Batman: Arkham Asylum Review #2: Into The Nuthouse
This is part two of our two part “Batman: Arkham Asylum” review series. For another view on the game, check out Nat X7’s review.
Batman doesn’t need an introduction: whether you read about him the comics, watched the cheesy TV episodes, or saw him in the latest Dark Knight movie, chances are you know about about the Caped Crusader. However, Arkham Asylum is something many casual Batman fans don’t know much about, and Eidos has decided to give a ten hour tour of the place in their latest game. With Batman’s theme being littered with stealthy situations, kung fu battles, and hi-tech gadgets, does this game meet the expectations of Batman fans or do you need to be insane to enjoy “Batman: Arkham Asylum”?
Our tale begins when Batman has captured the Joker, and transports him via the Batmobile to Arkham Asylum. The Joker doesn’t seem at all disappointed with his situation and it quickly becomes apparent that he planned this. Batman suspects something amiss, but he decides to play along to uncover the Joker’s motives. After the lengthy, but well-paced introduction, the Joker escapes from his chains, and you’re immediately thrown into battle against Joker’s goons.
At first the battles are very simplistic, requiring you to only perform basic attacks or a counter attack when a goon has an icon above his head. As the game progresses, different enemies pop up with all sorts of weapons such as knives, guns, and stun batons that require more evasive maneuvers to handle them. That being said, combat is by no means a challenge, or in-depth. It is a simple experience which occasionally requires you to press another button to counter a specific enemy or two. While technically it is a button masher, the animations Batman does to hit these thugs, plus the sounds when they get hit really bring home the point that Batman is not messing around.
But Batman isn’t the only one that looks good in the game. The entire game is pretty well made; the sounds, music, dialog, levels, and the characters themselves all carry an authentic “Batman” feeling. It’s as dark and moody as you’d expect, and with the voice over work by the same people behind the animated series, Batman fans will have very little to complain about in terms of being faithful to the franchise.
While being faithful is all well and good, the main problems in “B:AA” are the result of poor execution. It might sound like a great game idea that you’re able to meet many of the Gotham City’s villains, but “Arkham Asylum” fails at this. Yes, you will get to meet Harley Queen, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Bane, and of course, the Joker. However, if you were expecting to fight them directly, you’ll be disappointed. Most of the encounters with these villains are indirect conflicts or you simply face a battalion of goons until you reach a cutscene where you watch Batman kick the villian’s ass without your involvement. Without spoiling too much, there is only one villain who you have a direct fight against and not surprisingly, it’s the best one in the game.
The other problem is the sheer repetitive nature of the game. As mentioned before, the combat in “B:AA” is centered around simple button mashing, but there is also a predator mode where you need to take out the thugs who are all armed with guns. At first it feels great, and gives you the feeling that you are indeed the Dark Knight. From the first very glide kick to the inverted take down, your first time experience with this mode will leave some great impressions. But like the combat, it tends to get a little stale as you notice a few flaws with the system. The first and foremost is the AI was designed to be stupid. The prime example of this is you simply “escape” by rapidly swinging from gargoyles around the room. Now why does a sewer have these gargoyles and despite the well-lit conditions, why are the enemies losing you? Who knows, but it definitely breaks the immersion experience.
“Batman: Arkham Asylum” is a great rental, a game tailored the idea of wasting of a weekend playing as the Dark Knight. It respects the license its based upon, it’s great to look at, and has some of the greatest voice acting in gaming. Despite all these strengths, the game does suffer from poor execution and very little replayability, as the game offers very little incentive to play the story line again. A great game worth checking out but not worth buying.
“Batman: Arkham Asylum” was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive on August 25th, 2009 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.