Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

In a game that finally lets you “Be the Batman” in the truest way possible, Batman: Arkham Asylum is an achievement in gaming. There have been other Batman games in the past, sure, but none like this. The combat, stealth options, and tech that you have at your disposal make for an excellent experience. Throw in the amazing story based on the Arkham Asylum comic mythos. Rocksteady and Eidos have started a great Batman gaming franchise as I’m sure sequels will follow in the future.

Our story begins with the hero, Batman, walking a handcuffed Joker into Arkham Asylum, telling Warden Sharp that something must be wrong and he’s going to follow them as they escort Joker to his holding cell. As the trek commences, you end up seeing a heavily chained Killer Croc along the way who threatens poor old Bats. On the elevator ride, Batman asks Joker why he let him capture him so easily and Joker gives a nonchalant answer as the lights flicker off. As they come back on, Batman has Joker by the neck and the villain says, “What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me?”.

Entering the hall just before the holding cells, Batman joins Jim Gordon and informs him that Joker surrendered without a fight. Jim is just happy they have Joker in custody and Batman agrees, “Hopefully it’s the last night we have with him.” The staff at Arkham prevents the Caped Crusader from entering the next area, saying he will unsettle the more violent inmates. Joker invites Batman to come visit him. In the next room, Joker forces himself to stumble forward to the ground and as the guard helps him back up, Joker headbutts him and spins to choke the guard with the same handcuffs he’s being retained with and once the guard is dead, he steals a key and removes the handcuffs from himself. Now free, he says, “Honey, I’m home” and Harley Quinn unlocks the doors. He turns to Batman and says, “I set a trap and you sprang it gloriously,” inviting Batman to follow and thus the adventure begins.

Over the course of the game, there are several references to Batman’s lore, a nice amount of classic villains to be encountered, and a combat system unlike any other. The atmosphere of the Asylum is fitting, with dark corners and Joker-fied walls, floors, and rooms. There are gag boxes throughout the building, some helpful and others not. Some areas of the game are inaccessible until you have acquired the necessary gadget to advance. I’ve said the game has nice tech that Bruce uses, so let’s discuss some of that now.

Detective Mode, fitting for a man known as the World’s Greatest Detective,  can be activated at any time during gameplay and allows you to see things in an x-ray like vision which can make combat fun to watch as you can see what bones on the body you actually hit. Outside of combat, it can be used to scan the area for any clues, substance trails, destructible walls, etc. to help you along the way. You also have an array of batarangs, the batclaw, explosive gel, and other fun things. As you fight, how well you fight grants you experience that allows you to upgrade your different toys, including the batsuit itself to make it more bulletproof and give you more padding to resist damage in melee combat.

I keep talking about how amazing the combat is in this game and that’s because you fight in total free-flow mode, giving a flawless looking combat experience. You’ll be fighting anywhere from 2-15 baddies in certain situations and as you punch and kick your way through, you can use the counter feature (triangle or Y depending on console) and see a wide, wide array of different counters including disarms, knockouts, etc. It will show you grab an enemy’s arm and stop a punch and while another enemy closes in on you, hit the counter button again and you will face that new enemy, kick him, then return to the first enemy.

In certain instances, when you have two or more enemies coming at you simultaneously, you may be rewarded with a double or triple KO depending on location and the timing of your counter. If you hit the button too late, you’ll be hit but if you press it in time, prepare for something cool. Another thing to mention about that combat is that it has a multiplier that keeps going up the longer you stay in smooth, uninterrupted combat. Smooth meaning from one enemy to the next without much of a gap (in time) between attacks and uninterrupted meaning without getting hit – a feat that with a large number of enemies is not so easy, though I have seen some crazy videos on YouTube. At combo x8, you can do a finisher ability to knock an enemy out with a single hit. This may be with a punch or a gadget, depending on which you choose to use as there are various finishers to choose from. You can even upgrade your combos to allow you to use a finisher at x5, rather than x8.

Outside of Arkham Asylum’s campaign, you have the very fun and rewarding challenge mode. You have a combat challenge, where you will take on 4 waves of enemies, each wave having more to fight than the last and, my favorite, predator mode. In predator mode, it is up to you to take down a number of baddies, with specific requirements, as quickly as you can. Imagine a bad walking underneath you while you sit perched above on a gargoyle statue and you swoop down and do an inverted take-down, then come back up and target another enemy in the distance, hit him with a batarang knocking him to the ground, then gliding over to him to knock him out while he’s still on the ground (hopefully avoiding any unwanted attention from other possibly armed enemies in the area). There are so many ways to be a predator and take-down baddies – wall take-downs, stealth take-downs, inverted take-downs, corner take-downs, etc.

Another aspect of the game within the campaign and in it’s after-story is collecting all of the random Riddler trophies throughout the Asylum. Both physical green-question-mark trophies and actual riddles for you to solve, this is a part of the game that will test your eye as well as your intelligence. For some, you may have to scan a particular object, find a way to access a hidden but visible Riddler trophy, or blow something up. Are you truly the World’s Greatest Decective? You’ll find out!

To anyone looking for a great superhero game, that really gives you a sense that you are that hero, look no further than Batman Arkham Asylum. I have no doubt this will end up being a Game of the Year title with its dynamic gameplay and story. There are also three Joker DLC challenge packs that let you play as the villain to achieve specific objectives. Whether you like stealth or the more direct approach, Arkham Asylum lets you “Be the Batman” in whatever manner of play style you prefer. I, personally, have completed this game multiple times on each difficulty. It is fantastic.

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