Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records

Before Arkham Asylum took the videogaming world by storm superhero games were the laughing stock of the gaming world. The games weren’t designed very well and the stories were merely based off of the films and didn’t surprise anyone. The minimal effort was put forward and gamers never actually got to be the character, and just played an imitation of it. Then in 2007 – 2008 Warner Brothers and DC Comics were taking advantage of the hype for the next Batman film called the Dark Knight however they wanted a different Batman experience from past games. Warner Brothers and DC placed the development of the game into the hands of an up and coming British videogame developer RockSteady Studios. The unique thing about Rocksteady is the fact that they only work on one game at a time. All the artists,programmers and designers pour their hearts and souls into the project creating a work of art with tender love and care and a true dedication to what they’re doing. DC also hired acclaimed Batman writer from  Batman: The Animated Series, Paul Dini, to write an original script and story not based on any film. Also DC hired three fan favorite voice actors to bring the characters of Batman, The Joker, and Harley Quinn to life. They are Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin respectively. The hard work and effort from everyone involved payed off and Batman: Arkham Asylum became the most loved game of 2009 garnering many awards from the Spike VGAs and poured with praise from critics and gamers alike. And has now become it’s own franchise with the release and mind blowing success of Batman: Arkham City. This is the one that started it all Batman: Arkham Asylum!

STORY

The story written by the excellent Batman writer Paul Dini crafts a tale that is epic in scope yet simple in concept. The game opens with Batman returning the Joker back to the Asylum after an attempt on the Mayor of Gotham’s life and the Joker shockingly surrenders. Batman being the detective that he is knows that the Clown let himself get caught, and even with all the precautions is helpless to stop the Joker from escaping and soon Mr. J and Harley are in charge of the island. and have let the majority of the Batman rogues free. This leaves the Caped Crusader along with off site assistance from Oracle (Barbara Gordon who was once Batgirl) to restore order to the Asylum and defeat the Joker. The story has an excellent showcasing of Batman villains. Not everyone shows up, but the ones that do are absolutely fantastic! The plot builds and builds and evolves from a prison riot to major destruction and mayhem that will reach Gotham if Batman doesn’t stop it. The story’s pacing is fantastic and makes even the simplest of actions feel really important.An interesting thing about the story is that there’s only a handful of cutscenes. Most of the developments actually occur on the actual game screen and the player can move Batman (he can only walk in these moments) while he’s talking to Oracle. You can also eavesdrop on the thugs and you might want to wait before you take them out because if you let them finish talking you get nice minor character bits that are enjoyable to listen to. The subtlety and tiny moments like that really make the story, writing and game special.

 

CHARACTERS

BATMAN: Voiced by Kevin Conroy:

 

Batman is characterized wonderfully in this game. He’s got all the brooding and imposing aura that Batman should have and is truly the Dark Knight who in the face of depravity and insanity refuses to give into the madness. Conroy does as always an excellent job of playing Batman and creates great nostalgia in the Animated Series fan like myself.

THE JOKER: Voiced by Mark Hamill:

The Clown Prince of Crime is back and he’s better than ever. I may love Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson’s performances to death, but Mark Hamill in my opinion is the best Joker. He’s menacing and insane, but also quite funny at times. Dini’s writing and Hamill’s performance is a match made in heaven. The Joker steals the show even when he’s not onscreen. When you hear the chime of the PA system you know the Joker is going to make a sinister and funny joke or remark as you strike fear into the hearts of his henchman one by one.

 

HARLEY QUINN: Voiced by Arleen Sorkin:

 

My favorite female villain ever is back! Pure nostalgia! I love this character and with Paul Dini and Arleen Sorkin working together again she is just fantastic!! AWESOME!

There are plenty of other characters, but there’s no way I can cover them all so here’s a bunch of trailers and pictures of various villains!

 

Scarecrow trailer

Bane Trailer

Since she’s so great the Harley Quinn trailer

GAMEPLAY

The gameplay of Arkham Asylum is a fantastic way of making the player be the Caped Crusader. In combat Batman has a strike button, a counter button and a stun button. These are the basic buttons to surviving fights and with experience given to you after you win fights you can level up and upgrade your health, upgrades  gadgets  and give you new combo abilities that include throwing thugs across a room and a takedown. The more punches and kicks you chain together you build up a combo meter. The higher the number is the more devastating the attack is and you are more effective in combat. It’s not just about combat though. Exploration is a huge part of this game. Gadgets such as the Batclaw, Exploding Gel, Line Launcher and the Cryptographic Sequencer will aid tremendously in reaching new areas as well as finding all of the various items that the Riddler has left behind in an attempt to best you in intelligence. The Riddler artifacts reward the player with experience and if you pick up an interview tape you get some entertaining backstory on some of your favorite villains. There’s also one last part of gameplay and that is the “predator sequences”. These are my favorite parts of the game because they make you truly become Batman. This is where the player has to be smart and try to take the armed guards as quietly as possible. Batman can only take so much gunfire and anyone who thinks otherwise will die repeatedly in the game. The main strategy is to grapple to the Gargoyles and get the high ground and pick them off one by one. This still takes time because of the various adjustments the thugs make by fitting them with suicide collars so nearby unconscious thugs will make a beeping sound because of the collar and the others will come running and will see Batman if he lingers too long. You will be quick to notice that the thugs can be pretty stupid because they don’t look up, but that’s excusable because what’s more important is that you as the player experience what it feels like to be Batman and instill fear against those that prey on the fearful. Last but not least Detective Mode makes these sequences much more manageable. Detective Mode is basically X Ray vision that allows Batman to see everything he can interact with in the world and highlights enemies that are armed and unarmed and Batman can see them through walls so he can keep an eye on everyone at all times. Yes I know Detective Mode can be too useful, but it is absolutely invaluable to the experience of the game.

Gameplay Trailer

 

ARTISTIC PRESENTATION

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rocksteady’s dedication to the world of Arkham and Gotham is amazing. The environments are highly detailed and the best thing is that it feels real. It feels as if at one point in time this was a functioning facility and we are curious to see what a “normal” day at Arkham Asylum would be like. Arkham becomes a character in the game and it’s excellent. Rocksteady manages to give  Gotham a British Gothic atmosphere and it fits the Batman world perfectly giving the dark and gritty world much needed character and it’s a sight to behold. Rocksteady is rightfully praised for their work.

 

MUSIC

The music is fantastic and manages to capture elements of the brooding Hanz Zimmer theme and the dark heroism of Elfman’s theme. Here is the first version of the Arkham series theme and you will see what I mean.

Main Theme

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I know my opinion of this game is very predictable, but this game was a surprise smash because people didn’t expect it to be good let alone fantastic, excellent, and any other positive adjective you can think of. When I played it over a year ago I could see all the fantastic elements without the element of surprise and it still kicks ass. This game is amazing if you haven’t played it and you have the systems to play it on I don’t what your problem is. It’s relatively inexpensive now and it should be available again due to Arkham City’s release so what are you waiting for you should be out buying it right now if you fall into the aforementioned category.

 

VERDICT:  5 Joker Teeth out of 5

 

As for coming events I will review Arkham City with the help of Fusionater and I will review the great Final Fantasy XIII (yes I really like this game). I don’t know which one will come out first but whatever one gets done first will be posted first. See you then!

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