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Batman: Arkham Asylum Review


See PixlBit's Review Policies

On 09/21/2009 at 01:06 AM by Neal Ronaghan

Who knew Batman could be transformed into a third-person stealth Bioshock.
RECOMMENDATION:

Do you like Batman? Do you like video games? Go buy this game.

When I first heard about Batman: Arkham Asylum, I thought it was too good to be true. I figured it would end up being nothing more than a typical disappointing licensed game. Then the pieces started coming together: Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill of Batman: The Animated Series fame were set to voice Batman and the Joker respectively, the combat seemed to capture the Dark Knight's signature style, and the story was being penned by prolific comic writer Paul Dini. At the end of it all, Arkham Asylum turned out to be one of the best licensed games I've ever played, and one of the finest games of its kind.

The game's premise is simple: The Joker takes over the titular asylum, traps Batman inside of it, and holds the city hostage. Longtime Batman fans will love all the little references and touches throughout the game's narrative and extra content. Most of the fan service is delivered in extraneous Riddler challenges that have players doing everything from solving riddles to destroying motorized laughing teeth. Arkham Asylum is steeped in Batman lore, but it doesn't force you through all of it.

That's great because there is enthralling gameplay in this 10-hour game that transcends Batman fans. The combat mixes together flowing acrobatic hand-to-hand fighting with fantastic stealth gameplay. When you're in a group of unarmed foes, you can just go in and bust skulls, but when some gun-toting enemies are patrolling an area, that's when the strategy comes into play. Using the shadows, conveniently-placed gargoyles, and ventilation shafts, players can sneak around the environment and take out enemies. It's extremely rewarding to knock out a guard and watch his compatriots become enveloped in fear.

A key part to all of this is detective mode, which allows you to make use of Batman's signature cowl to see if an enemy is armed or not, and look for interactive objects. It's reminiscent of the scan visor in the Metroid Prime series. The only drawback is that you might settle into playing the game in the blue-tinted detective mode and that detracts from the detailed Unreal Engine graphics.

And what would Batman be without his wonderful toys? Starting with just the trademark Batarang, players accumulate many gadgets that unlock different areas. You also gain experience points, which can be used to gain new abilities and upgrade gadgets.

The beefy main story is well paced and really only stumbles in the final moments. Still, there's enough gameplay variety to hold up over the entire game, and if you can't get enough of it, you can try your hand at the different challenge levels. With a mixture of combat and stealth maps, the challenges offer up awesome slices of the gameplay. Even better, more is on the way as there are already free downloadable maps available.

Arkham Asylum excels largely because of what it borrows from other games. The inmate interview tapes are much like Bioshock's audio tapes. Some of the stealth sections seem heavily influenced by the Metal Gear Solid series. Hell, there's even a little Metroid nestled in the game with detective mode and the exploration. All of that combined with the Batman mythos makes for one of the best games so far this year.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.

Side By Side - The Joke's On 360 Users


With the PlayStation 3 version, you can download free exclusive challenge maps where you can play as the Joker.


 

Comments

Maelstrom

09/25/2009 at 10:32 PM

Good review. It mirrors my own thoughts on Batman: Arkham Asylum and I find myself wondering what Rocksteady's next project might be.

Just a suggestion for reviews, it would be appreciated if games had their publisher and developer named somewhere at the top of the review. I know it can be looked up elsewhere but it is convenient for me to have that information on hand before I start to read a review.

Tennindo

10/20/2009 at 06:44 PM

Amazing Game. Not only does it bring me back to the Animated Series with the Original Voice Acting but Gameplay is well. It feel as if you really are Batman.

I Recommend this game Highly to Any DC fan, or even to a simple gamer.

It is truly a well earned 5 Stars.

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

10/14/2011 at 12:25 AM

This is my favorite game this generation. Period. Do you know how good this game is? I'm not a big Batman fan at all!

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