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Batman: Arkham Asylum

 

Batman: Arkham Asylum

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PS3
Category: 3rd Person: Action
 
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8.5
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Author:

Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Eidos Inc/ Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment

Features

1 player
Required HDD Space: At least 1.2GB
SIXAXIS Motion Sensitive
DualShock3 Compatible

In Batman: Arkham Asylum, you are given a chance to assume the role of Batman as he delivers The Joker to Gotham Cities famed Arkham Asylum. There, the imprisoned super-villains have set a trap and an immersive combat gaming experience unfolds. With an original script the game brings the universe of DC Comics' caped crusader to life with stunning graphics. Batman: Arkham Asylum offers players the chance to battle Gotham's worst villains with Batman's physical and psychological strength in a graphically distinct and story-driven game.

It's very rare that comic book characters ever get good video games, and just saying Batman Arkham Asylum is good would be an understatement. From the moment you start the game, the graphics, mood, setting, character designs, and voice acting draw you into this one of a kind game.

Graphics

The first thing that will hit you as you begin playing is the game’s fantastic looking graphics. The attention to detail is amazing. I found myself remaking how Batman’s cape actually flows and swoops with clean and clear animations. I also loved the level of detail found in the characters along with the highly polished look of the asylum itself. Everything really conjured deep, dark, mysterious feelings of an institution full of insanity. There are cobwebs hanging from rafters, dust flies up as you pass through long forgotten areas, and there are dark, wet, damp cave like rooms where most would not enter. This is the way Batman and his story is meant to be told.

The island where Arkham Island sits looks amazing, with wide landscapes and deep caves that are all done with the fantastic lighting and great attention to detail. I noticed that throughout the game the landscape changes, and minute details all around such as trees crumbling and graffiti written on walls is prevalent. Once again the effect is frightening, spooky, and perfect all at the same time.

On the downside, there are a few issues with the lip syncing and characters eyes. Most of the characters are seemingly bug-eyed, but in the end it isn’t much of a problem, just noticeable. Although the game’s textures and character models are amazing and very life like I noted that there were some small issues with texture pop in. In very dark settings this issue is not really noticeable, but in the brighter rooms you can clearly see some pop–in occur. Again this is nothing to get too excited about just something you will see now and then.

On a more positive note, the game’s frame rate is rock steady, almost never dropping to something you would take notice of. Of note, the detective mode is very well done but since it is so useful it sometimes prevents you from seeing the beautiful environments. When engaged a pale blue hue overshadows the graphic scene, and although it does look cool it actually removes some of beautiful textures in the game.

Sound

Voice acting and the sound work is top notch throughout the game. The Joker really steals the show. Mark Hamill, who voices the evil adversary, is far from his Jedi roots as the Joker, but it is an engaging and very good performance. Several other celebs also voice some of the characters such as Kevin Conroy as Batman and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn. They are all from the highly popular Batman: The Animated Series. Together all three are the stand-outs for the voice acting, however everyone else sounds great. The music sounds like a mix of The Dark Knight movie and Batman: The Animated Series and it works extremely well with the dark mood and gameplay found in this title.

The sound effects for the gadgets also sound very realistic and will give your subwoofer a great workout. Batman’s punch is to be reckoned with and you will really get the impression of a gut pounding, face breaking punch. Explosions, crashes, and gunfire alike all are an aural sound feast, and they will put a smile on anyone’s face. The soundtrack is completely done in Dolby Digital and every bone crunching sound is crystal clear and bright. I loved it when I heard the sound of the Joker cackling over the asylum's intercom, from behind me. The separation and localization is amazing and it will give you a jump from time to time. The game’s sounds and effects really adds tension and drama to an already dark and brooding title.

Gameplay

The gameplay for Batman Arkham Asylum just feels right, from the combat to the detective skills. The game flows just as well as it does visually which in turn drives the story. The game is not just a brawler, and it actually is a mixture of genres that were not prevelant in the downloadable demo. From puzzles given to you by the riddler, detective tasks such as examining chemical models, to finding an in-game character that has gone missing or hunting down an enemy, there is a lot of content in this game for every type of gamer.

The game’s story is actually very interesting and it may in fact be one of the best super hero video game stories ever told. The story is written by Paul Dini, the writer of Batman: The Animated Series and the Batman books themselves. It starts out with Batman bringing Joker in to Arkham Asylum after the Clown Prince of Crime broke out and held the mayor hostage, but soon after the Joker is brought in he escapes to deep within the asylum leaving it up to Batman to recapture him and bring order back to Gotham’s mental institution.

The game takes the best parts of other games and puts them together to make you feel like truly like Batman. The gameplay is split into three parts: Free-Flow Combat, Silent Predator and Detective Mode.

In the Free-Flow areas you take on multiple opponents at once with brutal melee combat. The combat works very well and is very satisfying. In the Predator areas you take on armed enemies one by one in a stealthy fashion. These areas are also well done and keep you on the edge of your seat. For the detective areas you either pick up a trail at a crime scene and follow it or try to solve the Riddler’s riddles if you will. These areas never feel repetitive or boring. The detective vision that you use for the these modes and areas turns the screen a blue tint and displays henchmen through walls which is very useful in baiting and ambushing them without making any noise. The vision is also great in assisting to locate certain high up gargoyles where Batman can swoop down on enemies without being detected. The effect is wonderful as the tension is greatly heightened by the stealth factor.

Once you engage enemies the hand to hand combat features four main buttons: square to punch, triangle to counter, X to Jump over your foes and circle to stun them with your cape. There is a method to your attacks, and if you button mash you may miss crucial counter openings. You must master the combo buttons to use your counters and combos effectively. Once you have learned the controls you can chain any number of button combinations to really inflict huge damage and rack up certain Trophies and rankings.

As I mentioned earlier, the stealth gameplay is deadly. You can grapple up to gargoyles and hang from them, wait for an armed thug to walk under you, and perform an inverted takedown that leaves them hanging by their feet upside-down under the gargoyle. You can take out a whole room of people without even being spotted, something I found deadly and sweet. As with button combos there are some different variations to the grappling which you must discover as you progress.

The gameplay length is around 9-12 hours depending on how in-depth you are willing to get. To get a 100% completion ranking you must finish all the Riddler challenges in the game which spans around 240 riddles which extends the gameplay a few more hours. Unfortunately, if there is one drawback in the game it would be its fairly short. There is the promise of future downloads which is always good.

As you progress through the various challenges a little XP bar in the top left of your screen will fill up, and once it does you will then be able to choose from one of the many upgrades available to Batman. Upgrades can range from stronger armour, new and improved Batarang skills, new takedowns as well as improvements for your other gadgets. There are certainly plenty of upgrades to offer and chances are that you won’t manage to get them all without a lot of hard work.

The Challenge mode is a great addition to the game which gives it an extra boost of longevity. You could be spending hours playing these trying to beat the high scores on the leaderboards. On that note, the PS3 has an exclusive seven extra challenge maps which features The Joker as a playable character which is a fantastic. Not only is The Joker funny as hell, he fits the game’s mood and theme perfectly. The Joker’s content is not available straight off the disc, but as a free download you get from the PlayStation Store. Also making an appearance in the game is a myriad of foes and enemies from the Dark Knights world. Although they are not playable you must defeat them in order to progress through Arkham Asylum. Harley Quinn, Victor Zsasz, and Croc to name a few are some of the baddies you must fight through. There are others that you will discover along the way. Finally, another cool download that will be available is the digital comic “The Road to Arkham” which is viewable exclusively on the PSP. This comic will be available only to PS3 owners from the PlayStation Network. Finally, there are also exclusive challenge maps in the works, these being available 30 days after the original release date.


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