the guy, but he’s the most psychotic, crazy, and silly joker ever. That laugh is amazing. Mark steals the spotlight in this game every time the Joker opens his mouth. It’s not too assuming to say that this game wouldn’t have been as great without him. Kevin Conroy also does an amazing job as Batman. He’s just got that commanding but soothing voice that you’d expect Batman to have as Bruce Wayne. None of that silly gruff grumbling that we hear from Christian Bale. This is a do-it-all voice that can be a normal guy on the street but an intimidating guy behind a mask. Perfect for our favorite rich playboy. He does a great job of keeping the intensity going throughout Joker’s silliness. Harley Quinn’s original voice actress also returns. It’s nice to hear some Joker nicknames like “Puddin'” and “Mr. J” again in her voice. Fun times.

DLC – I won’t rate the DLC into the score, but I’d like to touch on it for just a moment. The two packs available on all platforms, Insane Night and Prey in the Darkness, are pretty good. The first features an endless combat challenge that will really keep you on your toes. It also features a predator map with a brand new area. The second one features a more traditional freeflow combat challenge and a predator map that’s a slight revamp of the gargoyle room in the Botanical Gardens. The most notable DLC, however, is the PS3-exclusive Joker challenge maps. These are the first 8 challenge maps from the normal game, but played as Joker against Arkham guards and characters (Like Aaron Cash and Commissioner Gordon). Joker plays completely differently than Batman. He has no grappling ability, so his movement is much more restricted. He also lacks gadgets for the most part. Every map starts him with one shot of a gun (instant kill that can kill multiple enemies in a straight line) and one set of Joker teeth that can be controlled remotely and detonated. He also has the Specs, something similar to Batman’s Detective Mode, but it can’t be kept up all the time. It has to be used, making it much more difficult to sneak up on guys without being snuck up on yourself. Combat challenges will restore Joker’s single gun shot between rounds, allowing it to be used as part of the combo. I found the predator maps to be the most fun here, though. I was actually also able to take one map out without any of the guards becoming aware that I had taken any guards out for the entire map. This was something I wasn’t even able to accomplish on Batman’s maps, so I’m pretty proud of myself here. Is it worth purchasing the PS3 version over the 360 or PC one just for the DLC? Well, it’s hard to say. It’s fun, but in the end, it doesn’t add much to the game. If you’re obsessive about beating everyone’s score, then I guess it gives you some extended playtime. I wouldn’t let it influence your decision, but honestly, if you have the ability to play any version, it’s probably worth picking the PS3 one up just to have it. It’s free, after all.

Overall: 9.3/10 – This game is, simply put, amazing. It deserves all of the awards its won. It’s not only a great superhero game (which are few and far between) or even a great Batman game (which were pretty much non-existent up to this point), but it’s a fantastic game in its own right. I highly recommend picking this one up, or at least renting it. If you’re a gamer, you owe it to yourself to try this one.

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