Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition
Developer: Rocksteady Studios / Feral Interactive (Mac) | Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Feral Interactive (Mac) | Release Date: 2010 | Genre: Third Person Action / Adventure | Website: n/a | Purchase: Steam
While there have been no shortage of Batman games over the years, few of them did the caped crusader any justice. There were some good ones but mostly the titles were poor movie cash-ins that served only to milk the license. Batman: Arkham Asylum is based on the comic books instead of a particular movie and from the get go it is clear to see that Rocksteady Studios knows a thing or two about the dark knight.
The game opens with Batman escorting his arch nemesis, the Joker into Arkham Asylum after foiling his attempts to attack the mayor’s office. Batman has a healthy distrust of the lunatic and is concerned that the capture went just a little bit too easy. His fears are realized when the Joker, aided by his equally insane sidekick, Harley Quin manages to escape and take over the Asylum. A convenient fire at the prison meant that all the prisoners who just so happen to be Jokers henchmen were also transferred to Arkham which means that the Joker has total control. It is up to you to take down the baddies and save the day before Joker can complete his twisted plans for Gotham City.
Arkham Asylum is a third person action game that manages to nail the Batman atmosphere perfectly. By limiting the game to Arkham Asylum and its surroundings you might think that there isn’t much to see or do but nothing could be further from the truth. While the story is pretty linear and you are never in any doubt about where to go next or what to do, you are free to backtrack and explore your surroundings in order to discover more and better prepare yourself.
Batman is known for taking down his foes without killing them so don’t expect to mow down everyone in your way with high powered weaponry as you might be used to in other games. Instead Batman prefers to use his fists, gadgets and the environment to knock out those who stand in his way. The free flow combat system is a joy to use and will ensure that anyone can start knocking out bad guys with ease. You only have one attack button but coupled with the evade and dodge buttons you can string together combos that as fun to see in motion as they are to execute. It starts off very easy but you are soon introduced to enemies with weapons that require different tactics. Fighting, along with other actions earns you experience points which can then be put towards upgrades to Batman’s suite, gadgets and moves.
While Batman can hold his own in fights against groups of enemies he is not invincible and once guns come into the equation he is better off sticking to stealth. Fortunately Arkham Asylum has plenty of gargoyle statues up in the rafters that keep you above the enemy line of sight. From here you can glide down and take them out with a well placed kick or swoop down and string them up by their feet. A batarang or two to the head can also help even out the odds. Batman is no slouch on the ground either and can use his “detective vision” to spot enemies through walls and other obstacles. From there you can hide around a corner or creep up behind an enemy to perform a stealth takedown. Sometimes this is necessary as certain enemies wear collars that emit a noise if they are attacked. The Joker uses this in rooms with hostages to alert the other enemies who then kill the hostages so you have to put your stealth skills to the test in order to save lives. Reactions from enemies as they discover their unconscious comrades are also very good as they will become paranoid and band together while scanning their surroundings. There might not be a lot of variety amongst enemies as they are all henchman and lunatics but facing them is always fun.
Of course, no Batman game would be the same without some super villains to confront and apart from the Joker you will also have run-ins with favorites like Bane, Scarecrow, Killer Croc and Poison Ivy. These boss encounters are probably the weakest aspect of the game as apart from the Scarecrow encounters they do not offer much in the way of a unique challenge. This is more of a missed opportunity than a complaint however and it only stands out because the rest of the game is so superb. Since the game is set entirely inside Arkham and its surroundings you do not get to play around with any of Batman’s vehicles either although they do make a few appearances.
The game runs on the Unreal Engine 3 so visually it is a feast for the eyes. Like I mentioned earlier the game perfectly captures that moody Batman atmosphere and skulking around in the shadows before jumping out and taking down the baddies is a joy. It is almost a pity that “detective vision” is as useful as it might cause some players to use it permanently and miss out on the great visuals. It is the small touches that really bring the visuals to life like the damage done to Batman’s outfit and his growing stubble as the night unfolds. Watching him glide around using his cape or swing through the air using his grapple gun is enough to bring a Joker-like smile to the face of any Batman fan. Nvidia owners are in for a further treat as the game uses PhysX to enhance the visuals even more. The locations are varied considering where the game is set and I found myself exploring them long after I have already finished the story. This is thanks to the “Riddler” trophies that dot the island. Unlike other games where hunting for collectibles usually ends up as a chore in Arkham Asylum it is quite addictive and never grows old. Finding patient interview tapes allow you to discover more about your favorite villains and you can unlock new challenge maps as well as the history behind Arkham.
To compliment the excellent visuals, Rocksteady has used some great voice-actors to bring the characters to life. While Kevin Conroy does a great job voicing Batman the star of the show is Mark Hammil with his portrayal of the Joker. Fans of the animated series will instantly recognize both voice actors as well as Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn. The rest of the cast also does a stellar job and to round things off the game has an excellent, moody soundtrack. Wandering around Arkham is great as you get to hear the chatter between enemies and the announcement by the Joker is another highlight.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is really one of those rare games that does nearly everything right. The way that the gameworld slowly unfolds as you unlock new items and gadgets means you will never grow tired of returning to old locations as you might find something new. Breaking open walls, crawling through vents and surveying the world from a high perch soon becomes second nature. While the game is not that short I definitely felt a pang of regret once the story was over but then immediately dove back in to locate all the Riddler trophies. The challenge maps where you are pitted against hordes of enemies are a nice diversion and add some more longevity to the game. The game uses GFWL which a lot of players dislike but apart from this there is very little that I can fault.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is finally the game that does the license justice and taps the full potential of the comic books. It is going to be a tough act to follow but the series is in capable hands. Hopefully future superhero and comic book games will draw their inspiration from the caped crusader.
*Review originally published 2010.
- Minimum PC System Requirements
- Minimum Mac OS X System Requirements
- Recommended Mac OS X System Requirements
- OS: Vista/XP
- Processor: 3Ghz Intel or AMD or any Dual Core
- Memory: 1GB Ram(XP)/2GB Ram
- Graphics: PCI Express SM3 NVidia 6600/ ATI 1300
- DirectX®: 9
- Hard Drive: 8GB free space
- Sound: Any onboard sound card
- OS:Mac OS X 10.9.5
- Processor: 2.0 GHz
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Hard Disk Space: 10 GB
- Video Memory: 256 MB
- NOTICE:The following graphics cards are not supported: ATI X1xxx series, ATI HD2xxx series, Intel GMA series, NVIDIA 7xxx series, NVIDIA 8xxx series The following cards require you to have 8GB of system RAM: NVIDIA 3xx and Intel HD3000.
- OS:Mac OS X 10.10.3
- Processor: 2.4 GHz
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Hard Disk Space: 10 GB
- Video Memory: 1GB