Then there are the games that come out that I go into wanting to love. Most games based on comic book heroes fall into this category. In the case of Batman: Arkham Asylum, here is game that I desperately wanted to like. On the scorecard, it had everything - rogues, atmosphere, supporting cast, and the Big Guy himself, of course. So that being said, how did the experience measure up? Did I rave, or did I feel robbed?
I'm going to throw up a spoiler alert at this point in case you haven't yet experienced Arkham. Although I don't plan on revealing key plot points or twists, I may want to slip in a few comments on gameplay in particular chapters that some gamers may want to wait to discover for themselves.
POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT
As a comic-based super hero game, this was definitely a winner for me. In fact, playing the game had an oddly reassuring feeling for me. The opening cinematics were engaging and appropriate, and effectively set the stage for everything that came afterwards. What followed was example after example of how to use comic-based material the right way. When the Riddler first chimes-in on Batman's headset to chide him into finding the riddles he's lovingly left behind (and to generally annoy the Dark Knight) I smiled and thought "This could be really good." Then when Harley Quinn interrupts Batman on Arkham's surveyliance video to deliver a message it was clear to me that the game designers really cared about the material and the fans.
Batman moves. He struts deliberately and menacingly when you impel him along at a normal gate. When he runs, his cape is a ballet of wind-swept fabric. What really knocks your socks off is Batman in the air. When he jumps around from gargoyle to gargoyle (in rooms so designed) it evokes thoughts of a different red and blue clad web-headed super hero. And when Batman glides down from on high to deliver a vicious kick to his victim you feel like a falcon going after it's favorite rodent snack.
I'll start out with one quibble I have with Bats' various moves and that's the melee attacks. Although he looks great on screen while doing them, there's really nothing more to this than furious button mashing. Apart from the occasional counter, the player is not really challenged to master combos. Just counter when prompted and keep mashing and only the very biggest onslaughts will overwhelm Batman.
Now Batman's other moves are something else. I'll start right out by saying the the Inverted Takedown is hands down my favorite. From the gargoyle of your choice, have Batman first hang upside down, then when your intended victim walks below, initiate the snatch and before he knows it, the baddie is himself left dangling below the gargoyle pleading for someone to cut him down. Hours of endless fun!
Then, there are the wonderful toys. In addition to the fast grapple mentioned above, Batman totes the reliable and easy-to-use Baterangs. Very intuitive; aim with L1, throw with R1. This benefits from numerous upgrades obtained throughout the game. Batman also utilizes a dispenser of explosive foam as well as a line gun that allows him traverse various chasms and divides that the Fast Grapple won't. The explosive foam dispenser was another generator of grins especially after it is upgraded with proximity detonation; 1. Spray on section of floor 2. Hide in nearby grate 3. Wait for baddie to walk near enough to detonate 4. Smile (rinse, repeat. . .)
Predictably, most of the boss challenges are brought to you courtesy of the Rogues and they are a little bit of a mixed bag though none were horrible in my opinion. One, which I won't name hear, blew me away. There were others that were standard fare done extremely well. Then there was a series of battles that were repeats of previous battles and became a little tedious.
The previously mentioned upgrades to Batman's abilities and gadgets are purchased through experience points obtained through fighting, completing missions, and finding the Riddles and knick knacks that Edward Nigma has strewn about Arkham. Finding and solving the riddles was a nice addition to the game although to solve all of them (and collect all the trinkets) takes some backtracking during the course of play as some previously inaccessible places on the map open up with the addition of later toys and upgrades. Poison Ivy lends a hand in keeping re-exploration of Arkham from being complete deja vu.
I liked playing it and I'm glad I did. The story was compelling and the characters done very nicely. I hope a sequel is in the works because there's so much more to Batman that can be told, plus so many more great villains!
1 to 10 Scale: 9