Some call him Batman, others The Dark Knight, or as the Joker says it, Bats. No matter which one you choose, this comic book vigilante is one of the most famous characters to date and his popularity only continues to increase. With the release of the films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, this character’s mainstream status has risen to new heights. However, video games have never been the strong suit for DC Comics’ renowned costumed hero. Seldom has the reception of video games based on the vigilante been a welcome one. Changing the flow of the tide however, is the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos, this new entry in the franchise has completely reshaped the view of all comic book video games.
Simple story, I know, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The atmosphere of the entire game is really what adds to the plot. The surreal elements this game delivers are what keeps the gamer on his or her feet and creates intensity all the way to the credit screen. Sure, some things could’ve been elaborated a little better or made more creative, such as the way the Joker escapes. He literally beats up two guys and suddenly has control of the entire prison. Nonetheless, this was just to get the game off its feet quickly so the player can become Batman. And that, my friends, is what you will feel like when playing.
Also helping Batman get around are his gadgets that he will obtain as progress is made. These consist of the grappling gun, the line launcher and the explosive compound sprayer (which can be used for combat as well; more on that a little later). Each gadget is simple to use and will be a necessity in order to complete this adventure. The grappling gun will help you get up to those high areas, the line launcher will shoot a wire that Batman will glide across and the explosive gel will blow those pesky old walls out of your way (you can also use the grappling gun to pull the whole thing down once you get the upgrade). Batman can also use his cape to glide long distances and believe me, this is fun. Climbing on top of the tallest structure and gliding all the way to the ground can be pretty enticing. You also don’t have to worry about damage from falling. Batman will either use his cape in order to catch himself before he face plants the pavement or the game will give the player a chance to use their grappling hook to get back up to the ridge.
You can only jump when you run off a ledge which is fine because Batman is apparently a really good mountain climber. He will climb up ledges easily shimmy himself around to hard to reach places. He can also crouch and crawl into the vents and small passageways (and believe me, you will be using those vents and small passageways). The only problem I have with the entire movement layout is the fact that you have to press and hold a button in order to run. We live in the 21st century! It should be common knowledge to all developers that pushing the joystick all the way will make the character on screen sprint while only pushing it half way will cause them to walk.
Next to the story is the Challenge Mode. There are two types of challenges in this mode. The first is basically an arena mode where wave after wave of thugs take charge and you try to build up a high score. The second is where you must try to take out all of the thugs without being seen as quickly as possible. After participating in either of these modes, your score will be posted online for others to compete against. Other than this however, there isn’t much to the game and only true Batman fans will try to go for a second or third playthrough.
The graphics are absolutely stunning. From Batman to the lowest thug, each character design is beautiful to look at (and you probably will end up looking at Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy… a lot). What’s even better is the fact that Batman’s costume becomes torn and tattered as players make progress. You’ll see bullet dents, holes in the cape and tears in the costume towards the latter part of the game. The environments are gorgeously designed, too as stated before. Each area has its own distinction so you’ll never feel like you are running through the same area over and over again. Whether it be a building structure, an individual cell or the outside in the open, the atmosphere are striking to look at because of the amount of detail that has gone into all of Batman’s surroundings.