on 07-09-2009 11:35 AM
This is my first review, so no slating!! Gameplay points are in green, storyline points in blue and visuals in red. Please comment to give me advice. Negative points very welcome!
There's no point hiding it, I'm a bit of a Batman fan. That doesn't mean much since "The Dark Knight", because almost everybody has seen and loved that film, which has created a huge increase in the number of Batman fans out there. You only need to look at avatars on forums to see how much Batman's fame has changed over the last 18 months. In the US, Batman has always been popular, but over here in the UK, Batman had fallen into an unforgiving obscurity that had left him to be seen as, pretty much, the old live action TV series. That's what Batman was seen as.
But ever since Nolan's "The Dark Knight", Batman'sdark side has been revealed. I mean, it was always there, but very few people actually knew about it. Arkham Asylum carries on from that, going beyond the dark psychological levels of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight", and starting to get a grip on the gritty, ruthless Batman (and the rest of Gotham's defenders) in the recent comic books.
So, that's the introduction over with!
If you've never played a Batman game before (and let's be honest, there's been no compelling factor to make you want to before now), then you won't completely understand the glimmer of hope that *was* Arkham Asylum. The previous games, despite being reasonably fun, were just games, with Batman as the playable character. You know what it was like back then, they were doing to video games what they've always done with sweets: "stick a different famous character on the packet, and it has a brand new target audience".
Wait, is this still the introduction?
What I'm trying to put over is the point that not only defines this game from the older Batman games, but what makes this game different to every single other super-hero game ever made. You see, you aren't playing the game as the character of Batman, but rather, you are playing the game AS BATMAN. Let me explain.
The entire game is completely based around the character of the Greatest Detective. Nothing in the game is based on anything else. The game is built up around this character, and that not only makes for a fantastic game that works perfectly, it also makes for a fantastic Batman story. If you haven't already heard, (which I am sure you have, unless you've been living in a cave, and not the batcave), the storyline is based around the Joker taking control of Gotham City's insane asylum, where all of Batman's most hardened enemies are being "treated". You play as Batman, trying to track down the Joker, and return the island to normal. This sort of storyline is perfect. It's completely self-inclusive, meaning that everything you need to know is in the game, and it doesn't really go beyond itself. You needn't know the first thing about the Batman storyline to fully enjoy the game.
So, how does Batman handle? Well, the game has been made to allow you to use both of Batman's finest attributes: his fighting skills and his detective skills. Let's look at the fighting first.
The game uses a revolutionary freeflow combat system. You have complete control over the battle, and yet the button controls are incredibly simple. You press square to attack (punch kick, spin and kick, etc. the system seems to chooses which move to do based upon the enemies position, meaning that you nearly always perform the exact move you want). Triangle allows you to counter your enemy's strikes, giving you the ability to block any damage, and turn the battle back round against your enemies. Circle performs a cape stun, where Batman spins, letting his cape strike enemies, confusing them for a few seconds. Double tapping X allows you to dive in any direction, or over the top of your enemy, giving you a few moments before they turn around in which to strike. There are other moves as well for combat, which allow you to take down enemies in one shot (once you've done a certain number of moves) and use some of Batman's gadgets. For every move you perform without stopping or being hit in between, you get an extra multiplier on your combo. This sounds easy enough, but trying to counter every enemy attack while fighting 9 enemies can get really rather troublesome. It's a great system that is so very easy to pick up, yet seriously difficult to master, and the learning curve is just so exceptional that you don't even notice it's there.
There's another type of combat which you meet fairly often throughout the game. If more than one of your enemies has a gun, then using the freeflow combat is complete suicide. In those situations, stealth is used.
The stealth moments of the game are easy to pick out. Basically, on your detective mode view (we're getting to that!) the enemies will appear red, and the room will usually be massive, with stone gargoyles above you. At these times, if an enemy spots you, all the other enemies will be alerted, and will all start firing at you. And you don't want that. Batman doesn't survive fighting armed men by blocking the bullets by hardened armour. He/you have to avoid being shot at altogether or you'll be dead in seconds. Generally, during each stealth section, you can get away with being seen once, MAYBE twice. That's it. And when you do, you run away, and that feels embarassing.
So, you have to sneak around, stick to shadows and out of reach areas, and silently sneaking up behind enemies, and taking them out. Or you could hang them from the gargoyles. Or you could just take them out directly. Or you could use Batman's array of gadgets to blast, batarang and cip wire your enemies to their impending... unconciousness (Batman doesn't kill. Remember that!) Your choice. It's these moments that really make the game fantastic for me. Plotting schemes to take out as many guards as possible without alerting others can be so much fun, especially as the style of this part of the game makes you desperate to try the more difficult ways, just to prove to yourself that you truly are like the Dark Knight himself.
