Game: "Batman: Arkham Asylum"
System: PlayStation 3
Genre: Action
Published by: Eidos

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 10/1/2009

Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best superhero video game ever made. Hands down. Nothing against Marvel's recent Ultimate Alliance series, as they're quite fun as well, but this one is just that good. And it's about time Batman got a decent video game, too. The Batman franchise is rife with possibilities for something like this, but it's sad that it's taken nearly 30 years of video gaming for them to finally get it right.

As most of you are probably aware by now, the Joker has cooked up an elaborate plan that involves (you guessed it) fucking with Batman by releasing the inmates of Arkham Asylum. Oh, there's a little more ambition behind it than that, but I don't want to spoil things too much here. Reprising their roles from Batman: The Animated Series are Mark Hammil (Joker), Kevin Conroy (Batman), and Arleen Sorken (Harley Quinn), which truly brings these characters to life and adds an incredible amount of atmosphere to the game. Plenty of other characters have speaking roles as well (Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Bane, Killer Croc, Victor Zsasz, The Riddler), and though their voice actors aren't as recognizable as the others, they also do a great job with the roles. Experiencing something as wonderful as this, it's hard to imagine how we ever played games where the dialog was just represented by silent text on the screen.

You have all of Arkham Island and the Asylum's buildings to explore, which is a surprisingly vast amount of space. And given that the Riddler left plenty of hidden clues lying around all over the place for you to find, there's ample reason to use your special Bat-visor's "detective mode", which will have you wanting to check every last nook and cranny in search of trophies that unlock bonus content. It's tempting to just leave detective mode running all the time, as it's very useful, but in doing so you would miss out on much of the game's graphical content, and the graphics in this game are stunning.

The game's combat is ridiculously fun, and extremely easy to get the hang of. One button does almost all of your attacks, one button does counter moves, another dodges and another does a distracting "cape swipe" maneuver. It's easy to kick plenty of ass once you get the hang of the system, and you'll find yourself wading into a sea of twelve guys without pause. However, when the henchmen have guns, they're extremely deadly, and that's when the game's stealth system comes in very useful. You can use air ducts to move around and position yourself behind enemies for a silent takedown, you can grapple up to gargoyles and silently swoop down on them from above, you can lay down explosive gel and wait for an enemy to get too close--there are many different ways to dispatch enemies, and the game really leaves it up to your discretion to choose how best to handle it. Though some situations require you to use stealth to survive, other times you'll find yourself using the stealthy approach simply because you're the goddamned Batman, and it's fun.

Some of the boss fights are a little easy, and some of them are false alarms altogether (the first time you take down Mr. Zsasz is a joke), but they're always entertaining. And sometimes just when you think you've seen the last of a character, they'll pop up again and surprise you. The most visually interesting parts of the game are when you're under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear gas, which cause bizarre hallucinations where Scarecrow is a giant god-like being, and if his Sauron-gaze spots you sneaking around on his level, he will crush you like a bug and it's game over for Batman.

Some of the characters have gotten interesting redesigns--they tried to make Harley a little sexier (which was unnecessary), and they gave Scarecrow a Freddy Krueger syringe glove. I've seen some people online complaining about how that's "ruined" the game, but honestly it makes very little difference. As an avid comic reader, I'm used to seeing different artist's interpretations of these characters, so seeing them sporting slightly different looks here doesn't bother me, as thematically they're all the same, and easily recognizable. After all, you and I don't wear the same clothes every day (at least I hope you don't), so why should we expect comic characters to do the same? Some days the Riddler wears a green suit, and other days he just feels like embarrassingly tight spandex.

As many different villains as they managed to work into this game (many of them with boss fights), no doubt some of you will be disappointed that your favorite villain didn't make it into the game (no Two-Face!). The developers had to draw a line somewhere, but the good news is that nearly every single Batman villain worth half a shit (and even some who aren't) is at least represented in the game in some way. You'll find Harvey Dent and Mr. Freeze's cells. You'll find Ra's al-Ghul's body in the morgue. You'll spot one of Penguin's umbrellas in a glass display case. This really adds to the feel that even though you don't encounter them yourself, these characters were there, which just seems to make the asylum pop with life.

