As I sit down to write this review I am in a little bit of shock. I don’t think that anyone wanted this game to be good more than me, though not even I could have imagined that it would be such as masterpiece. As someone who plays just about everything that comes out, its hard to find a game that essentially does it all but Batman: Arkham Asylum pulls it off beautifully. After finishing Batman: Arkham Asylum, I had to seriously reevaluate my Top 10 and Top 5 games of all time, this game made at least one of those list, but before I tell you which one, let me tell you why.
Batman: Arkham Asylum starts off with Batman having “captured” the Joker for what seems like the millionth time and he is returning him to Arkham Island, home of Arkham Asylum. After escorting the Joker the majority of the way to confinement, Batman is informed that he won’t be allowed to physically go any further because he might upset some of the more violent inmates(many of whom he probably put there), so he is told he can watch on closed circuit television. Within what seems like minutes of Batman breaking away from the guards escorting Joker, Joker escapes and kills them and then taunts Batman to come and get him which Batman quickly obliges. The story in Batman: Arkham Asylum is beautifully written with each part building on the next. There are several subplots going on in the story, but it never gets to the point where it dilutes from the main story. Over the course of the game Batman encounters in some form or fashion several of his arch nemesis including Bane, Poision Ivy, Killer Croc, and Scarecrow and the battles that ensue are both physically and mentally challenging for the player.
There are really two main gameplay components in Batman: Arkham Asylum, combat and detective mode.
When Eidos announced that the combat system in Batman would be only one button some gamers thought that meant that it would somehow degrade the combat experience, it doesn’t. Through the one attack button, square on the PS3, Batman is able to pull of a variety of combos that include kicks, punches and throws to totally destroy his opponents. While there is only one actual attack button, players will come to rely heavily on two other accompanying skills, counter and evade. To be quite honest, counter should be considered another attack button and is just as important if not more important than Batman’s primary attack button. The reason that counter, executed by pressing the triangle button when applicable, is so important is because the majority of the time Batman will be outnumbered usually between 5 or 10 to 1 and if you don’t learn to effectively counter you won’t make it in this game. So through the use of attacking and countering you can really utilize the free flow combat system to do some very cool things, but to fully reach your true potential and excel in Batman: Arkham Asylum you need to learn to use Batman’s evade technique which can be triggered by double-tapping X or double-tapping X+a direction. There are certain enemies that you can’t directly counter and therefore evade becomes essential. By mastering those three techniques, you will become your enemies worst nightmare.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the combat in Batman: Arkham Asylum, I may have enjoyed the detective mode side of things even more. Detective mode allows you to do all sorts of cool things like track people by getting their DNA profile or some other identifying attribute of theirs. It actually becomes quite an effective way to get to an objective and while you can still press select to drop in a map, by activating detective mode you can navigate around Arkham Island, which is huge with a fair amount of ease. While you can do all those things with Detective Mode, the most important thing you will use it for is situational awareness. With Detective Mode activated, when Batman enters an area he will not only be able to see where enemies are through a sort of X-ray vision, but he will also see how many there are and whether they are armed or unarmed. These bits of information are vital for Batman because it determines how he will engage his enemies, since Batman is not indestructible he never directly engages armed assailants( if you do you will probably die) and there by knowing if they are armed he can look for alternate attack strategies and there is always an alternate approach against armed enemies.
In Batman: Arkham Asylum you can truly engage in real stealth activity by using “vantage points” to assess the situation and decide the best way to take out each enemy and in a room full of armed enemies this is important. Not only are armed enemies tough because they have weapons, but because the enemy A.I. is incredibly smart. They use advanced search patterns, move in packs of two or three, and cover each others back a lot of the time so you have to divide an conquer a lot of times because direct engagement would be suicide. The bottom line is is that you have all the tools to make sure that no matter how many enemies your up against, it should be them who feels like their in trouble because..THEY are.