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Batman: Arkham Asylum

All my friends keep going on about Batman: Arkham Asylum and after an entire summer of waiting for it I have contemplated murdering at least one of them to give me some peace. I did get a bit excited about it when I watched the villain videos (oh, Poison Ivy your growing on me…that’s the last pun today, sorry) but after that I really didn’t think about it much. The demo came and I was impressed but it didn’t blow me away.

Finally it got released and bang my friends shut up….for about a day. Calls in the middle of the night about how awesome it is and that I should be on it. Ok, I cracked, I got a copy and I was blown away.

This game oozes style from every pore like a greasy teenager covered in oil. From the excellent cut scene at the beginning you’re instantly captivated by the story. You have missed a great fight between the Joker and the Batman and looks like the end of every Batman story, but this is just the beginning and the Joker (voiced by Luke Skywalker) has plans for you and Gotham cities favourite mental institute. Before too long Joker breaks free with the help of Harley Quinn (super hot) and it’s up to you to get him back. It becomes much more complex and I was surprised in the course of the game how well the story has been conceived. I honestly didn’t think the Joker scary at first looking more like an extreme version of the cartoon form back in the 90’s, but through the game you get smatterings of personality, veiled threat and impressions of this Joker and its pretty scary stuff.

On to the game play. Batman dominates the screen and at first that bothered me. In fact every time I go back to the game it bothers me for about five minutes before I forget about it and carry on. The camera itself is very well thought out and never really suffers from leaping through walls or crashing around the environment and accents the fluid motion of the character. In combat you have an isometric shot giving you a better view and I didn’t notice this until I sat down and started typing about it. That’s good integration of a camera mode.

Combat is tight and fluid. Taking on several enemies at once takes concentration but not so much that you try and skip it. Managing you opponents with measured skill and timing is for higher combos one of the most satisfying experiences in a game yet. Never does the combat feel unnatural and even the counter attack wields different moves keeping it fresh and most importantly making it look like a real fight.

One negative is the people you fight; they are all mostly the same apart from some small variations. The way the game flushes out the character of Batman is by making the worlds greats detective into a detective! Simple, but it could have been so easy to make him in to a one dimensional super hero who just kicks arse. One of the best features is the detective mode which allows you to look at the world in the way Batman does, highlighting interesting objects or places to grapple to or escape from. It also is used in tracking people by DNA or even pipe smoke.

The game wants to please you and the geek within you. It gives you character bios to unlock and with nice art work and interview tapes for selected villains. You can see why they set this game on Arkham so they could get as many villains in as possible without a stupid plot to justify it. They tried to get so much into this game and it could have been crowed but it all fits in beautifully and flows like a Hollywood film. At this point it is an insult to say it’s like a film because it’s not, its’ better than that and slowly I want film reviewers to say that a film is as good as a video games story.

There is no multiplayer which is a shame but then it would be interesting to see and let’s face it, everyone would want to be the Batman. Also, if you have to sacrifice multiplayer to get a single player story as good as this, then bollocks to multiplayer. There is a challenge mode in the game which will provide you with hours of frustrated fun and some challenge rooms are only unlocked within the main story so plenty to make you revisit it. Oh and don’t forget the free DLC which is ice cream on the top.

Graphics are great and make fantastic use of the Unreal engine and in my opinion so far the best usage of the Unreal engine. Don’t get me wrong, Batman: Arkham Asylum isn’t the best looking game ever but is certainly better than some out there. The asylum has a life of its own and is enhanced by the environments lighting and colour. Small details add to the totally convincing atmosphere of the entire game world and a lot of love has gone into it, in fact…..

I’m just gonna take a second to talk about the art direction of this game. It echoes of the classic batman comics and 90’s Batman: The Animated Series and for a short while i was expected for the game to be in line with the newer Christopher Nolan Batman films. In truth it’s an amalgamation of all of them and its excellent and will hopefully please all those not obsessed with Batman and those who dress up as the dark knight and constantly say “I am the bat” in the mirror. The boss fights I felt could have been flushed out a bit more. All most all of them are dealing with the main villain while fighting off hordes of generic bad guys and this formula even makes it into the last Boss fight at the end. Perhaps the most unique boss fight is the Scarecrow, his few sections of the game are possibly my favourite moments and draws on inspiration from the likes of the Psycho Mantis encounter in Metal Gear Solid.

Batman: Arkham Asylum has a real endless quality to it. Like when playing Half Life 2 for the first time it seems to stretch on forever and the game take great pleasure in telling you that your only 9% done after 3-4 hours. The game has been expanded internally buy Riddler puzzles and clues to make the game have a certain sense of freedom. I personally sent a good hour searching for one of the Riddlers clues and it makes good use of the Detective mode.

I scoffed roundly at the idea of Batman: Arkham Asylum at first. Until now there has never been a great Batman game that has done Bob Kane justice and I eat my words with a side of humble pie topped with in-my-face cream because this game is great. Fine scripted events, smooth combat and sumptuous environments screams of a development team passionate about their licence. I wait with baited breath until the next one. Reviewed on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Oh yeah, and the main villains should be Harvey Dent and Victor Freeze…original Freeze not the awful Arnold Schwarzenegger version.

93/100

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Batman: Arkham Asylum, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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