This game is insanely fun and compelling, and there are so many secrets to find, and so many different ways to take out the bad guys that I'd say it has pretty high replay value. And the good news is that the developers have already said they'd love to tell more stories in the Batman universe, so many we'll eventually get a sequel where we'll get to see some of those characters who didn't make a showing here. We can hope. In the meantime, we have this one to enjoy over and over again. This game is the model by which all future superhero games should be designed. It's about as perfect as a video game can be.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Amicable Herculean
Oct 1st, 2009, 03:20 AM
Didn't Paul Dini write the game too?
Oct 1st, 2009, 09:09 AM
he totally did, dude
Oct 1st, 2009, 11:01 AM
You pretty much got it all right with this review.

I was struck by the ease of combat in this game, they were able to make it fun, exciting, yet somehow as easy as breathing. I loved the whole counter system and the slow motion when you really clobber a bad guy. It made it feel like I was playing a movie or really well done TV show.
With More Yes Than Ever
Oct 1st, 2009, 11:33 AM
Fantastic game! I only wanted it to be longer though.
Forum Virgin
Oct 1st, 2009, 12:37 PM
Great review. Dead on.

One of my favorite parts of the game is that if you return to Ra's body bag, hes gone. Great little easter egg.
I am Johnny Luchador
Oct 1st, 2009, 01:21 PM
I agree with Doug, the game seemed sort of short, but it was a great game to rent, and totally fun. Good review as well. Dead on.
Forum Virgin
Oct 1st, 2009, 03:07 PM
I was waiting for a review on this. Other than Modern Warfare 2, this was the big game of the year for me that I could not wait to play. I played the Demo over 20 times easily and I can proudly say that it lived up to every high expectation I had for it. Game of the Year material.
Forum Virgin
Oct 1st, 2009, 04:57 PM
This game hits just the right combination of meaningful, logical collect-a-thons (as opposed to, say, Spider Man 2's "token on a random air vent precisely 65.4% of the way up the wall and facing north-north-east" or Assassin's Creed "collect 700 flags") and having stealth portions that just felt rewarding. Will play again.

I can't wait for a sequel, but I'll admit I'm concerned about how it'll work if it takes place in an area larger than Arkham. I suppose they could buy some time by setting a game in the Wayne Estate, but if they step much further out they'll have to deal with Spider-Man's aforementioned "crap hidden in no good place for no good reason" problem. Then again, if they've done this much, who's to say they can't handle that too?
Kat Kat is offline
Breathes Comics
Oct 1st, 2009, 09:37 PM
I just started "playing" it today. I put it in quotes, because I was more watching my friend play.

The graphics were top-notch and watching kept me so involved I still felt like I was playing.
An Arizona Horror Company
Oct 1st, 2009, 09:57 PM
Great review, Proto. This really is the game of the year as far as I'm concerned. They didn't go crazy with the cinematics (yeah, lookin' at you, MGS4), and there's an actual difference in the difficulty levels (about a quarter of the way through the game on the hard setting...and it's actually hard!). Conroy and Hamill did great voice work, and the makers of the game did something even Christopher Nolan couldn't accomplish: they made Scarecrow a genuinely frightening character.
Oct 2nd, 2009, 01:04 AM
Proto, THANK YOU for stating the obvious about the wardrobe changes! I've heard nothing but complaining about them, Quinn in particular which strikes me as odd considering in both the comics and the animated series she RARELY wears her classic one-piece and is always in some cute costume relevant to the setting and/or just in her street clothes.
Turrican't. :(
Oct 2nd, 2009, 01:27 PM
Had Scribblenauts been delayed until July 2010, this would have been game of the year.
Oct 3rd, 2009, 06:11 AM
This game was a blast.
Amicable Herculean
Oct 5th, 2009, 12:48 AM
I think my favorite part is that Batman looks like Michael Keaton.
Hypnotic Swirling Colors
Oct 5th, 2009, 10:51 PM
If i had a PS3, I might check this out. I say "might," because Batman is my least favorite superhero, mostly because his lack of powers don't make him seem "super," to me. But he has the best rouge gallery of anybody in comics.
Amicable Herculean
Oct 6th, 2009, 12:49 AM
They have it for the 360 too
Oct 6th, 2009, 10:24 AM
Damn, I sold my PS3 after being ear smokingly pissed at how hard Metal Gear Solid 4 failed to be anywhere near as cool or fun as 3. I want to check this out.