As I mentioned previously there's also detective parts of the game. You have available to you a detective view, that allows you to see any objects of interest, or enemies, through walls or in the dark, or whatever. These parts of the game fit so well into the entire game that you will find yourself slipping in and out without any problem, and you will find yourself playing the game as Batman would. The detective mode is extremely useful, especially during the stealth moments of the game, and when you're looking for something in particular.
That brings me neatly to one of my other favourite parts of the game. The Riddler challenges. Now, the Riddler always seems like a very camp, rather childish character who. But this shows the true Riddler. He has hidden 240 puzzles around all parts of Arkham Asylum, ranging from objects which you must locate using riddle clues he gives you, Riddler trophies, which he's hidden in difficult to find places, and whole series of other challenges for you, including interview tapes of some of the main characters (of which The Riddler's features him making jokes about pulling legs off babies. The developers have gone to all extremes to prove to you that these villains are serious!). This sidequest is completely different to anything you have experienced before. It it not just something to do once you've finished the game. Somehow, probably by the range of different things to find, and the amusing vocal cutscenes you recieve after finding each one, the developers have managed to create the only treasure hunt style sidequest that I have ever WANTED to play. It's amazing, and experience alone can truly reveal to you the full extent of how immersive this side quest is.
Not to say that the main storyline isn't incredible! Far from it. I once read a review of Metal Gear Solid 4 that talked about it being one of 2008's blockbuster movies. They were right, of course, but if MGS4 recieved that title for 2008, Batman undoubtedly recieves that title for 2009. The storyline is deeper, more emotional (if emotions are possible with Batman) and even more character driven than MGS4. There's a much greater range of different methods of play, only some of which I've outlined here. There is no way you could get bored of playing this game, because every minute is different. The storyline is fresh, and unpredictable, and the gameplay resembles this.
The controls for the game are also amazing. They take some getting used to (to start with, Batman feels as stiff and slow as your Home avatars unless you run by holding X, which is something you pick up early on. As I mentioned before, the combat controls are perfect, and I cannot think of one thing to complain about the controls. I actually cannot.
The graphics are just perfect for this particular game. Everything feels dark enough, without making it difficult to see. The only complaint I have here is the mouth syncing, which, to be honest, is pretty bad, but in all truthfulness, does not, by any means, take anything away from the game.
The characters are loyally reproduced. When I say that, I do not mean that they are exactly the same as they are in the comics. Every character has been redesigned to some degree. Take the Joker as an example. He fits every single description of the Joker you will ever read, but he is perfectly designed within the game to be unique, and cleverly fitting to the game. Other characters, such as The Scarecrow, have been alterred more than others. But every single one of them has been designed to fully represent their personal nature within an insane asylum.
The game isn't without its horror moments either. Despite not being advertised as a particularly scary game, the developers are clearly trying to psychologically scare you. For example, at some point in the game, Harley Quinn (The Joker's girlfriend, who originally worked as his doctor in the asylum, before he drove her insane) releases a large number of insane "lunatics" which roam the entire island. Despite being the weakest enemies in the game (one punch knocks them to the ground, a second strike will knock them unconcious) they have a distinct knack for jumping on you, without alerting you in any form.
And that's just the start. Without revealing too much to you, there's multiple points in the game where you come across the scarecrow and his fear gas. You have hallucinations, before entering his nightmare world. Some of these hallucinations can be really quite disturbing, and can really start to get to you.
As for the challenge modes, in all seriousness (why so serious?), I didn't touch them properly before completing the game. I didn't want to. I wanted to play the storyline, but once I had finished, they perfectly filled in the longing I had to play more of the game.
Right, here's my break down of scores:
Sound (music and sound effects): 9/10
General Gameplay: 10/10
Difficulty range: 10/10
Replayability: 9/10 (until DLC hits, which we're hoping will add a lot more to the game!)
Reviewers tilt: 10/10 ( if anyone's unsure, this allows me (the reviwer) to tilt the score in the direction I feel. Basically, a summary of my views)
Overall score: 95/100
For the latest news and updates on what is happening in the PlayStation community, head over to our Announcements & Events forum. To post a message, you will need to Sign In to the Forums using your PLAYSTATION®Network Sign In ID and password. If you do not yet have a PSN account, just click here to register.
Website ©2013 Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
All content, game titles, trade names and/or trade dress, trademarks, artwork and associated imagery are trademarks and/or copyright material of their respective owners. All rights reserved. [more info]