Is Arkham Asylum be a game worthy of the character that once carried giant ACME bombs away to safety in the 60’s?
So here’s how I’m really starting this thing. A triple A game that pretty much everyone loved, reviewers and gamers alike. Not exactly what you’d call a particularly interesting start since what you’re going to read here is probably going to sound familiar but you can’t argue with quality. Hell, this game singlehandedly renewed the gaming community’s faith that a genuinely good super hero game could be made in this generation of gaming.
And with Arkham City just around the corner, maybe this little review will remind you what you really enjoyed about this game in the first place.
Plot: It’s your standard comic super hero plot and one very familiar with the Batman universe. Joker gets caught off screen by Batman in the beginning of the game and is imprisoned, as usual, in the mental institute for the insane, Arkham asylum, the place where all the loonies in Gotham city go when they’re arrested. That’s all nice and well for the regular nutjobs but for some reason, regardless of how many people the super villains kill, buildings they destroy and knowing very well that they’ll do it again, Gotham’s authorities never shove Joker or Scarecrow or whoever into a plain old high security prison and just plain kill them in death row. There must be some important legal loophole that I’m not aware because it’s been a pretty lame justification to continue with the whole plot in Batman overall. But then again, where’s the fun in applying logic in a show if its only purpose is to erase what keeps the status quo?
Anyway, being arrested was, of course, all part of Joker’s plan and soon enough, he takes control of the Asylum and releases everyone inside to wreak chaos while giving him time to do what he really wants. It’s pretty straightforward with lots of recognizable faces from the comics from Killer Croc to Harley Quinn, who get in Batman’s path in order to get even with the vigilante in tights. If you’re a fan of the franchise and the comics in particular, you’ll most likely enjoy this adventure, although you’ll be disappointed in how few actual villains appear in the game, one would think that almost everyone would be there to kick Batman’s ass but it’s like 5 at the most, how the hell isn´t Mr. Freeze there, I have no idea.
Fans of the 90’s cartoon show will also be glad to know that its cast is back and voicing their respective characters in the game. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill will definitely give this game a feeling of nostalgia.
Jesus Christ, Commissioner Gordon is almost as big as Batman.
Gameplay: Arkham Asylum’s strength in the gameplay department doesn't relies on deep or complex mechanics but rather on several simple and efficient gameplay ideas that make up for the whole experience. The fighting for example, for all that it’s worth, is pretty much spamming X to exhaustion until every enemy is down; but the counter mechanic which complements the fighting, is like a spider sense in the sense that Batman knows when a enemy will attack him by a warning sign above him which allows Batman to block and counter attack by the push of the Y button. This coupled with the fact that Batman’s punches, kicks and counters are context sensitive to the position of his attacker make the supposedly repetitive fighting extremely addictive.
Then you have the stealth option where you can take down enemies without them even noticing you, which you can do by climbing gargoyles and ONLY gargoyles (The architect was probably as crazy as the patients there, there’s literally hundreds of those things) or use air ducts to get on their blind spot and take them. Then you have to consider Batman’s gear which goes from bat boomerangs, explosives, X-ray vision, flying cape and other crap that make his gameplay capabilities very dynamic and varied since pretty much everything works like it’s supposed to.
The biggest problem that the game has by far though, is the bosses or more appropriately the lack thereof, which is directly connected with the fighting mechanic of the game. Things is, the fighting mechanic of the game was made more for Batman to look like the perfect martial artist badass that he is rather than anything else , which doesn’t translate well at all when he confronts important non-fighting villains like Harley Quinn or better yet, physically capable villains like Killer Croc or Bane. They either send waves and waves of thugs at you while spouting random evil lines or they’ll just try to kill you with specific gimmicks that will leave you underwhelmed. Joker’s last battle most of all, is especially stupid, unoriginal and anti-climatic. The only true “boss” that this game has is Poison Ivy , since is the one that you actually have to use several of the abilities that Batman gained at that point. And I know that everyone and their mother said this already but Scarecrow’s sections are freaking awesome.
Graphics: Arkham Asylum uses the Unreal Engine and frankly does a better job than most game companies that overuse this graphic engine. The gothic scenery of Arkham Island is appropriate and immersive; the character models are very well made, especially Batman and Poison Ivy, although most of the male cast looks like they suffer from testosterone abuse and are literally about to explode. Plus the cannon fodder thugs pretty much all look the same from beginning to end and when a game’s array of enemies consists of nothing but a clone army of huge men covered in clown makeup, it can get pretty old.
The classic Batman versus thugs fight where only 2 people fight and everyone else waits their turn.
Conclusion: When Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, people were jerking off to it 24/7 claiming it to be more than worthy of 110% score and “Game of the Year, All Years”. While that´s pretty far from the truth, this is a pretty damn good game, albeit with some very obvious flaws. The fact that it’s a solid *Batman* game could automatically make a playthrough worth it but even if you’re not a fan of the franchise you’ll probably have some fun with it on a rental. Go play it people. Then play the waiting game for Arkham City because that one looks better than Asylum in pretty much every aspect.