BeyondUnreal's double-review of the PC version of Batman Arkham Asylum.

hal Though Batman Arkham Asylum is only Rocksteady's second effort as a developer, it's clear that they're headed in the right direction, making smart gameplay choices with the Caped Crusader. Non-fans are just as likely to enjoy the game as the fans and may even find themselves wanting to know a little more about him when they're through.

The storyline smartly draws directly from the comic books, and they've done a spectacular job in choosing Arkham Asylum as the centerpiece. Batman delivers the Joker for incarceration - yet again - and finds himself entrapped in an evil plot to overthrow the prison and turn Arkham into the Dark Knight's tomb. This device sets up the possibility for Batman to face-off with any number of his famous nemeses, while restricting the area of play area without making it seem artificially so. Rocksteady utilizes a number of methods to advance the story. Hidden throughout the game are reels of tape recorded during doctor-patient sessions at the hospital that reveal the disturbing inner thoughts of some of its inmates, providing background and motive for the colorful cast of characters from the Batman universe. These are pretty much optional and can be listened to at your leisure. Voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series reprise their roles, including Kevin Conroy as Batman and a brilliantly acted Joker by Mark Hamill. Oracle provides relevant intel and other outside information through Batman's earpiece from time to time. Other storytelling devices are environmental, such as the Joker's constant verbal harassment over the prison loudspeaker or messages scrawled along the walls. On occasion a lengthy cutscene will advance the plot, but everything takes place in-game and there's almost always some level of interactivity. Arkham is a sinister and rich locale and Rocksteady plays it to the hilt. Expect a surprise or two along the way, including some truly memorable battles with some of Gotham's most notorious.

Action takes place in the third person, which lends itself well to the amount of jumping, climbing, and gliding you'll do. Calling it Tomb Raider in a Batman outfit is not an unfair comparison, but there's so much more. Firstly, Bats is loaded with cool gadgets that are added to your inventory throughout the game, granting you access to previously unreachable locations. Other tools can be earned by doing things to gain experience points. In this respect it's somewhat similar to Metroid. I hate to compare games to other games, but its certainly good company. I tried not to, but God help me, I'm weak. Getting around is a snap when you're wearing a batsuit. Batman can effortlessly and silently glide across the expansive environments and with the pop of the batclaw can ascend swiftly to the dark ledges and gargoyles above. Nevermind that there are gargoyles indoors, this is fun!

Frequently between bouts of creeping around in the dark, you'll run into thugs and escapees that are charged with your demise. As Batman, your responsibility is to terrorize them and take them out one by one, whether it's dropping behind one and noiselessly choking him into subconsciousness or stringing one up from a gargoyle and leaving him dangling. Sometimes stealth isn't an option, however, and you'll find yourself surrounded by lightly armed inmates. Fortunately, the Dark Knight is a master of every known martial art and fights with the litheness of tiger. Combat is simple, but deceptively deep. Attack, stun, and counter are your three main options, though the Batclaw and Batarang come in handy in a pinch. If you manage to string together attacks, you'll gain access to any special attacks you've unlocked. You'll also want to take out the baddies weilding guns and weapons first because Batman may be an armored superhero of impressive physical prowess, but he's still a man. Button mashing won't get you very far either as there's an element of timing involved. Before long you'll find yourself in a groove and bodies will be flying.

But Batman is more than a brawler. He's also the world's greatest detective and Arkham Asylum gives you plenty of chances to exercise those skills. Turning on your detective vision will illuminate clues (not to mention an xray view of enemies throughout the level) like scents or fingerprints, giving you a trail to follow. It also reveals objects that have an element of interactivity, such as air duct covers, weak walls, and the aforementioned gargoyles. if there's a downside to this powerful mode it is that there are very few drawbacks to using it exclusively. Sure the game takes on a bluish hue and everything appears to be in a semi-wireframe, but it's perfectly playable... other than the dirty feeling that you somehow might be in cheat-mode. Still, I can't think of a way to restrict its use that wouldn't be downright annoying to the player, so it's hard to fault them for it. The Riddler is up to his usual antics as well, tossing out dozens of hidden trophies and quite a few clever riddles for you to solve. You can choose to ignore these as well, but solving them yields goodies.

