Posts Tagged ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum

13
Sep
09

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Review)

Licences and video games tend not to get along.  There’s something about the source material that a game is based on that games developers think that they can get away with releasing something relatively close to it with some added filler to pad out the length of the product, making it seem like it was a justified purchase.  Couple this apathy with the rabid fans that covet these big franchises then it makes for commercial success, so why change?  Why take a break from the norm?

One reason that could be speculated is that making half baked games like the spiderman series, bond licences and various other mediocre movie based games is simply un-rewarding for a developer.  Enter Batman: Arkham Asylum.  While this is based within the Batman universe this is a completely new story written by comic book veteran Paul Dini, something pretty much unheard of in the industry.

So where to begin? 

You play ‘Dark Knight’ himself as you try to prevent The Joker from taking over Arkham island by the many number of gadgets and detective intuition that you have.  In order to defeat the small army of jokers thugs you’ll have to rely on the “free-flow combat system” that despite its simplicity takes a while to get fully to grips with.  After a small learning curve with the combat does become very rewarding and the higher you are able to bring your multiplier then the greater distance and speed batman will be able to charge towards enemies with his fists or feet.  The combat works relatively well, however, there are instances where it can be seen to be a little temperamental and sometimes can result in frustrating breaks in combos with batman limply kicking dead air instead of the enemy at the other side of the room.  while this isn’t really noticable in the story mode this becomes a problem during the combat challenges where chaining a massive combo together can mean the difference between success and failure.

As well as combat Batman:AA also relies on stealth, while it’s fun to charge head first into a group of enemies, if these guys are armed then it will almost certainly result in instant death.  There are rooms where you will have to rely on vents, Coombs and ledges to sneak past or take out enemies without being seen.

Where the game shines though is the set pieces leading up to boss fights, the numerous lead ups to the Scarecrow fights being one of the overall highlights of the game.  Boss fights themselves aren’t overly taxing, while there are some that will require multiple attempts to succeed they simply serve as an end point to that particular arc of investigation.  As well as the lead ups and introduction the audio quality in the game rivals that of Dead Space through its ambiance and effects as well as some outstanding voice work.  Batman: AA brings back Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to reprise their roles of Batman and the Joker, this only adds to the experience.  Indeed there are many VO artists brought back from Batman the Animated Series that not only adds a level of nostalgia but also overall quality as each VO actor has had considerable experience with the character and understands the level of depth required. 

The game is also pushing a serious amount of middleware, built on the UE3 engine and boasting others such as speedtree it would be easy to simply shoe horn these in for no reason however every piece of design, structure and art style appears to serve a purpose and there is very little in the environments that is actually going to waste.  This demonstrates a high level, of not only overall quality, but appreciation for the universe as a whole with streams of references to lesser known Batman villans strewn throughout.  The game also looks fantastic, there are a few instances concerning character faces that look like a waxwork museum left the heat on but that seems to be an issue with the UE3 engine rather than an actual development one. 

Aside from the story there’s also a slew of collectables and challenge rooms to complete to get the 100% complete rating, that will take a good while to achieve.

Despite riding on the coat-tales of the success of The Dark Knight, Batman: AA is a damn good game in its own right.  While there are some minor issues, it is a testament to how good the games quality actually is that these can be overlooked.  Batman: AA appeals not only to Batman fans but fans of good games in general.  Quite simply; you must play this game.

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I'm Mark Gibson & this is another one of my blogs where you're likely to find musings of daily life, gaming & just plain rambling.

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