Gameplay ImpressionsWhat do we like?
The Batman license has been used to stunning effect with a storyline that is a worthy tribute to Batman lore. The storyline has been paced superbly, with just enough information drip-fed to you at key points in the game to keep you intrigued right up to the finale, and it complements the action extremely well. Indeed, the tale of The Dark Night pitted against his popular arch-rival and other well-loved villains is just one of the great reasons to play this entertaining action adventure.
The excellent work continues with the artwork. music and overall high quality production. The dark nature of Batman's universe has been captured expertly in the Gothic-style locations, character design and the personalities of the Batman villains. The excellent voice-acting also helps enormously to encapsulate the Batman vibe, with the highlight being The Joker, who radiates humour and evil in equal measures and does more than enough to make you believe that he truly is an un-hinged,extremely dangerous and scary character.
The clever design of Arkham Asylum with all its hidden areas and many rooms, plus the free-roaming outside locations, opens the world up nicely for exploration. The dark and oppressive atmosphere that has been created, thanks to some superb shadow and lighting effects, helps to create an immersive playground that is extremely enjoyable to explore. There's so much to do as well. Searching for collectibles is made more immersive with the added challenge of trying to solve some The Riddler's tricky puzzles and then scouring the environment for objects that may provide the answer.
Exploration wouldn’t be as exciting without Batman’s range of super-powers and they’ve been implemented really well here. Whether Batman is gliding, or using his grappling hook to swing from gargoyle statues; executing a silent attack, or chaining together a combination of hard-hitting moves against a large group of henchmen,there's an exciting and enjoyable set of moves and gadgets to master and earning upgrades is well worth the wait - our particular favourite is the inverted take-down where Batman hangs upside down from a Gargoyle statue and then drops down onto an unsuspecting foe. Close-quarters combat is equally as entertaining and though chaining together multiple moves is only a two-button process, the arcade-style combat is a lot of fun thanks to some superb animations (slow-motion cinematics) and the precise timing and skill that it takes to master killing multiple attackers.
Batman Arkham Asylum blends the different gameplay styles extremely well, ensuring that the action doesn't ever feel repetitive. Stealth-based gameplay follows bouts of frenetic close-quarters combat. You then might be thrown into a big boss battle, or you might switch in and out of investigative mode to scan the environment and follow trails around the Asylum. Alternatively, you might like to free-roam on the hunt for The Riddler's trophies. Batman Arkham Asylum doesn't offer any new innovations or ideas, but what it does do is present a stylish and well-implemented gaming package that offers plenty of quality moments and entertainment.
What don't we like?
We've spent far too much time than we would have liked in Batman Arkham Aslum crawling through ventilation shafts. If you can’t find your way to a specific room you can practically guarantee that you’ll have to search high or low to open a vent and then crawl through it to access an area. The context- sensitive vent-opening action, which requires you to tap the ‘X’ button multiple times, does nothing at all to make it any more interesting; in fact it makes it slightly more irritating.
Despite the enjoyable combat mechanics, there's a real lack of variety in the character models of The Joker's hench-men. You're fighting so many of them throughout the adventure, so it's a real shame that more character models haven't been designed to add some variety. Similarly, despite a few exceptions - including an enjoyable platform-inspired boss battle against the scary Scarecrow - most of the big boss battles aren't exactly epic. After fighting Bane and working out how to take him down, you'll be using the same system over and over again against some of the other bosses. The boss battles look fantastic and they are still enjoyable to play, thanks to some smooth animations and impressive cut-scenes, but they do lack a real challenge.
For us, the sign of a good game is that time will fly by while playing it. That's totally true of Batman Arkham Asylum - we've been totally engrossed in it since it landed on our doorstep . Despite some simple ideas and tried-and-trusted gameplay formulas making an appearance, the overall package has been impeccably presented and wrapped lovingly in a Batman cloak.
Batman Arkham Asylum is indisputably the best use of the Batman license to date; a wonderfully-realised cinematic production that deserves all of the plaudits that it will undoubtedly get.
Final Score: 9/10