Batman: Arkham Asylum

batman arkham asylum-148

There are games that are really decent in what they do overall – these games are already what will please every passionate player and are worth more than just one look. The next category are games, which become interesting for certain genre freaks because of their theme. While Forces of Corruption blows my mind as a Star Wars fan, someone who doesn’t like Star Wars, or even hates it, might only see a mediocre RTS game.
This is why Batman: Arkham Asylum belongs to the best possible branch of games, because it is the combination of both these scenarios. It would be a fantastic title with every character/story, but Batman fans even get a great game with… Batman as the title character.

Games like BAA always make me wonder, where do they come from? Why now? Why like that… Simply because they seem too good to be true. It’s all the more pleasing when they really are this awesome. Usually big license franchises are rushed out to promote a movie and suck. That’s probably a reason BAA is that good. They just made a game, without the need to please too many interest groups. The world has had enough disappointing movie-companion games. Here’s the important lesson to take away from all this!

It’s hard to start describing the game, because everything is sooo perfect. It lacks nothing vital, does (next to) nothing wrong… So at this point it could be nothing but listing various awesome parts. Therefore I’m trying to note a few “kept out of the game” pieces. At no point in the game, is it possible to drive the Batmobile. Although it could have been cool, I rather not drive the car, than have it realized crappy. The absence of driving scenes even makes sense, because the setting is Arkham Island. So justice is served by giving it a proper appearance (even Batwing has one!).

The game is played from 3rd person perspective, with a very good camera work. It works so well, that even crouching in tunnels is no letdown.
Batman offers all movement types that are to be desired from such a heroic figure. Different punches, spiking them up with combos, fast evasion types, batarangs, gliding, tons of combinations of the previous stuff, grappler, hanging down from gargoyles (with maybe the nicest move of grabbing foes from above)… Despite of the rich variations of all those combos, the handling is quite clean – by which I mean, that it’s very possible to precisely control all of this, completely without helplessly punching buttons and being surprised by what happens next. This fuels the fun and excitement of this action title to no small part. After a short time of adaptation it comes absolutely natural, the gliding around and reaching far heights with the grappler hook.
Actions create experience points, which can be spent into new Wayne Tech gadgets, like more powerful Batarangs or better armor. I always find these small role-playing elements very motivating.
The riddler has hidden small challenges and items (240 to be precise) across the entire Island of Arkham and all of them award 200 XP each, so to gain all upgrades, it’s enough to collect the lot of them (don’t forget the zoom feature!).
There is a nice overview of all riddler challenges when pressing TAB, a very helpful option. In the same menu the upgrades can be made and many detailed character bios of friends and foes become available, as they are unlocked with certain game progresses. Several of those bios can even be enriched with interviews of the subjects, that doctors at Arkham taped at one point. The game just never stops to create a rich atmosphere… There’s even one tiny secret left to find, after the 240 riddler challenges are complete…
Yet another nice touch is the detective mode, that alters the color scheme and highlights all kinds of action spots, all points of special interest. The game is really player friendly, when it comes to thus avoiding countless hours of running around, just searching. Without the detective mode, it would be a major pain to e.g. complete all riddler puzzles.

A further high point of the game are the boss fights. They aren’t necessarily hard, but diverse and much fun. Every boss requires a different strategy and has his own kind of lair/base. The amount of effort put into this is really noticeable here. It can’t be easy to design it like that.
The maybe “highest point” of BAA is however, the voice work and the way in which all these recordings were presented in the game. Mark Hamill does an incredible and tremendous job as the Joker. Just outstanding. He should get the voice Oscar or something. He earned it.
Since Batman is usually traversing through some Arkham complexes, Joker (most of the time) can be heard yelling something through the speakers. He comments the situation, taunts Batman – simply has his fun.
The extra fascination lies in the fact, how specific the voice work is used to the current situation. When Batman takes out a hostile, the Joker asks his guys if they ARE MISSING SOMEONE (the inmates wear collars and the Joker uses them to monitor their life signs). The inmates even start to panic at some point, when only 2-3 of a full group are left. The already mentioned Detective Mode visualizes their life signs and diagnoses them as “terrified”. In one room they helplessly started to shoot at every sound, only to find out that it was a false alarm.
This is just one example. In another, Harley Quinn was in her cell, while Batman managed to break out from another (optional event) and she then asks him how the hell he managed to do that…

When the story mode is finished, the game world is still accessible, maybe to grab the rest of the riddler items – so it’s no problem if some were overlooked earlier (given the player even cares to collect them all). The last unlocked possibilities are the challenges, small tasks outside the main game/story, that are especially hard to accomplish. Defeat lots of hard enemies with as many combos as possible, or take out hostiles silently as fast as possible. I admit these don’t motivate me as much as the story mode, but they are still worth a look.

The game still consists of more parts (think e.g. character trophies), but I described the most memorable and at this point everyone should know this game is the equivalent of a dream come true…

I really hope this isn’t the last game of exactly this kind, players will have the chance to experience.

Check out the screenshots.

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  1. I would like to have seen ! ,

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