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Batman Arkham Asylum

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Batman: Arkham Asylum for PC

Ah, this game certainly raised a lot of fuss in its development, a majority of it being “It’s a game based on a comic, and those are never good.” And this game looked to changed that mentality.  That mentality is definitely a strong one since game based on movies and comic books are usually made with one thing in mind, a quick buck and this always lead to poorly designed games that left a lot of customers burned and unhappy, both fans and non-fans alike. So what is it about this iteration of Batman that is so different? While I myself am not a huge comic book fan, I have dabbled in many games and they happen to include games based on comic book characters and I saw this iteration as a chance to pave the way for future GOOD comic book games. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Presentation: Oh the shine and polish of the look and feel of this game screams with developer love. From the stylish menus to the brooding ambience that has made me love Batman is all well and sewn together into a strangely unique experience that you won’t get from another game. While other games have bloom and heavily detailed scenery, the design of the environment is not like any other.

Sound: The choice of sounds used in Batman remind of me very much of the tracks you hear from the most recent batman movies, I wouldn’t be surprised if they said that’s where their inspiration was drawn from. The voice acting is also top notch,  although probably due to my own bias since I loved the batman animated series and that very casting crew makes a return. I love me some Mark Hamil Joker, don’t you?

Gameplay: Now, they can spit shine the game all they like but what good would it do if the game didn’t play the way it looked? Thankfully you can actually feel shine just as you see it. Batman had a very simple yet elegant combat system,  that focused more on strategy and flow rather than straight brute force. There was also a lot of freedom in your moves, allowing you to be inventive with what is given to you. Things like boomerangs, bat claw, even tackles and throws can be flawless pulled off with the simplest of button combinations, none of which exceed more than two, and each of these have their time and place to be used. This kind of philosophy behind a combat system is one that I always liked, where you can at all times you have many choices, but you need the experience to know how to use them properly and each choice can be used to great effect when it is done so.  The gameplay experience is not limited to just mechanics however as there is the rest of the experience. Just like the dark knight, you have to do a lot more than get into fist fights and that means taking down your enemies from the shadows. You can dangle off gargoyles to string up baddies, use baterangs to pick off targets and even do a quiet takedown in which batman would knockout an enemy via just enough suffocation to make the target blackout, or at least that’s what it looks like he’s doing for we never see that thug ever again.

There is also the atmosphere in the game that will only exist in batman.  Joker will constantly taunt you throughout the game with his snarky remarks and trademark laughter as he guides you through the asylum. You will meet some of his still colorful subordinates but they don’t quite match up the insanity that is the Joker.  This truly adds to the experience as listening to what the characters have to say, will also have an impact as to what your next move should be, so it’s not just simple I’m blowing hot air right now, don’t mind me, I’m just eating a sandwhich mindless bantering, there are queues in the dialogue you will want to listen to cause it could very well mean whether or not you’re going to see the continue screen over and over again. All in all, Batman’s gameplay is heavily entwined with all its parts rather than just a few.

Conclusion: I didn’t want to touch on the story too much because there are many surprises left unsaid, otherwise they wouldn’t be surprises. I feel that the game really redefines what a comic book game should be, and there are a few things that it does that the other games didn’t do besides the game play mechanics.

Didn’t try to retell a story: While the game still featured much what made Batman what we know today, it didn’t try to rehash a story that’s already been told; or worse yet, take an existing story and just make a video game version out of it, a real no no. If we wanted a movie experience, we watch the movie. We want the animated cartoon experience, we watch that, please don’t imitate something in a different form. The story in Arkham Asylum is actually written by the writer for the original animated series on WB, where you first see Batman in a dark and gritty world. The game had its own story, it didn’t try to imitate another game, all it did was “You’re the freaking Dark Knight, you WILL be he freaking Dark Knight, and it WILL be awesome.” It is the only likeness you will see with other games, is that it features batman.

Development Time: Unless the game is an established line of best sellers, games usually have one year at most and that’s if there was some level of faith in your work. If you’re some kind of movie tie in, you’ll have at most half a year.  Batman had at least two years to work with while the looming “You’re based off a comic book” mentality hanging above their head.  Quite impressive, and there was just so much love put into this game with many nods to the old fans as well, even to guys like me that only watched the cartoons.

Wasn’t just a comic book game: Even if it wasn’t based on batman, what they accomplished in the game could also stand on its own, with mechanics that have a lot of polish and level design that still astounds me with all the attention to detail.

I do have a few quirks against the game such as how the final battle was handled and the camera choices when dialogue is exchange between batman and some of the npcs but they hardly drag down the experience considering how much the game has to offer and how well it does it. Now there is a lot of things I haven’t mentioned but I covered what I thought was most important. So what more is there to say about this game? If you haven’t played it, you should, it’s available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and if you’re still reading this review you are likely to own one of those three. If you’re a batman fan, you don’t need me to tell you to buy this ASAP. The best way to let developers know you want their game, is to actually buy it retail, writing a letter helps too.

This review was based on my play through of all of normal mode, played a few challenge modes. PC version all settings on max via ATI Radeon HD 4890.

I’ll be putting a second opinion up for Bayonetta now that I’ve actually finished it. I have to say I have some nice things to say and some nasty things to say. Mostly nice, I promise.

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Written by vigorot

March 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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