Batman: Arkham Asylum PS3

Posted on September 5, 2009 by



Batman. The Dark Knight. For many people, the prevailing image of Batman has always been Adam West and Burt Ward walking the sides of buildings and running along to the campy theme tune. Thankfully, a number of things have happened to dissuade this hateful image from the general consciousness. Tim Burtons 1989 Film Batman brought a much darker Batman into the public view, along with the early works of Frank Miller, started to turn Batman into the dark, Gothic figure he is today. And now, despite Joel Schumacher’s awful camp-fests Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, cinema audiences now gleefully enjoy Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

And now it seems as though the same is finally happening For Batman in video games. Batman has always been a source of consternation of games developers, who’ve never seemed entirely sure of what they want to achieve. While one or two have stood out as diamonds in the rough, the majority have been frankly awful. Rocksteady Studios, the brains behind Arkham asylum, have done something truly astonishing, however. They have made a game where you really are Batman.

Allow me to explain- Before, the best you could hope for was to simply control batman, following the plot as dictated and so on and so forth. But here, you feel like you are Batman, stalking criminals, hiding in the rooftops and the shadows, using tactics and intimidation to defeat your foes, and being a walking CMOA. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me tell about the plot.

The game opens on a drizzly dark Gotham night, and we’re treated to shots of the Batmobile streaking through the rain-soaked streets. Police radio chatters informs us that Batman has apprehended the Joker, and is taking him directly to Arkham Island. On the road to the island, the car passes a sign informing motorists that ‘Hitchhikers may be escaped inmates’, and you just know that things will only get better from there. Having arrived at the island, Batman follows the guards as they wheel Joker along on a hannibal-lecter-esque upright stretcher, listening to the Joker quipping at the guards, and taking note of the new security measures.

It is in this section that Rocksteady have really excelled themselves. They have utterly nailed the characters. Joker treats Arkham like home, he knows everyone, makes jokes and it really reinforces the idea that Joker is always happy to go back to the asylum for a rest every now and then. Batman, on the other hand, looks suitably uncomfortable walking along with the guards. As if, having caught Joker, he doesn’t really know what he’s supposed to do next.

As you make your way to the final checkpoint, there’s a tense encounter with Killer Croc, an enormous half-man, half-crocodile creature, who casually informs Batman that he’s ‘got your scent’. After this, you meet up with Jim Gordon, and Batman expresses his anxiety that Joker allowed himself to be captured to easily. He is also deeply wary of the fact that the Asylum is posing as temporary home to a number of inmates from Blackgate Prison, recently gutted by a fire. While this is going on, Joker escapes, killing a doctor and a guard, and trapping Batman in a room full of Blackgate prisoners. It turns out Joker has an inside accomplice- Harley Quinn.

This is where you’re treated to your first taste of direct combat. There are three buttons for combat- Punch, Counter and Stun. You flit between these to work your way through a group of foes in what is best described as a ballet of pain. Batman’s fight moves look as graceful as they do brutal- this Batman is not afraid to break other people’s bones, and will do so frequently. Combat evolves throughout the game, throwing a number of new types of mook at you, forcing you to adapt new styles and tactics to defeat them.

You don’t have to take the direct route, however. By ziplining up to high places, hiding in gratings and shadows, you can sneak around, dispatching your foes one at a time via a number of means, from a silent takedown, to dropping from the ceiling, grabbing them, pulling them back up to the ceiling and hanging them by their feet from a rope, which is one of the most awesome things you can do.

The story, which is glorious in it’s complexity, with twist and turns aplenty, was written by Paul Dini, who was responsible for pretty much ever DC animated series until 2003. The voices of the Batman, The Joker and Harley are all provided by their actors from Paul Dini’s animated series, which really lends the game an air of pedigree. While the game doesn’t take from any single Batman mythos, it prefers to draw in a vast array of elements from Millers Dark Knight Returns to Loeb’s Long Halloween. This is a game that genuinely captures what it is to be Batman, and revels in it joyously.

Graphically, the game looks astonishing, and the island is split into a number of unique areas, from the creepy medical centre, to the down-right terrifying Sewer Lair of Killer Croc, and even an on-site Batcave. Yes, Bats really is prepared for everything. The voice cast do a stellar job, which the sole exception of Jim Gordon, who sounds ridiculously gruff. Thankfully, he’s not in it much.

This is a game I heartily recommend as being the best title of the year, above even inFAMOUS. I have no qualms about calling BAA this years Bioshock. It really is that Good. Buy it. This isn’t a game just for fans. This is a game everyone should play.

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