Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

The knight is darkest just before the dawn.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, September 17, 2009

This is mere terrific fun earlier in the game; hours later, with much of the upgrade tree ranged before your fingertips, we’re talking GOTY-level entertainment. A typical scenario might involve swooping boot-first into a skinhead’s front teeth, suspending him from a gargoyle for his friends to find, letting them sweat for a few seconds before taking them all down with a remote controlled Batarang, and luring the last man upright into an explosion trap. If that isn’t enough to bring out your inner sadist, you’re probably a reader of Superman.

These big dudes operate in fairly predictable ways.

These big dudes operate in fairly predictable ways.

Boss sequences with resident super-villains are less experimental, though the level of finish remains consistent. Scarecrow’s are probably the most interesting – thanks to a healthy gust of hallucinogenic gas – taking place in the turbulent recesses of Batman’s psyche: the third and final of these is a masterstroke, a macabre re-engineering of the introductory sequence. By contrast, the face-off with Hulk-alike Bane simply requires you to dodge at the right moment, and the battle against Ivy much later is both generic and insultingly protracted.

Evident throughout is Rocksteady’s tremendous attention to detail. Gothic vistas and rib-rattling haymakers routinely astound, but it’s the little things (to regurgitate that old cliché), the nips and tucks in the game’s design which linger in the memory. Trios of comedy wind-up teeth dropped by the Joker serve both as experience-rich collectables and, more subtly, as waypoints. Batman will ease a vent cover out of a wall if an enemy is nearby, but rips it carelessly loose if there’s no-one in sight.

You'll always see them coming.

You'll always see them coming.

Bat lore lies heavy on the ground – much of it supplied by The Riddler, who contacts you at the outset to demand that you unravel the conundrums he has scattered across the island. Many of these involve items of comic-book trivia, relics of Batman villains past and gone; others require you to sniff out interview tapes with key characters or mysterious messages left by Arkham’s founder. It’s a comic-store completionist’s wet dream – and that’s without mentioning the unlockable Challenges, which test your skills in steroid-infused versions of campaign episodes.

Arkham Asylum is the kind of eventual coming-to-form which renders years of half-arsed franchise transplantation not just forgivable, but worthwhile. If Rise of Sin Tzu and Batman Begins were the price we had to pay for this poised, predatory third-person landmark, I for one consider it an ample return on the investment. Let’s hope Rocksteady takes a shot at the Man of Steel next.

9 out of 10

One Response to “Batman: Arkham Asylum Review”

  1. Awsome game fun but ya its hard


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