Batman Arkham Asylum Review

angry_batman-wideSo, how do I follow up getting a new system?  By reviewing three titles that are not only very multiplatform friendly, but I had already played previously.  And this one is no different as am I here with another critically acclaimed game, but I went through it about three years ago and it was actually a title that helped spark my interest in reviewing as something about it just seemed off and the 16-year-old who would eventually call himself Electric Nigma didn’t know how.  Yet I believe I do as of now, so I’m going to do it now…  Also, I wanted to go through the game on PC, as I will with many others.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC(reviewed), Mac
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment

Arkham Asylum begins innocuously enough, Batman captured the Joker for the Xth time , but as he was sealing him away in the dated catacombs on the game’s titular location, things go awry as this was all part of a greater plan the Joker devised, which can be best summarized as creating an army of mutant cronies who have a growth serum injected in them in order to smash Gotham into bits.  However, just from that summary something about the plot doesn’t sit well with me, particularly due to how the Joker doesn’t seem to be the sort who would take over anything with an army of brutish hulk-like masses of muscle that could probably still be taken down with a bullet to the head.  Instead it very much feels like a justification devised for the game itself as it needs to not only have a reason to keep the Batman on a sizable island filled with a handful of iconic villains and a few hundred thugs who share twelve models, but have more diversity in the combat than just three flavors of henchmen.2014-05-02_00002

As the story goes on, the stakes are raised and the entire island is drenched in plantlife, the game very much came across as confused as to what they should do in order to escalade things in terms of gameplay other than having more dirt stupid muscleheads who are defeated by tricking them into running into a wall and then punching them a bit.  While the Poison Ivy boss battle, which went so far as to have clumps of spores act as big glowing projectiles is acceptable if a little on the nose, I doubt I need to mention how off putting the final boss battle was in terms of sheer theme.  To the point where I was actually glad when the game glitched past a cutscene and into the final boss battle, but merely left the final boss to stand and do nothing.

In fact, quite a few contrivances litter the storyline, such as how Batman reaches a point where he cannot get passed a gap, so he decides to call in his remote controlled plane to crash through a glass window in order to give him a zipline shooting device.  An odd choice of decision, even if this weren’t a very exploration and secret heavy experience that I would not classify as Metroidvania as every discoverable only provides experience points.  Or how the only place a certain plant can be found is within the sewers because the game had previously foreshadowed a battle with Killer Croc, which resulted in a battle equivalent to hitting a dog with a newspaper before getting bored and kicking him down some stairs.2014-05-02_00010

Yet such a scenario is very much a minor detail in terms of the gameplay the title boasts, all of which is tied to moving along a series of closed environments, which actually left a lot to be desired.  From the camera position while walking to the speeds Batman has access to being either walk or run, the simple act of moving around the environment didn’t feel quite right.  As if Batman were far bulkier and static for the amount of wandering around environments one would do with the amount of exploration the game encourages to player to embark on.  Yet things do change notably when going through the combat, which gained a certain degree of imitation over the past few years with its simple interface and ability to express a large degree of flare.  For the majority of the time, the simple X to strike, Y to counter, B to stun and A to leap over enemies interface works rather well, even if the latter two functions are not needed nearly as much as the former.

That may sound overly simple, but either I am just really tripe at maintaining a steady string of perfection, or the act of managing large quantities of less than visually appealing goons is harder than one would assume, as I often grew cocky in my abilities, resulting in a lost combo and waiting for the blue lightning bolts to appear over a nogoodnik’s head.  Even then, the sense of combative flow works nicely with the use of slowdown, and the camera keeps things clear for the most part.  At least until the game throws in one or potentially two of the brute enemies, which is when it becomes something of a cluster as maintaining any sort of combo in those fights would be impressive to say the least.2014-05-03_00018

But the Batman is not all about punching, and the predator sections more or less address that  by giving you a room with guards who can always be viewed due to detective vision which, as many have already pointed out, had no downside tied to its use aside from a monochrome color pallette.  However, through every possible manipulation of C4, hiding under grates, or just waiting over corners and stunning guards with a batarang, the majority of the time you can take care of most gun wielding cronies by hanging on top of gargoyles, waiting for one to go underneath, stringing him up, and repeat as the other guards scatter.  I do find the concept of experimentation with this mode to be enjoyable, yet due to the issue with movement feeling a bit too stiff for me to have much confidence in my ability to make Batman flee without getting a butt filled with bullets.2014-05-02_00017

Actually , the movement feels substantially better for stealth than it does for the hunting of collectables, which the game goes all out with.  Adding references up the wazoo through hidden touches in the scenery that could either be deduced through knowledge of the comics, or just by mashing RB at anything that looked particularly interesting in the meticulously detailed environment.  Not that there were enough of those to fill the 240 secret slots the game has, as it includes about a hundred trophies placed by the riddler after he apparently convinced somebody to sneak into ancient catacombs and forge hang gliders in order to test the wit held by Batman, even though he would theoretically not care and simply focus on saving the lives of others, rather than going through older areas in order to use his beefiness to pull down a wall, thus proving his intellect.  I actually am not oppose to the collectathon the game inspires, but the pacing of it seems off, especially when certain routes are blocked at points in the game for not reason other than an excuse for backtracking.  Though, thanks to a map detailing the locations of nearly every item and a catalog of interesting dialog from the antagonists, the threshold of obnoxiousness was something I did not reach, and not because I played the game before as I remembered next to none of the secrets’ locations.2014-05-02_00007

I do, however, believe that in due time the game’s level of visual acceptableness will be reached in a few years.  Not due to how it lacks well constructed environments that either Rocksteady or an outsourced group placed plenty of effort into, but the manner that the 3D character models look.  While certain main characters are given a far less time weary look, so much of the game looks grimey and waxy that it was something of a shock to look back at it after a mere five years.  As whatever artstyle was envisioned by the concept artist, assuming they did the examples of character art shown in the game, seemed to have been bogged down in packed in textures the team did not wish to devote resources into replacing.  Or maybe WB Interactive thought it would be more marketable.2014-05-03_00029

I would not go so far as to call Arkham Asylum bad, or even incompetent in any area, but after going through just long enough to almost be justified in another assessment, the game came across as meticulously crafted, giving detail and attention in just about every area, it’s just that there were some fundamental issues that no amount of polishing and refinement could have fixed without a visit back to the drawing board being made as.  Still, it was an enjoyable experience I would recommend, even though I have a very strong suspicion that the game’s signs of aging poorly have already become apparent.

Solid (7.5/10)
The title is certainly good, however there are one too many nagging hiccups or missteps for the faults to not be easily pushed aside.  While enjoyable, it may be lacking in many areas, or just not be that spectacular.

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