After a long period of waiting around for a decent Batman game to launch after the disappointing Batman Begins clusterfuck, fans of the Dark Knight are finally rewarded. I’ve played Batman games before, but it has always felt like a typical action game featuring a central character wearing a Batman costume. Arkham Asylum created a lasting experience.
Let’s get a few things out of the way first…
–The graphics are phenomenal.
–The voice-over work is exceptional.
–The story plays out like a Batman mini-series rather than an actual film, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s more like the Animated Series that we all know and love.
–The controls are a little wonky, but once you train yourself to work past that, it flows seamlessly and effortlessly from then on.
–Sound effects are dark and often scary.
Whew…glad we got of that technical bullshit out of the way. I played through Arkham Asylum fairly quickly, but it wasn’t what I would call a “short game.” A short game can be completed by playing it 2 hours per day for about 3 days. A normal game should keep you busy for about a week…and a good game should create an addiction.
Arkham Asylum is a combination of Metal Gear Solid stealth and superhero game play. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself critically thinking out situations to eliminate all threats and remain completely unseen. Other times, you’re free to just leap into the middle of a room and kick some ass. The combination of these two seemingly incompatible game styles keeps the game interesting, flowing, and exciting.
The story, in case you didn’t know, is that the Joker gets loose in Arkham Asylum, releasing certain inmates that aid his plot to use a formula called TITAN to create a race of superhuman beasts. All of the villains in the game are used intuitively–by which I mean that at no point does a Batman nemesis simply “appear,” causing a “WTF?!” reaction. They all have a special place in the game…with the exception of Zsasz, but fuck it.
The environment is fairly “open,” but the story is linear…if that makes sense(?) You can go anywhere you like on the island to find extra trophies and solve (the Riddler’s) riddles, but there are no “side missions.” The game makes up for this by offering separate “Challenge Missions” where you can attempt high scores on various stealth or combat scenarios. Your Challenge Mode scores are then compared with others around the world.
Batman’s abilities and arsenal are updated throughout the game and through points earned by completing challenges, which has become a staple of any adventure game because it works. There are no distinct “BOSS FIGHTS” in the game, in my opinion. Every significant battle is played out through the game’s story. The game doesn’t really put you on hold for a “boss fight.”
Arkham Asylum isn’t perfect and it can often be frustrating (especially the virtually impossible Joker Challenges), but it will almost certainly be on your short list of top next generation games. The replay factor is extremely high, which is a plus for those who prefer to purchase games. It will not collect dust on the shelf for quite some time…
…but most importantly, it is the most immersive superhero game I’ve ever played. I loved Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, but this goes beyond the open world hero game. Arkham Asylum embraces the linear storyline and makes it its bitch. You will feel like you’re playing as the Batman, and not just controlling a character. You’ll have to think like Batman and move like Batman…and this game gives you every conceivable opportunity to do that.
If you haven’t played this game yet, you probably don’t like video games.
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