7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Batman, on one too many protein shakes, tramples on the Arkham bugs
, 16 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
What a refreshing experience from all the cheapo movie tie ins that mar the gaming market these days!
BAA is a standalone story by Paul Dini, who worked on the batman animated features. Arkham asylum, the involuntary home of supercriminals, has had an island wide revolt led by the joker. This leads you to traverse the island hunting him down while helping out allies such as Gordon along the way. The dialogue is witty throughout and its obvious a lot of work went into this. While the main story is linear, it still provides you with enough flexibility in each scene to act as tactfully as you wish.
The basic mechanic is a punch button, a counter button, and a few gadgets to add some spice to your takedown methods and to access new areas. The punch and counter system is surprisingly responsive and not the button bashing session I imagined it to be.
While very solid, I very quickly found something lacking in the gameplay that slightly retracted from the essence of batman, and that was his unity with darkness. This game lacks the lighting depth of say the splinter cell series where your inhabitance of the dark is your primary weapon. It would have been very satisfying to step out of the dark to shock your enemy into submission.
The context sensitive nature of the grapple also felt limited. By this I mean you could only latch on to the surrounding gargoyles or ledges as preordained by the developers. I imagined having a grapple would mean that you could latch yourself to any surface, and cope with a much more realistic level of detection by the enemy. This way you could truly use the environment to take down your enemies as opposed to using a selection of predestined routes. As it stood the gargoyle system just made things a little too easy as you are virtually invisible swinging across these.
I Found the equipment was slightly limited, there were some batarangs that I felt were missed, such as an explosive one, electrical one, and one that signals the bats to come in to pick at the unfortunate victim. Possibly we needed the ability to combine items like the explosive gel and the batarang to add some extra depth to the upgrade system. In fact the upgrades felt slightly underwhelming, I did not get the feeling of being more powerful later on in the game than at the beginning.
Theres a detective mode which you can turn on which highlights key things in your environment and gives you an Xray view of where all the enemies in the room are. While this is very helpful to have, in retrospect this makes the game too easy. The temptation is there to play the whole game in detective mode, which also means you'll miss out on the lush graphics this game has to offer.
The general character designs in this game are excellent. Usually when modern media tries to reinvent classic characters it leads to dismay when the designers completely misunderstand the essence of a character. Thankfully here the villains are wonderfully realised. The joker is an outstanding lunatic voiced by Mark Hamil who voices the joker in animated features. He generally talks through the asylum through out the whole game in twisted comical fashion and its great at creating a cohesive atmosphere and sense of direction to your actions.
There are many supervillains to encounter, the first time meeting scarecrow I was very impressed with the atmosphere built up, the sound effects, the way he emerges into view and his awesome facial redesign, the game engines ability to morph the environment for a hallucinatory experience, this whole scene was just spot on and is a repeated standard across the rest of the game.
General henchmen also get a good degree of dialogue, there must be hours of dialogue which you can listen in on before you decide to take them down. The way they get scared and as you pick their colleagues off is a nice touch.
I think though that the weakest imagined character is batman himself. While the voice of Kevin Conroy is really the best batman there is and easily outshines the vocal impressions of the live action film actors, the massive beefed up physique here is what feels out of place and it just comes across as completely unstealthy. He has the image that he just wants to hit everything in sight even though the gameplay does not suggest this approach.
Playing through the story on normal mode there's a game of fair length, maybe around 15 hours, I'm playing it through on hard mode now and finding only the hand to hand henchman combat more difficult. This makes the game a bit more balanced to play but that just means that normal mode was maybe too easy. So I cant suggest that there is much value in replaying this on harder settings. For completionists there are 240 Riddles to solve which mainly involve picking up special items and taking pictures at the right location, this can extend the game time and grants you more experience points, but the limited number of upgrades available makes these extra XP a moot point.
There is challenge mode which provides little set piece snippets for you to replay under a certain style, like trying to take out everyone in the room without being detected. As such they're not really making the game larger but just giving you incentive to play through the same scene again in a more skilful way.
A beautifully rich and atmospheric journey defines this as the best existing comic adaptation game there is. While gameplay is solid as it stands, it could do with a few additions that hopefully would be present in an eagerly awaited sequel.
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