Before 2009 it would have been practically impossible to name a good comic book tie-in video game. Well that changed when Batman: Arkham Asylum from Rocksteady dropped on the scene. What Rocksteady brought us was a well-polished game that gives you the chance to play as the Dark Knight while taking on many well-known enemies from years past. And because of this all future comic book tie-in games will be held to a now higher standard.
The story is quite an enjoyable one and it was fun enough that I ended up playing the story a second time around on Hard difficulty as well. The game starts off as Batman has captured and returned the Joker back to the famous Arkham Asylum. Not all is well though, as soon Joker takes over Arkham Asylum along with Harley Quinn and his other goons, leading Batman to follow along to try and restore order. It’s an intriguing story that keeps you guessing and has excellent pacing offering just enough cutscenes and gameplay throughout. Making your way through the game you’ll come into contact with a few well-known villains that you have to fight against such as Bane and Harley Quinn herself, which offer some interesting boss fights that are all different in their approach. Probably my favorite parts of the game were the eerie Scarecrow segments you’d have to make your way through in a semi-platforming section. All this leading up to a very fun final boss fight at the end to wrap up the whole story.
The combat and gameplay really immerse yourself into feeling like you are Bruce Wayne as Batman. From using “detective vision” that helps you find clues or where foes may be hiding, to hiding in the shadows or up high using stealth to take foes out it’s a fluid fulfilling experience. The hand-to-hand combat is easy to get the hang of yet still satisfying when you pull off a big combo, and it looks awesome to watch him quickly take down everyone around him. To pull off those combos though you’ll need to have good timing, since getting hit will cancel your combo. You do have some extra tools at your disposal to use during combat in the form of batarangs and grappling hooks to take down enemies from a safer distance. Unlike other games, the only way to restore your health is by earning experience, which doesn’t happen until the end of any fight. So you will need to be careful if you’re health is getting low and make sure you can last till the end.
The many gadgets you get to use is a nice touch. Being Batman after all you’d expect to have a plethora of gadgets and weapons at your disposal. As previously mentioned there are batarangs (to stun) and grappling hooks (knocking enemies down), along with those you can use explosive gel to open up secret areas or tactically take down enemies behind walls. All these tactics are more up in your face, but there is stealth take-downs at your disposal as well. You can hide in the shadows or up on a ledge/gargoyle and silently take down some goons. Hanging from a gargoyle and stringing up enemies is by far my favorite thing to do while playing.
If you want to stray off the main story for a while the Riddler can keep you busy with all the puzzles, collectibles and chattering teeth to find. These aren’t completely unnecessary like most collectibles in games though, since you will be rewarded at times with some information on other characters in the Batman universe. The puzzles scattered around the island can be quite challenging too, making them satisfying when you finally figure them out.
One of the last pieces of content to dive into are Challenge maps that gradually unlock as you progress through the game. There are Combat maps which require you to take out waves of enemies and get the highest score/combo you can to get three stars or “bats”. These can get very challenging the further you go, and proved too tough for me to get three bats on every map. Predator maps will have you take out enemies in a variety of different ways. Just charging in and going to town on them will not go over well and you’ll have to be more stealthy and cautious while trying to achieve the goals on these maps. These are a nice addition to the game and add some extra play time to an already semi-lengthy game.
Graphically, I was really surprised with this game. It was released in 2009, but it doesn’t really show its age entirely. It really does look gorgeous overall. The lighting and shadows in this game are great and with all the different locations it really stands out. While the graphics are top-notch, they aren’t perfect either. Occasionally there was some screen tearing during my time and texture pop-in in some of the larger areas. Also the lip-syncing on some of the characters aren’t perfect and can throw you off. The audio and sounds in this game are great! Between the amazing voice work of Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne) and Mark Hamill (The Joker) and the sound effects, it really is a pleasing experience for your ears.
- Beautiful graphics and immersive sound effects
- Combat is satisfying and enjoyable
- Plenty of variety throughout, including boss fights
- Some bad lip-syching here and there