Tech News on G4
Batman flies high in 'Arkham Asylum'
Sept 15, 2009
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Replace the protagonist in Batman: Arkham Asylum with any random Joe Gizmo and you'd have yourself a game that would enthrall even the most jaded gamer.
The fact that you're controlling one of the most storied superheroes to ever hit the pages of a comic book, though, makes this game even more awesome if you're a fan of the Dark Knight.
Comic book fanatic or not, Arkham Asylum manages to entertain almost non-stop thanks to its simple gameplay, memorable characters, and captivating environments.
The story takes us to the insane asylum from the game's title, where Batman is helping Gotham police escort the Joker after an apparently all-too-easy arrest. Batman is wary from the get-go, wondering why the Joker seemed so easy to capture. It's not long at all before the guano hits the fan and the Joker has escaped deep into Arkham Asylum. It's up to Batman to find him and take him in.
Things won't be easy though. The Joker and his henchmen have taken over much of the asylum. They've trapped police and doctors, locked off several rooms, and made Batman their target. You'll need to use every possible ability and gadget the Caped Crusader has to offer, and rest assured, you will be.
Though it's mere moments before Batman starts using his fists and feet to take down bad guys, the game truly shines whenever he is sneaking around, using his gadgets to silently take out rooms full of bad guys.
The designers at developer Rocksteady did a wonderful job avoiding making Arkham Asylum a mindless beat-em-up title. Sure he's a superhero, but Batman is still very much human, and it'll only take one fight with a room full of gun-wielding maniacs gone bad to learn that lesson.
When stacked up against armed baddies, Batman will have to use the shadows to his advantage, taking enemies out quickly and silently and avoiding head-on confrontations. The AI is fairly smart, though, so once one enemy is spotted lying on the ground unconscious or hanging from a gargoyle, the rest will be on high alert. They'll watch each others' backs, communicate with each other, and generally be more alert to things that are out of the ordinary. I've you've ever played a Metal Gear Solid game, you'll know what we mean.
Though you'll never see Batman running around with a machine gun, you'll still have an advantage over enemies thanks to detective mode. Available to be turned on and off with the click of a button, activating 'D-mode' allows Batman to spot enemies through walls, find hidden entrances and view other hints that will help finish objectives. If you're ever unsure of what to do or how to proceed, switching to D-mode will often help out.
Though you'll rarely find yourself stuck - the game is quite linear - there are a few sections where it's frustratingly difficult to know where to go next. And though Arkham Asylum isn't massive, it's big enough that the few spots where you have to backtrack really slow the game's momentum down.
As with any licensed game, it always helps to have voice actors that fans will recognize, and Arkham Asylum doesn't disappoint here. Actors from the animated series appear, most notably Kevin Conroy as Batman and the brilliant Mark Hamill as the Joker. We actually found much of the voice acting somewhat bland and forced, but Hamill as the Joker is wonderful. He's constantly making jokes (as expected), but he sounds terrifying doing it.
Several other characters in the game are just as memorably, especially foes like Bane, Killer Croc, and the Scarecrow. There are actually a few sequences throughout the game where Batman inhales the Scarecrow's fear toxin and is taken to a nightmare sequence where he has to hide from the gaze of a giant Scarecrow. These sequences are quite simply brilliant, and are the best part of the game as far as we're concerned. It's not often a game truly makes us feel any emotion (besides maybe anger due to frustration), but we were actually scared while controlling Batman while he was under the control of the fear toxin.
Though this is a straight-up single player game, there is still plenty added onto the game disc to make it worth playing more than once. Besides the usual extra difficulty levels, there are hundreds of Riddler puzzles strewn throughout Arkham Asylum. Some are simply trophes that are placed in hard-to-reach areas, while others are environmental puzzles that you have to find based on hints given by the Riddler. It's an addicting facet to the game that will add hours for completionists.
But besides just being fun to find, many of these riddles open things up once they're obtained. Character bios and trophies, old interview tapes ... this will be Heaven for anyone who wants to learn about the history of Batman.
Besides these just-for-fun goodies, though, you'll also be able to open up new challenge levels. These bite sized maps give the player objectives to finish, such as clearing a room full of enemies, or fighting several waves of increasingly difficult baddies. Players are graded based on different criteria, such as how quickly you can clear a room or how many combo points you can accumulate. These scores are uploaded to an online server where you can compare against others for ever-important bragging rights.
Though there are a few nagging issues with pacing and combat, Batmam: Arkham Asylum is for the most part a game done right. There was obviously a lot of effort put into making this a title that stays true to Batman lore. That being said, even someone who has never even heard of him is sure to find plenty to enjoy.
Let the games begin in Arkham Asylum!
Batman: Arkham Asylum
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