Batman: Arkham Asylum ReviewSeptember 24, 2009
|Game Name:||Batman: Arkham Asylum|
|Platforms:||Xbox 360, PS3|
|Developer(s):||Rocksteady Studio Ltd|
|ESRB Rating:||T (Teen)|
|Demo:||Add to Download Queue|
So, it’s been a month since Batman: Arkham Asylum was released, and I’d be rehashing the obvious to say that it’s great. If you been living in a cave, you could click on any of these links, for instance (including this incrediblly cool one from spawnkill), and get a better idea of just why exactly, this game is worth your time.
So, this isn’t a review, per say… those have already been done, and if I did another, I’d only be restating what so many others have already said before. Instead, what I present are three reasons why Batman: Arkham Asylum deserves not only a spot on your shelf, but a serious consideration for Game of the Year.
Such a joker…
It’s a story, not a set of missions
Story development is huge; it’s what makes or breaks a game. You can have a game with an awesome combat system, but once the player has had their fun exploring and adapting to it, you need somewhere else to turn to compel players to continue. It your story feels disjointed and ultimately no one gives a shit about it, your game is going to suffer.
Arkham Asylum combats this problem by playing out like a comic book story brought to life. From the beginning, when Batman escorts the recently recaptured Joker back to the island, to the ultimate conclusion, it’s a single story. You never find yourself pausing to backtrack to find a save room or refill your health. You won’t spend hours stuck on puzzles which, while cool, make absolutely no point with the story.
Should have known this wouldn’t end well…
To put it simply, it’s total immersion. Batman has a goal, to return Arkham to order, but beyond that, it’s anything goes. It’s one of those few games that you can actually get so lost in that you completely forget you’re playing a game.
As I played through it, the best explanation I could come up with was this: Arkham Asylum is a game that wants you to forget it’s a game. And to that end, it does very well. I can think of no other examples that so flawlessly integrates the system and user interface so well within the player experience that you hardly even notice it’s there.
The combat system is absolutely genius
Arkham Asylum is a classic example of getting more for less. Batman doesn’t come decked out with pages and pages of moves executed by a series of increasingly difficult button combinations. Rather, he has simply “attack” and “counter”. This is a genius system because, while simplistic, it allows the player to take on greater challenges without making the difficulty curve too steep or breaking the game flow by making the player stop to consult a move list. But this doesn’t mean the combat becomes unchallenging or boring, as enemies will utilize everything in their power to level the playing field, whether that means a cement block to the head or a stolen assault rifle. And there’s always the “throw more bodies at it” approach that Joker seems to love.
If you’ve seen the combat in action (which I assume by now you have), you know how beautiful it is. Batman leaps and rolls around the enemies, taking them out with a flurry of kicks and punches from every angle. No matter where you are, attacks connect perfectly, and for a game with such an open combat system, this is really impressive.
However, attention to detail wasn’t thrown out in favor of open flow combat. In a combat system where I can basically do anything I want, I’d expect to see some hiccups—glitched attack animations, etc, but it’s absolutely solid. It’s very fluid, very responsive, and incredibly empowering. Facing fifteen inmates at once makes you feel less like “oh god, I’m about to get the bat shit beat out of me” and more like “wonder how many noses I can break in two minutes…”.
It’s full of Easter eggs and little touches
If Batman is an incredible action game, it’s an even more incredible homage to the Batman world. Writer Paul Dini (Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman: the Animated Series, Detective Comics) lent his knowledge and experience to the AA team, and it shows. Wandering through Arkham, you’re going to see a lot of little touches that, while they have virtually nothing to do with the story as it plays out, go to great lengths to flesh out the Batman world. The sensuality of Poison Ivy, the obsession of Harley Quinn, even the insanity of Amadeus Arkham, the entire game is a faithful presentation of the Batman universe, with virtually no “creative license” taken. And that’s the great thing about Arkham Asylum, it doesn’t need any to make the game great!
Ivy… being Ivy.
There are tons of little throwbacks to Batman villains over the years, including some of the incredibly obscure ones (Anyone remember Calendar man? Yeah… didn’t think so). Furthermore, finding these little Easter eggs usually fulfills one of Riddler’s challenges, opening up extra character bios and profiles. As a huge Batman fan, this is the kind of stuff that gives me a batgasm. I could literally wander around the asylum for hours just taking in the scenery and environment, all of which is incredibly faithful to the Batman world.
It’s not an obsession, it’s a hobby…
It’s all the little touches that really helps to add depth to the story you’re playing. This isn’t just a game about Batman and the Joker; it’s a dip into the entire Batman Mythos.
To bring it all together, Batman: Arkham Asylum is summarized by a single word: Seamless. Seamless story, seamless combat…a truly seamless gaming experience. Once you pick it up, I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down. All together, the story provides players with anywhere from 10-15 hours of game play, depending on your involvement and interest. But even then, your time in Arkham isn’t over… there’s still plenty of combat and predator (imagine if Solid Snake wasn’t an old pussy and had fun toys) challenges to master.
Given its stellar success, it would be naive to think that someone isn’t at least thinking about a sequel. I don’t know about you, but the idea of cracking skulls in an open-world Gotham city sounds pretty incredible to me (hint hint Rocksteady!!).