One such goodie is access to one of the many challenge levels, which are basically a single room of a level with a specific objective. Those objectives are typically taking out a predetermined number of armed thugs using a stealth approach or brawling with a set amount of unarmed or lightly armed enemies. Each challenge level also has a trio of sub-objectives you can try to meet. Each has an associated leaderboard too, so you can go for the overall top spot or just compete with your friends for the high score. These challenge levels are really just more of what you find in-game, but they do serve as a nice instant-action mode if you've already completed the story.

Rocksteady has constructed a really solid third person action game, with a touch of brawler, a good bit of exploration, and some decent extras. If those gameplay elements sound good to you, then you'll probably like Arkham Asylum. If you're a fan of Batman, you'll love it. Fully exploring the story environment will probably take 12 to 15 hours, if not a little more and the extra modes extend the life of the game somewhat - there's real value here. The easy-mode detective view that takes away a bit of the challenge and being teased with so many great foes and actually battling so few are both areas for improvement next time around. Good games are hard to find and great superhero games are an even rarer treat.


Sir_Brizz: As a child, one of my favorite superheroes was Batman. I always loved the fact that he was a "regular" guy that had no super powers whatsoever and just armed with wit and a bunch of cool toys could overcome evil. So any game that plays off of Batman, for me, has to be just that good, particularly considering te fact that a "good" Batman game, prior to this point, has never been made.

I'm happy to report that, not only is Batman: Arkham Asylum easily the best Batman game ever made, it is also one of the better games made in recent memory.

Okay, let's get the pleasantries out of the way. Batman: Arkham Asylum takes place on the island of Arkham near Gotham City. The Asylum has been taken over by the Joker, and Batmn, using his wide array of skills, must defeat them and take the asylum back. During the course of the game you run into various old enemies and each of them takes on a unique role as the game progresses. For example, The Riddler speaks to you throughout the game giving you clues to puzzles he has hidden around the island in the form of either trophies or riddles that must be resolved to actual items or sets in the game world.

The gameplay in Batman: Arkham Asylum is simply superb. I found that playing with a 360 controller made the game more enjoyable, however the keyboard and mouse controls are responsive and smooth and still allow you to do everything you need to in the world. One area that the keyboard and mouse are severely lacking in, however, is decrypting certain locks. The lock use the analog sticks on the controller to simulate a two key system where each stick must be pointed in the right direction to break the lock. Accomplishing this on the keyboard and mouse is simply frustrating for two reasons. First, the game uses vibration along with color to tell you how close you are to the right position. Obviously, vibration is not possible with a keyboard and mouse. Second, to turn the two stick on the picking device you use A and D (strafe left/right) to turn one stick and Mouse1 and Mouse 2 to turn the other stick.

With that said, there are not many more annoyance in terms of controls. In combat, you may find that the control system feels rather simplistic at first. As you progress through the game you are able to unlock new combos and the game forces you to also learn additional combat moves, such as jumping over enemies heads, that prove invaluable later in the game and also help you to build up big hit combos for various purposes.

Graphically, Batman is amazing. Rocksteady took every option available to them in UE3 and made it standout. The characters look nice, even the common brawlers look good, the environments are great and extremely atmospheric, and the effects add to the overall experience quite nicely. The lighting is not overdone, and often only adds warm tones to the surrounding nice looking areas. There really isn't more to say about that than that Rocksteady nailed the "Batman look".

So I found the game great in nearly every aspect. If I had one complaint about the game, it would be that the Detective mode (which makes everything appear in basically Xray vision) is virtually impossible to avoid. This mode shows you various things like chemical trails you are following, Riddler riddles, where enemies are in the room you are in and more. I made a conscious effort to keep the Detective mode off as often as I possibly could, and I still felt like I had it on for more than half of the game. There is simply no detriment to doing so, in fact you seem to be rewarded more for keeping Detective mode on than turning it off, making you miss the majority of the great visuals and somewhat simplifying the look of an otherwise great game.

Overall, this is THE ultimate Batman game. Future Batman games will need to look at what this game does right in order to capitalize off of the franchise, and surely Batman: Arkham Asylum will be a game that all future superhero games of any kind are compared to. The quality is nearly above reproach and epitomizes, to me, that games ARE art.