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Batman: Arkham Asylum still stands tall month's later. Perfect for me and my older teen friends to rave about at college. Stealth to challenge even the recent Splinter Cell Conviction and Street Fighter like fighting combine with Rocksteady's lavish attention to the comics to create a great game.
Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year is out, so I thought I'd revisit it to remind myself why I found it so enjoyable. It was simply a game that I was unable to put down.
I've never been a big fan of super-heroes - comics, television or film. I know the genre exists as a form of escapism, but whenever I've picked up the latest offering from DC or Marvel I've never really 'got' the content. I guess mask-wearing, spandex-clad caped crusaders just aren't my cup of tea. It's not that I'm not fan of comic books or graphic novels in general, it's just that when I pick up the latest trade paperback it's always been one with more mature content, or realistic approach to the formula.
However, straight away I became immersed in Arkham Asylum's the game world. The opening sequence lays down the plot - Batman has apprehended The Joker and is taking him to Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane. Upon arrival he breaks free, ensuring that the inmates are now running the building. It's pretty predicable comic book stuff, and I didn't find overall plot to be particularly strong, but I was able to look past that because of the colour that the multitude of supporting characters bring to the game.
It's a real slow burn, which is something I really appreciate. After an initial cut scene, it switched to allow me control over the game. All I had to do was escort The Joker down to the bowels of the building. The process took place in real time and took about 15 minutes to complete, giving me plenty of time to soak in the gorgeous environment and really get a feel for the atmosphere. It also allowed me to experience the sublime vocal tones of Mark Hamill as he delivered pitch perfect quips as The Joker.
My favourite parts of Arkham Asylum were the stealth sections. Normally when I hear the word stealth I groan, as they tend to be tedious sequences that boil down to a frustrating amount of trial and error. But somehow Arkham manages to deliver the most satisfying stealth experience I've have had to date. I had a feeling of empowerment as Batman, during the stealth segments I felt as though I was The Dark Knight himself.
Arkham Asylum's Freeflow fighting system - easy to pick up but difficult to master.
The idea of toying with my enemies was something I've never really experienced before. I'm not sadist or anything, but when I was playing as Batman I found it immensely fun to hide in the rafters and slowly stalk my prey, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, before vanishing back into the shadows - a ghost.
As I began to pick off my enemies one by one, I switched to Detective Vision which allowed me to see their current heart rates. As their numbers dwindled their heart rate increased and they began to display nervous behavioural patterns. For example, one physically jumped when a burst of steam erupted from a pipe behind him, he then turned and began to fire his gun wildly into thin air, as I watched on from the other side of the room, quietly chuckling to myself.
When I wasn't dashing in and out of the shadows I was brawling enemies with Arkham Asylum's Freeflow fighting system - easy to pick up but difficult to master. As Batman I was able to pull off fantastically brutal and satisfying manoeuvres using only a few well timed button presses. I could of just frantically button mashed my way through these segments, but instead I opted to time my punches and counter incoming attacks which made the combat hugely rewarding.
Arkham Asylum definitely doesn't cater to very young teen gamers, which is something I can respect.
Arkham Asylum definitely doesn't cater to very young teen gamers, which is something I can respect. The game manages to throw in a few jump scares along the way, but also has slightly disturbing and unsettling undertones in some sections. In particular, the encounters with Scarecrow, a boss character who poisons Batman with Fear gas, resulting in hallucinations that are expertly executed and played with my mind as much as Batman's.
Rocksteady clearly have a huge affinity with the source material, as everything about the game is handled with great care and attention to detail. The game is absolutely littered with references and head-nods to Batman's expansive history. These do not get in the way or become tedious, in fact most of them are so subtle that I only became aware of there presence whilst actively looking up information on the game, post completion.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game that I absolutely adore, and if you haven't already played it I highly recommend you pick up a copy as soon as humanly possible.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: