Batman: Arkham Asylum
AMD Radeon X800 XL
Batman: Arkham Asylum is the perfect example of how you make a superhero video game. There have been quite a few of these, but most are either based off a movie and are terrible or just didn't get the formula right. Batman: Arkham Asylum did it right and was created by a company that isn't well known: Rocksteady Studios. They were under the guidance of Eidos and Warner Bros, two companies that have created some great series in the past and are still here as of today. Batman: Arkham Asylum takes the Batman universe and puts it into a beautiful, atmospheric and extremely fun video game. One that must be played by any Batman or adventure genre fan.
Batman: Arkham Asylum - the best aspect of this game is that it is rooted. The best word to use in this review because Batman: Arkham Asylum truly is rooted. Everything from the storyline, sound/music design, graphics to the gameplay mechanics throughout the whole game. Why it is also rooted is that it is true to the Batman comics and cartoon, as far as I remember, from what I read and watched. All the character/villain voices are the same voice actors that did the voices in the Batman Animated series cartoon.
The game starts out with you playing as Bruce Wayne, Batman (obviously), where he is transferring the Joker to the island outside of Gotham City called Arkham Asylum. While bringing the Joker into solitary confinement he has planned an escape and eventually takes control of Arkham Asylum. Throughout the game you, as Batman, are trying to stop the Joker from taking full control of Arkham Asylum; while fighting countless villains that have been set free by the Joker. Causing chaos and being a distraction to Batman while the Joker prepares his final plan for the Bat-Man.
This game does a great job by getting you into the atmospheric world that is Batman by putting you up against countless memorable villains from Batman's past. All of which Batman had thrown into Arkham Asylum at one point in time. Such great villains as Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Bane, Victor Zsasz along with others which I'll keep as a surprise (don't want to spoil the fun and adventure). Playing Batman: Arkham Asylum you become so immersed into the gameplay that at certain moments you forget you are playing a video game. Which in my opinion is what ALL the great video games did or need to do. The game not only introduces you to favorite Villains from the Batman universe, it gives a great original story to the series that can be accepted by fan (for the most part) and make the experience quite memorable.
Batman is THE predator in Arkham Asylum
In this game you will find Riddler trophies which will unlock character bios. These bios are extremely nice and is exactly what all great games need, reading. You should be able to read about certain different things in a video game, it helps add to the immersion and this game does just that. Whether you are a Batman fan or have never seen a single Batman movie you will enjoy reading the character bios and learning about each of the characters in the Batman universe. Each bio talks about a specific characters history, description, and from when they were first introduced into the Batman universe. I really enjoyed reading about villains I already knew a lot about but also being reminded about certain villains I completely forgot about. I give great credit to the developers for going this far to make the gaming experience more personal and broader.
One of the best things in the game are the tools and options that the developers put into the game; things that truly make you feel like Batman throughout the game. Even once you start to feel you are getting repetitive on certain items, the game introduces you to new items. Everything from batclaws, the batarang, explosive gel and even a de-cryptographer which helps you out a lot later in the game. There are quite a few items (more like tools in Batman's case) you get and I don't want to spoil what they may be. I can tell you that you'll have just as much fun as I did with batclawing everywhere in the game then gliding around every moment you have.
Fight scenes are in a system of semi auto-attack, where you just click in the direction of an enemy and Batman will attack them. You do have control over using counter-attacks in this game. When you are fighting a group of enemies they all will try to attack you and not just one at a time, which gives you the option to counter an attack from an enemy that is facing your back. This feature is not perfect, I found most of the time when I wanted to counter an enemy I was unable and he would hit me anyways. This seems to be a feature problem where Batman doesn’t know how to stop punching one guy to counter another, this hopefully will be fixed for Batman: Arkham City.
Sorry you can’t drive it...yet
Out of everything, this game offers you the best feature that wasn’t part of the Batman Universe before this game, but at the same time is a perfect fit, the detective mode. It was an overpowered feature in the sense it clearly pointed out what obstacle needed to be overcome to proceed, but it kept the game moving at a nice pace. Without it players would become extremely annoyed and frustrated with finding items and proceeding through the game. The detective mode allows you to see where enemy inmates and friendly colleagues are by looking through walls and certain obstacles. This comes in handy when you have to use stealth to get around and not be seen by all the inmates with firearms. Which becomes quite annoying when you are getting shot at in this game, but I love the challenge involved.
This brings me to the stealth part of the game, because as we all know this is a Batman game and Batman is all about stealth if nothing else. Most of the time you will be in a hand to hand fight with the inmates of Arkham Asylum, but you will have your share of sneaking around and taking out enemies one at a time. With the batclaw you are given the feature to grapple onto the edges of most buildings, but also onto gargoyles that just so happen to have been put into every building by the architect. These gargoyles are the only thing that really don't fit into this atmosphere, but at the same time they are quite needed and very helpful throughout the game. While on these gargoyles Batman can hang under them and grab passing enemies and hang them from the gargoyles, making them become unconscious. From these perfectly placed gargoyles you are also given an option to do a “Glide kick” onto an enemy, which can be done on any roof or ledge in the game.
The game is also semi non-linear in the sense that you are allowed to move around freely across the whole island, but at the same time you have a specific location you must go for the storyline. When I first started playing this game I had the idea that it was linear, and I was working hard trying to finish everything in a certain area. Since I thought I wouldn't be able to return later in the game. Which is great because you definitely can't finish everything in a certain area the first time you travel there. You will want to find all of the Riddler’s question marks and items. These are supposedly things the Riddler had set up before he escaped from Arkham Asylum (before the Joker arrived). Trying to find all 240 trophies in the game is quite the task, the best ones are Riddler’s items that he wants you to find by trying to figure out his riddles. With the main story line and Riddler’s trophies you will never go bored in this game, you will want more once the game is done.
How do I change the channel?
Along with time spent on finding Riddler trophies, reading character bios and doing the main storyline, the game also gives challenge unlocks to add more replay value. These are unlocked throughout the game by finding certain items, which is not that hard to do. And by the time you’re half way through the game you will have plenty of challenge mode maps to play through. These challenge maps are quite fun, and allow you to see how much better or worse you are at doing them against other people through leaderboards.
Now I have to point out that this game does have Games for Windows Live attached to it. Which has always been something I hated having attached to a game and usually don’t buy because of it. For this game it is different, you only need to worry about signing into GFWL to be able to save your process in the game. It is also needed for achievements to be accepted which personally I don’t care for doing. Besides Games for Windows Live, Batman: Arkham Asylum also has DRM added to it. Whenever I, hear and many other PC gamers, hear DRM, we all sigh, something that is quite common these days. For this game it is different, yes it has SecuROM, but as of today you are given licence removal tools to gain back activations. If my memory serves me right its every 3 months you get more activation copies for Batman, that alone makes it acceptable to have.
Overall Batman: Arkham Asylum is an amazing game which stays true to the Batman universe. And deserves to be played even with the fact that GFWL (Games for Windows Live) is attached to it and SecuROM. They are truly negligible to the whole experience that is Batman: Arkham Asylum. The gameplay is quite fun with the various tools at your disposal, the semi auto-attack Batman does and free style roaming of the gamer. Adding countless hours to your game time, time that you will agree was well worth it. Great side quests which gives the gamer the option to deviate from the main story, and search for the Riddler's secret items. This game understands how to engage the gamer and keep him/her interested, while giving a great atmosphere that can be appreciated for what it is, Batman. Let’s hope the sequel Batman: Arkham City has just as much atmosphere, side quests and items to play around with.
- Non-linear: Player is allowed to move around the whole island at his/her discretion. Search for Riddler items and just admire the work the developers put into the game.
- Solid Gameplay: Never will you get bored, fight scenes are smooth and enjoyable. Constant flow of storyline and villain encounters.
- Decent Grpahics: Makes great use of PhysX, very polished, great quality for the year it was created.
- Solid Engine: Little to zero bugs, PhysX, doesn’t let you use hard saves, uses a great checkpoint save system. Great graphics that put your GPU to use. Unreal 3 Engine.
- Character Bios: Fantastic addition to read about all the characters in the Batman universe, and a great time killer when you want to do something different in the game.
- Decent upgrades: Allows you to upgrade your suit and weapons. Upgrades on weapons are not necessary to beat the game, and not fun to upgrade, to the extent that it should be.
- Decent fights: Overall the fighting in this game is fun and enjoyable, especially with boss fights. It does need more options. Overuse of dodging. Counter attack that works 50% of the time.
- SecuROM DRM: With this DRM you are only allowed 4 machine activations. This sounds bad but after a year being available they added a removal tool to get back your machine activations. Plus I believe it’s every 3 months they replenish your activations.
- Games for Windows Live: Needs you to sign in to save game progression. Is needed for Achievement hunting