Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

The knight is darkest just before the dawn.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, September 17, 2009

Combat and stealth sequences are very much the aces in Rocksteady’s deck, and the developer takes care to funnel you into one or the other at regular intervals. Fist fights are show-stopping, 360 degree affairs, the camera pulling back and up for a clearer view as Batman pinballs around the innards of a mob, switching targets mid-combo with a quick tug of left stick. Besides regular punches, the Dark Knight can deliver stunning sweeps with his cape and counter-attack by tapping Y in tandem with the flashing blue indicator (deactivated in Hard mode) atop the requisite enemy’s scalp.

Platforming tools like the zipline can be useful in a fight.

Platforming tools like the zipline can be useful in a fight.

All this is quite beautifully governed by a combo system which doubles as a source of experience and health. The longer your combo, the more devastating Batman’s blows become: push it past eight consecutive hits and you’ll be hurling enemies into one another and snapping bones with gleeful abandon. Once the brawl’s over (as advertised by a stylish slow-mo zoom on the final impact) the game tops up your hitpoints and upgrades bar on the strength of your performance. It’s a marvellous antidote to both the hackneyed business of gathering medipacks and our more recent obsession with recharging health.

If Arkham Asylum‘s omni-directional beat-downs stray onto the Prince of Persia’s turf, the softly-softly moments handle like a very user-friendly Tenchu. Rather than smearing stealth across the island’s open-ended canvas, Rocksteady boxes it into large, multi-levelled rooms which you’ll traverse several times in the course of the story, different patterns and varieties of enemy emerging each time. At first this intense segmentation feels reductive, gimmicky, but you soon realise that each room is effectively a small, highly-worked sandbox in which to flex Batman’s evolving toolset.

Somebody's about to cack their pants.

Somebody's about to cack their pants.

While the goons generally have the advantage of numbers (and guns), the Dark Knight’s grapple line and agility allow him to move swiftly from floor to ceiling, and his visor ensures that he’ll always see his enemies coming. Ventilation ducts and maintenance tunnels allow you to move around unnoticed at ground level, while Arkham’s iconic gargoyles give you mastery of the air. The AI fits each area’s perimeters like a glove, guarding objectives like doors and moving out in pairs; it also simulates mounting awareness very engagingly, the convicts disintegrating from ballsy bravado to quivering, high-pitched frenzy as casualties stack up.

One Response to “Batman: Arkham Asylum Review”

  1. Awsome game fun but ya its hard


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