This shouldn’t be good. In fact, this shouldn’t have ever even been made. This game defies the industry. This game is an abomination. This game is a licensed game of a long running franchise, based on a hugely successful graphic novel. This game does something it shouldn’t do.
This game is outstanding.
From it’s opening cut scene, this game establishes one very important thing. This is one for the fans. It doesn’t care about backstory or, introducing a load of awful new characters or locations. It sticks to it’s guns, and it does it well.
For all those who haven’t experienced the Batman universe before, shame on you. Recent Batman lore (forget anything to do with Robin) is dark, depressing and just gorgeous. It’s Gothic to it’s core, and if you’ve ever seen any of the most recent films (Batman Begins or the Dark Knight) or read any of the recent comics (Arkham Asylum, Joker, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke) then you know exactly what I’m talking about, and if I told you that this game is just as good as ALL of them, what would you say?
Arkham Asylum throws you straight into the action following a beautiful little opening section in which you and a group of guards escort the Joker into the depths of the intensive treatment ward. Straight away, you just know your playing something special. First off, it uses the Unreal Engine, which is perfect for the gritty world that is portrayed. Secondly, Batman handles like a dream. The controls are flawless, the combat inspired. Within four button taps, you could have grounded four thugs, one being with your Batarang. Thirdly, the voice acting is superb. Mark Hamill returns to play the Joker (which is my all time favourite version. Hamill’s performance is superb in representing the Joker as a twisted psychotic with a killer sense of humour). Batman is also perfectly cast. Lastly? The plotline is perfect, in that it’s simplicity is a breath of fresh air and it’s something we’re all comfortable with. The Joker takes over Arkham, you have to stop him. Do you need to know anymore?
But the real shining star of this epic, is of course the villains. The Joker, as mentioned before, steals the show but that’s not to say that his supporting players are simply overlooked. Rocksteady studios have chosen a small group of villains that slot perfectly within the story. There’s Bane, Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow are all running loose and causing havoc in their own little way. Again, there’s nothing new about these characters. They’ve been left unaltered (apart from a few inspired costume changes) and are perfectly presented. Not only that, but all characters not present, are referenced all over Arkham (The Penguins umbrella is in a glass case, Mr. Freeze’s cell. In fact, it’s part of the game to find all these, cleverly called “The Riddler’s Challenges”). Personally, I found the scarecrows sections to be incredible. Subtly lodged within certain sections, you find yourself slowly descending into Batmans darkest fears without even realising it. It’s only until the camera goes wonky, or when something absolutely insane happens like suddenly Batman turns into a younger version of himself (with you still in control) crying over the corpses of his dead parents.
All in all, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Arkham Asylum is a damn good game. If you’re a fan of Batman, buy it now. If you’re not… then well maybe you should look into some of the other stuff before you pick this up but take my word for it, you will not be disappointed. If I had been clever and bought this when it had came out, I think it may have just had enough potential to give Uncharted 2 a run for it’s money.
Now that’s saying something.