REVIEW // Batman: Arkham Asylum

Rocksteady could have made a cash-in on Warner Bros.’ ridiculously successful “The Dark Knight”. They could have done a piss-poor job and half-assed the Batman universe. They could have also fell entirely flat on making a decent game overall, however, Rocksteady opted to create what I’d like to give an A-grade with Batman: Arkham Asylum.

There are just so many things to praise Rocksteady for in Arkham Asylum. The execution in the style of the graphics, the fluid combat and technical animations that it is hard to believe that the game revolves around Batman, one of the greatest comic book heroes ever to fail at a decent video game adaptation since the medium’s conception.

The Dark Knight returns in a big way!

Players assume the role of Batman as he escorts the imprisoned Joker to Arkham Asylum. However, the Joker’s apprehension was far to easy in the Dark Knight’s opinion. Batman’s fears soon come to fruition as The Joker escapes custody and incites an internal revolt that leaves the nuts in control of the nut house. With Harley Quinn, Bane, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, the Scarecrow, and the Riddler at Joker’s side, the Dark Knight will have to remind the inmates of Arkham Asylum how they got there in the first place…

Careful, Bats! She can give you a hell of a rash!

Engaging Storyline
The narrative driving the game is amazing! The incorporation of some of Batman’s most villainous enemies and the cohesiveness of the overall package amounts to a tale that rivals most Batman stories.

Top-notch Voice Acting
Mark Hamill’s participation in Arkham Asylum is just the marvelous icing on the voice acting cake. Never did it appear as though any of the actors’ delivery feel forced or show lack of enthusiasm. All of the talent was on-key with their respected character. Kudos to Mark Hamill’s Joker, Batman’s, and Harley Quinn’s performances.

Streamlined Stealth Mechanic, Awesome Detective Mode
Though not as deep or drawn-out as that of the Metal Gear or Splinter Cell games, Arkham Asylum provides an entertaining stealth mechanic that enables casual and hardcore gamers to enjoy taking out enemies with ease while using their heads. Detective Mode really helps players in determining how to execute enemy obstacles. While many saw Detective Mode as a detach from the game’s amazing atmosphere, I believe it provided a much needed crutch in many situations.

Fun Combat System
Simple, fast, and fun! Arkham Asylum sports a simple fight control-scheme that will also please casual and hardcore gamers, as well. While the combat can be linear and simple, the right combos and button configuration will allow those dedicated to the game’s fight mechanic to pull off wicked arse-kickings!

Remarkably Detailed Presentation
The game looks beautiful. Though it is difficult to mix cartoon fantasy with real world detail, Rocksteady is able to pull off both without coming off too cartoon-y or unbelievable. The graphics themselves are a pleasure to look at and can still impress against the best looking games around.

Riddle Me This…
The Riddler’s mini-treasure hunt provided some measure of enjoyment that prolonged the inevitable end of the game. More over, what was impressive was for Rocksteady to integrate the riddles so seamlessly into the game world. The kicker is that some of them were actually fun to pursue and real mind-benders.

Gadgets Aren’t Gimmicks
None of the gadgets that players could unlock were shallow or used for only one instance. The developer did a great job in utilizing the gadgets as the keys to unlocking the once hidden or unreachable areas of Arkham Island. What path once had an obstacle at the beginning of the game was then opened thanks to a grappling gun and some elbow grease!

True to Batman Universe
Never once did I kill an enemy in the game. As Detective Mode had shown, all of the enemies I had ever taken down were either “incapacitated” or ate it at their own expense.

Is Joker gonna have to bust a cap?

Over Before You Know It
After the game was over, I honestly thought to myself that there had to be something else to the game… maybe like an unlocked prologue or some extra features relating to the game. Unfortunately, once player’s help Batman control Arkham, the game is over. Perhaps Rocksteady has some plans to extend the narrative with the impending DLC? Who knows… but as of now, the ending felt rushed.

Underwhelming End
Yup… rushed is what it was. The whole epic adventure led up to quite a disappointing finish. But to be honest, the story and concept of Arkham Asylum was so good that I myself wouldn’t know how to end the experience on a satisfying high note for me to enjoy.

Not Much Reason to Revisit Arkham
After finishing the game, I still had the urge to play. Looking around for stuff I could have unlocked, I found that I could only either compete in and complete the Challenges or play the game over again, which I wouldn’t really mind… but other than that, it’s a real turn off in the realm of replayability.

Are You Sure It’s Not Vent-man?
I realized at about half-way through the game that I had used vents to reach almost every room or building in the game. I can’t say it’s game-breaking or that the concept doesn’t work… but damn, what’s wrong with breaking through a window or blowing a door open with that “bat-gel explosive” crap that the game likes for me to put on everything else? There are millions of other ways to get into a building then a damn vent… that’s all I’m saying, Rocksteady.

Where Are Gotham’s Most Wanted?
Okay, so Two-Face is robbing a bank in Gotham… that was established in the game. However, where was the Penguin? Catwoman? Was Mr. Freeze just chilling in that ice-covered cell of his, oblivious to the asylum’s current situation?

These "clowns" don't know what they're in for!

Arkham Asylum is one of the best action/adventure games of the year, thus far. No game this year has yet to provide such a memorable and rewarding experience; not to mention a game where players actually feel as though they embody a superhero so well. The game does so many things right that the negatives can be ignored. So the story could have been longer and the ending… not – so bad, but the journey to that end was filled with so much bang that it was hard for the spark in Arkham Asylum to fizzle.

Let me be honest, this game brought a tear to my eye. It was THAT good. If you haven’t played Arkham Asylum yet, get off your bum and get a hold of it!

Review based on the Xbox 360 version.