Talk to any Batman fan and this is what they'll tell you... they've read the comics, they've watched the animated TV series, and they've seen all the movies. But the one thing they'd really love is to actually have the experience of being the caped crusader themselves. Of course, the best way to do that is to play Batman via video games and there have been a number of games that have tried to convey the Batman experience over the years. But none of the games have come close, until now. Enter Batman: Arkham Asylum from Eidos, Rocksteady, and Warner Interactive.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
It seems to be a good time for Gotham City because not only have most of the notorious villains been locked away at Arkham Asylum, Batman has finally captured The Joker. The game begins with a long opening sequence where Batman (that's you) brings Joker to be locked up in the Asylum. But The Joker doesn't seem all too concerned about his current predicament. Just before the game gives you full control over the 3rd-person Batman character, you get a quick glimpse of Harley Quinn behind the controls of the Asylum. So now you know that this has all been a trick by The Joker to trap Batman inside of the Asylum with all of the crazy criminals who are now free from their bonds and bent on killing. It's your job to make your way through the Asylum and recapture all the villains, including The Joker.
Crime-Fighting Combat at its Best
As soon as The Joker escapes, he wastes no time in throwing the first wave of his thugs at you. At first, you're limited to basic attacks and counters that can all be accomplished with only two buttons. When an enemy is about to attack, an attack icon will be displayed above his head and you can counter the attack by pressing the Counter button at the right time. Then you can follow up with the Strike button. As you progress through the game, you can earn and use experience points to gather more fighting moves/combos as well as acquire new gadgets. Early on you'll gain access to the Batarang, which you can use as a projectile weapon to attack from a distance. You'll also obtain the Grapnel Gun to "fly" and swing around environments, but it can also be used as a weapon later on in the game. Both group fights and boss battles are engaging and satisfying at every step of the way, but there are also times when you'll need to move quietly because eventually the bad guys will get their hands on guns.
Steal Combat and Detective Mode
Throughout the game there will be a number of instances where you'll be trapped in an area and you can only get out after you've dispatched all the visible enemies. Unfortunately, those enemies have guns and Batman doesn't fair well against those kinds of weapons, at least not out in the open. This is where stealth combat comes into play, but unlike with many games where this type of combat can become boring and monotonous, Batman: Arkham Asylum provides plenty of action and atmosphere. During stealth combat, you'll use Detective Mode, which allows you to see through walls and other obstacles to find where enemies may be lurking. You can then sneakily take them down in various ways, including the extremely fun Inverted Takedown. This takedown lets you survey the area from a high vantage point and then swoop down on an enemy that is passing beneath you to then bring him up and hang him upside down from his feet where he remains helpless.
Puzzles and The Riddler's Challenge
Detective Mode also comes in handy (actually, it's absolutely necessary) when solving many of the puzzles and riddles. Using Detective Mode, not only can you see through walls and see enemies in the area, you can also see various other anomalies in the environment such as walls that can be broken through or vents that can be opened to provide alternative routes. Also, hidden in some of those places are various puzzles and challenges care of The Riddler. In addition, you'll see mysterious question marks painted on the walls (and other parts of the environment) that can only be "unlocked" from specific vantage points. It's very challenging and a lot of fun. The only downside is that you may find yourself wanting to play most of the game in Detective Mode, which means you'll miss out on a lot of the wonderfully rendered graphics.
Animation, Music, and Dialog
If I were to sum up the quality of the animation, music, and dialog in this game in two words, they would have to be stunningly superb! Yes, the media elements in this game are really that good. The environments are beautifully rendered, the animations are smooth and lifelike, the sound effects and musical score really draw you into the game, and the dialog is professionally delivered without skipping a beat. You'll recognize the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and The Joker, respectively. In addition, the story moves along at a great pace and really keeps your interest throughout the game.
The only slight disappointment that fans may find in Batman: Arkham Asylum is that there's no way to get out to explore the entirety of Gotham City and (more importantly) you don't get to drive any vehicles, including the Batmobile. But believe me when I say that the Arkham Asylum environment is plenty big and the game provides many hours of enjoyment. Even after you finish the story, you can go back and play the Challenge Mode. And as an added bonus, you can download Play As The Joker Challenge Maps, so that you can play various parts of the game in Challenge Mode as The Joker (with unique moves for that character). To top it off, Batman: Arkham Asylum is not just for fans; this game is one of the best third-person action games on the market. Want the experience of actually becoming the caped crusader? Get Batman: Arkham Asylum. For more information, visit batmanarkhamasylum.com.
Additional information: Batman: Arkham Asylum Videogame