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Saturday | December 10, 2016
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Batman – Arkham Asylum (X360 & PS3)

Batman – Arkham Asylum (X360 & PS3)

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Batman is one of the world’s most popular ‘superheroes’ and Arkham Asylum from developer Rocksteady Studios has been getting a lot of hype both from the public and the press. Thankfully we are happy to say that they have met my expectations which has both surprised and pleased me!

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a third person action game which puts you in the shoes of the Dark Knight. It starts with Batman racing back to Gotham’s prison for the criminally insane with the Joker as his captive. As expected, the Joker has a devious plan in motion which means once he is placed back into the prison he hatches a takeover with some of the nutty inmates.

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You are therefore tasked in dealing with the Joker inside the criminal Asylum which spans across multiple buildings on a large rock- his intention is to release a horde of monsters onto Gotham City before you can reach him. On your journey to foil his plans he has laid traps and various gas traps to make life as difficult as possible.

The game plays exceptionally well and it is worth pointing out that this is not really suitable for a younger audience as it has many adult ideas and themes throughout the environments. The characters such as Harley Quinn are virtually naked and Poison Ivy is also scantily dressed and her language is crude and colourful. There is also a very violent aspect to the game as people get butchered in various ways throughout the scenarios.

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The characterizations are certainly aimed at a more adult audience and some of the situations could be rather disturbing for a younger child – my strong advise is to make sure if you have a young child that you don’t instantly assume that this is based on the Adam West style corny TV show from the sixties.

The game play is split into various styles. Batman can attack with his fists in the open environment, or he can hide and attack from the shadows. To compliment the combat there is also a fair amount of exploration.

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Fighting in Arkham Asylum is a straightforward enough affair and as Batman can move faster than anyone else in the game he can basically attack from a full 360 degrees. Moving your joystick in the direction of the enemy you wish to fight and pressing one of four buttons means you will perform an attack – jump, stun, reverse and strike. Button mashing works well early on especially with a plethora of bad guys in the vicinity as Batman will adapt his attack moves to suit the situation and his stance. While the combat sounds somewhat limited, in actuality the code is rather clever and there are a variety of moves available depending on the specific situation. The bad guys adapt as the game progresses and they start to use knifes and tasers to cause Batman to change his tactics a little.

Attached to the combat is a combo meter which rises as you successfully land hits on the enemy – if you get struck however it lowers – which means you need to be careful not to just charge into situations and hope for the best. Getting eight consecutive hits (or five with an upgrade) allows you to do special moves which you have previously unlocked. Additionally there is an experience system (XP) which appears as a circle in the upper left corner of the screen. When this is filled in you can get an upgrade for Batman’s health or his suit and other moves or weapons available.

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The XP system is important and is connected to all your moves including those you manage to successfully complete from the shadows. Batman has powers such as ‘detective mode’ which highlight all living characters in a room, even behind walls and objects. Much of the games enjoyment is working how you wish to tackle a specific room – quite often you can take the stealth approach and pick the enemies off one by one or you can either land in full view and attempt to take them all out in hand to hand combat – which can prove rather difficult – especially if they are armed.

This freedom within the combat part of the game is the reason the game is such a success because armed with the various devices in Batman’s belt you have opportunities to hang people from statues, blow walls out behind them and knock them out or even use Sonic Batarangs which explode on contact. Smashing through windows and using your grappling hook are also angles you can take if you wish.

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The AI is very good, especially if you crank it to hard because the enemy will react very realistically to your movements and they will even hear noises in their vicinity.

The Joker is not the only bad guy in the game and frequently you get the Riddler hacking into your ear piece and relating some information about the room you are in. This often is an intentional push so you will scan something in the specific room with your analysis tool. The Riddler often has trophies hidden in the asylum – visual puzzles you can only solve in detective mode. There are also patient interviews which are split into 5 part audio logs for each of the boss type villains in the game. Each of these is a mini story which is a good background story on each of the characters and it works very well to round out the major personalities within the game. These are then stored in the character biography page for each of the main villains with a total of 42 available.

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When you consider all of this is rounded out by 16 additional challenges, there is a lot of content on offer for potential gamers. These are based on a score and medal system with an online leaderboard and proves to be addictive once you get into the frame of mind.

Graphically the game is massively impressive on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 with effective dynamic lighting which adds a surreal element to the setting. The attention to detail is stunning and you will notice that Batmans suit even takes damage as the game progresses and holes start appearing where he was hit by specific weapons. Everything is polished to the highest standard, although I noticed some lip sync issues in some of the cut scenes which ruins the realism a little. I think the Xbox 360 has an edge to the overall depth of colour and the Playstation 3 requires a 1.2gb install which takes about 5 minutes to complete. That said, the Playstation store is offering a downloadable addon so you can play the challenges as The Joker, rather than being limited to Batman which is a nice touch.

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The audio side is just as impressive with Mark Hamill adding his voice to the talented list of  actors with a wonderful portrayal of The Joker. Kevin Conroy is Batman and Arleen Sorkin is Harley Quinn and they both bring a fantastic depth of personality to the characters.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a magnificent game which deserves to sell well and to show other companies that it is possible to create an indepth and immersive gaming experience with the focus on a comic book hero. The production, the acting cast and graphics are all first class but at the end of the day it is also a solid, fun game which is the most important aspect of them all.

Gameplay
93/100
Combat, stealth and a great core mechanic ensure this is a success.
Graphics
90/100
A brilliant engine which is smooth and highly detailed. Cut scenes are impressive as well.
Audio
96/100
Fantastic voice acting and a wonderful score. Class leading.
Value
90/100
10 hours or so to beat the single player with a lot of replay value.
Overall
(Not an Average)

92/100

One to make sure you pick up this month!

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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