With the success of the recent Batman movies, a new game based on The Dark Knight was inevitable. Batman: Arkham Asylum plays to caped crusaders’ strengths focusing on combat, stealth, and the hero’s detective abilities. A Who’s Who of Batman’s greatest foes has planned a party at the asylum and Batman is the guest of honour. Stay sharp and settle in because it’s going to be a long night in the loony bin.
After a failed attack on the Gotham City Mayor’s Office, Batman: Arkham Asylum starts off with you escorting the newly captured Joker into the notorious correctional facility. Well that was a little too easy, and sure enough the Joker breaks free and is running loose in the asylum. It looks like the Joker has set a trap, and you sprang it gloriously. It’s now up to you to stop him before he escapes and wreaks havoc on Gotham.
As you navigate through Arkham island you will encounter some well known and some not so well known characters from Batman’s rogue gallery, like the Riddler. He has placed a series of puzzles throughout the island for Batman to solve. Doing so, like everything you do, awards you experience to upgrade Batman’s suit, toys, and overall fighting abilities. As Batman, you are a master at hand to hand combat and have an array of gadgets at your disposal to deal with anything anyone can throw at you. Batarangs, explosive gel, hook shot, the tools of the trade to take down the best of them and the worst of them.
Arkham is crawling with Joker’s henchmen, and you have two ways of dealing with them. You can go in quiet, picking them off one by one, until the last guy in the room is a scared quivering mess. This is made easy with Batman’s detective vision; among other uses, it can detect enemy positions, and identify hostiles by seeing through walls. Then again, you can always swoop in, glide kick a baddie in the skull, and get the jump on a room full of lackeys before they even knew what hit them. The combat system is so fluid that attacking, countering, and disarming multiple targets is easy to do but hard to master.
Every bone crunching punch, kick, and throw looks, sounds, and feels painful. In combat, Batman incapacitates his foes with such speed and grace that it makes you the player really feel like The Dark Knight. As you search for the Joker’s true intentions, it takes you all over the various sections of Arkham island. From the Main Manor, the Infirmary, to the Botanical Garden, and the Correctional Facility, each area has its own distinct style. The set design is a mix of gothic charm and functionality. After all, Arkham Asylum is not just a prison, its a correctional institute for the criminally insane.
As you explore the outer perimeter you can see Gotham in the background with Wayne Enterprises towering over the city. It’s quite a view. You can almost hear the impending doom. Luckily it’s being drowned out by everything else happening around you. From the hiss pop and crack of a boiler to the signature sound Batman’s cape makes as he glides through the air, everything sounds authentic and believable.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is easily the best Batman game ever made, which isn’t hard to do considering the lacklustre pedigree. Even without the Batman name, Arkham Asylum is a great action adventure game, and a must play. Whether you are a hardcore Batman fan or have just seen the movies, this game is accessible to anyone. With recent news of a sequel in the works, take the time to see where it all started.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is available now for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.