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I’ve been looking forward to writing a review for this game since I first placed it into my PS3 on Friday (yes, yes I know you guys across the pond, had already been playing it for a few days before). The anticipation and hype surrounding the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum has been unprecedented; it achieved what no other game to date has by getting a 96%+ score across the board from all major computer gaming magazines, sites and national newspapers helping achieve a Guinness World Record.
There are so many great points to this game ranging from the story too the look and feel. Every little detail has been painstakingly achieved resulting in (for me), one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had to date. I’m not just saying this as a Batman fan; a number of none comic book friends who have purchased the game have also told me how much they’ve loved the game.
I’m that pumped by the game, I just don’t know where to start this review from! I think the best place is the style of the game. The characters, the environments are separate from what we as Batman fans are use to. Yes the game is inspired by Arkham Asylum, but we’ve never been this close to it other than Grant Morrison’s original graphic novel, the island is in itself one of its own characters and with every will in the world, no matter how much you know a back story to a villain, you will feel that little closer to them in this game. I totally understand why Warner Bros. never commissioned a game for the Dark Knight as it would have destroyed what the team at Rocksteady where trying to accomplish. I feel this will easily become one of those separate recognisable worlds Batman inhabits along with the TBAS world, Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins universe. Even though the game has Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their animated roles, it just helped fans like me connect to the game even more than I’d hoped for. The overall look borderlines on real/comic, now by real I’m not talking real world Dark Knight but the characters are based on real people definitions dressed in a comic world but looking natural and grounded. Even Killer Croc and Bane (who are the more notably larger out of proportion), look as if they could exist after they’ve been experimented on. The colouring is also very dynamic with an eerie glow, and filled with dark greens and reds, which helps immensely during the botanical gardens scenes with Poison Ivy.
Now the story is by far what makes this game so appealing. Written by legendary Batman writer Paul Dini, the story placement and environment locations fit seamlessly. I did originally wonder how setting a game on an island would make game play last but trust me the island is huge and each building is so great to look at you sometime forget your actually playing a game with different tasks to complete. From what most of us have seen on the trailers, Batman has captured the Joker and on his way to Arkham, once your in the building the story become interactive straight away with a limited game play piece that enables you to help escort the Joker through the doors of the asylum. Here we get to understand that Blackgate prison has had a major fire and the prisoners have been transferred to Arkham this explaining the vast amount of muscle on the island, there is also a small power cut during the lift sequence (this helps explain how Harley Quinn and her men are already in the facility). One cool aspect of this sequence is the appearance of Killer Croc, who is being transferred to his cell, this setting up the fact that you’re going to have to fight him sooner or later in the game.
Now the game moves straight on to the escape and the hunt begins. The story is huge with various side plots incorporated into the game but in no way do these become intrusive or distract you from your tasks. The main part is first chasing the Joker while rescuing various employees one being Dr. Penelope Young (who has been experimenting on inmates in the asylum), and then moving onto rescuing Commissioner Gordon.
Now before I carry on I have to mention one of my favourite aspects of the game and that’s the introduction of the Scarecrow. While chasing the commissioner Batman is exposed to the Scarecrow’s fear gas and enters the Asylum morgue. Here we see Batman’s dead parents and the room starting to slant and become all distorted, as you move in the room all the walls start falling away and a massive Scarecrow is revealed spinning around while massive beams of light emanate from his eyes as he looks for you to appear. The object is to sneak around him while hiding behind walls from his beaming eyes. The imagery is literally out of this world and I could play this level over and over again. As you get to the top Batman pushes the Bat signal into Scarecrows body and the nightmare sequence ends… I was very happy when this type of level occurs again in the game adding skeletons to the mix!!!
Finally you get to rescue Commissioner Gordon from Harley Quinn in one of a number of predator tasks, but straight away you’re thrown into fighting with Bane. This is where the story becomes apparent and the reason Joker has infiltrated Arkham. Basically Dr. Young has been experimenting in a new type of Venom titled “Titan”, a new strain stronger than Bane’s normal Venom serum and the Joker has been secretly employing Dr. Young to work on the serum not telling her what it’s actually for. After she discovers why she’s doing the work she refuses to help instigating Joker’s need to get back on the island to finish the formula to create his super army.
It now becomes a race to take down Joker and his men before all hell breaks lose. As the game progresses Poison Ivy is exposed to the serum by the Joker creating a Titan Ivy and also trying to create an anti-toxin to counter the affects of the Titan serum (this means entering Killer Crocs lair). There is an amazing twist at the end, which I will keep spoiler free but after what is an amazing gaming experience become well worth the wait.
As I mentioned before, there are various side stories mainly rescuing the asylum employee’s. Every time a story element is introduced the game play changes, which is evenly distributed throughout the game from full on combat fighting to predator missions and detective solving. This mainly consists of scanning the area for trace clues. One example is tracing Commissioners pipe tobacco to see where the guards have taken him.
Also the Riddler makes contact over Batman’s com link. Now this is very cleverly done. You can either search the room for Riddler trophies, which are littered throughout the game, or before you enter a certain area a small riddle appears on screen. Some are very cryptic, other very obvious. All that is required is to scan items to unlock the riddle and receive bonuses like character bios and weapons upgrades. What I love about this aspect of the game is you don’t have to actually do them. You can simply ignore and carry on with the missions. I think this is more of a fan thing the guys at Rocksteady have done to make the game experience even better for the comic/Batman fan base.
Separate from the game are the challenge maps. Every time you complete large area’s or unlock Riddler trophies new challenge areas are opened. These range from completing the level again but you have to achieve key points in order to get the maximum score. If you’re lucky enough to have this on PS3 then you also get to play the Joker in the same unlocked areas only from a different angle. I managed to get the Scarecrow pack so fighting skeletons was just awesome as well.
One last thing I wanted to mention was the evolution of Batman throughout the game. As the story progresses it undoubtedly gets harder. Now to combat this Batman equips himself with various new gadgets and his fighting ability increases. What Rocksteady have done is incorporate this equipment during story and not straight of the cuff, this keeps game play fresh throughout killing any repetitiveness and also make playing Batman fantastic. Predator moves like corner hiding while throwing Batarangs is fun, using your explosive gel to destroy walls thugs are hiding behind is awesome and pulling guards down from ledges while sneaking makes you feel like Batman himself.
I can’t say enough good things about this game and can’t wait to carry on playing, to look for all the Riddler trophies and solving the riddles. I’ve started playing again and the experience is different, as you’ve learned new skills in the previous game it makes doing this more fun in a different way.
It is money well spent and can’t wait for Rocksteady to make a follow up!!!
Gotham Knights Online Score: 5/5
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