Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
So Batman: Arkham Asylum has finally hit the shelves, with the launch of the demo a couple of weeks before, fans were given a good idea of what to expect from the title, but how does the full game compare?
So where to start?
For those of you who have been living in a cave since the early 60's Batman is about a vigilante crime fighter who (for his own reasons) dresses like a giant Bat.
Batman has sworn to protect Gotham City and its inhabitants from the many villains and ne'er do wells that plague the dark streets and crooked alleyways of the night.
While there have been many memorable bad guys in the Batman series, none are so easily remembered as The Joker, those who have been keeping tabs on the movies and such may now start thinking of a balding croaky voiced actor most known for telling people that they "couldn't handle the truth" or more recently a fairly young guy most known for his adventures up a mountain where things were a bit different, remember folks what happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain.
For those of you still clueless as
to the identity of the joker,
it's this guy right here. . .
Oh. . . ermmm. . .
Wait. . . sorry wrong game,
my mistake it's actually
this guy, (that's more like it)
Batman and The Joker have had what can only be considered as a long running feud and in Arkham Asylum, The Joker has decided to end his war with Batman once and for all.
Moving on, for those of you who haven't played the demo or have been living in the aforementioned cave, the game starts with Batman driving The Joker direct to Arkham Asylum, there is no passing go, there is no $200, but then this is Batman we're talking about, a creature not known for excessive mercy.
Upon arriving at the loony bin, Batman gets the feeling that something is a little off, it's been too easy, The Joker must have a trick up his well-tailored purple sleeve.
And as luck would have it, the old B-man is right, as soon as The Joker steps into the facility, he starts in motion his current devious plot.
With a quick headbutt to the guard and a kick to the chest for the doctor, The Joker goes free!
But he doesn't run for the exit. . . he runs instead into the Asylum, luring Batman into a trap.
Ok, so that's the basic premise of the game without giving too much away. Suffice to say that the plot and script of the game have been written very well and this is only the start. . .
But how does the game play?
For those of you expecting to run in and start button mashing, you're going to be disappointed, why? Because this game actually has depth as well as a comic license, it's not to say that the game has no combat aspects, they are there in spades as well as the guys to fight, but it's not about charging in and saving the day; you are required to use your brains a little, certain enemies will cut you down within seconds unless you plan your attacks out a bit before hammering the square button.
Fighting in the game is a well planned out affair, you have your basic attacks (hammering square) but you also have to be on the lookout for counter-attack opportunities, when a thug gets close enough to attacking you have the option to hit the triangle button and hit them with a nice counter, it might not do a lot of damage but it allows you to add to your combo meter and avoids you taking a hit.
You might not normally care about a large amount of combos in other games, but in Batman: AA it's essential, each successful hit to the villains is worth it for the added exp (that's right I said it, experience points) that exp can be used to level up the skills and attacks of the Dark Knight.
For those of you that have played the demo of this game, did you enjoy the inverted takedowns? The extensive combo attacks? well if so, you're going to have to work for them in the full game, you start with very little in the way of skills, it's your basic punch/kick to start off with, but the upgrades are there, from the aforementioned inverted takedowns to things such as explosive Batarangs, remote control Batarangs, upgraded armour and more combo attacks.
When you are not beating seven shades of brown stuff out of the criminally insane, there are puzzles to solve and hidden pathways to discover, this is all accomplished with help from the new detective vision.
This nifty little trick allows the Bat to see around or through walls and even people, showing all and sundry as a bright blue skeleton, those enemies that are armed however show up in red instead, thereby making it easier to spot who needs to be taken out first.
The detective vision isn't only useful for that however, air conditioning grates glow a bright orange through those eyes, allowing the player to find hidden pathways or the various collectibles that are dotted around the levels, (these range from Riddler trophies to info points about the asylum).
Something missing from the arsenal of movements though is the ability to jump, not to worry though, running at a ledge will cause the caped crusader to jump automatically, he can even pull his cape out to allow for a small amount of gliding, believe me when I say that the inclusion of a jump button would have made little to no difference to the game, high up areas are still reachable thanks to the grappling hook, allowing you to clamber up on top of gargoyles, or even just to reach high ledges.
So that's how the game plays, but how does it look?
In a word, gorgeous.
Graphically, this game is stunning, everything has been given that polish to the point where you can't tell where the cutscenes end and the game begins, as an added touch the camera can be controlled a small amount while going through said cutscenes.
The character animation is flawless right down to the off-coloured teeth in The Jokers wide mouth, some characters have even received a makeover from their comic/cartoon persona, most notably in this department is The Joker's right-hand gal Harley Quinn
Harley has had a severe makeover, gone is the red and black spandex with additional jester hat, instead we have purple and black leather with the added items from a nurses uniform to turn her into the Asylum's nurse from hell.
Other characters to have received a makeover include Poison Ivy and Killer Croc, the latter looking something more like Godzilla's baby brother.
So we know it looks good, we know the gameplay is there, but how does it sound?
Pretty impressive actually, the background music is as you would expect from a Batman production, dark and moody when it needs to be, loud and energetic when fighting.
The main interest area of the audio in this game however is in the script; the original cartoon cast have been called in to lend their vocal talents to the characters once more, for fans of the original cartoons this couldn't be better, the script is well written and all voiceovers are given the polish you have come to expect from the Batman series. The Joker has been given some excellent one-liners during the few opening scenes and these may be missed on your initial play-through but the attention to detail and the addition of those lines just shows how much thought has been put into the whole game.
Overall this is a fantastic title, well-written with good production values. Every part of this title has been well implemented
and you could do a lot worse than drop some cash down on this game. With the exclusive PSN content allowing you to play as the Joker as well for challenges this is a must-have for any fan of the series.