Batman Arkham Asylum

Over the Christmas period there’s usually some spare time between the Turkey and drink to get some gaming in. This year, with the PS3 purchase just pre Christmas, there were some great games to pick up on classic/best seller and therefore some nice cheap deals.

I actually ended up buying a whole tonne of games – I went down the best games for PS3 and got the AAA titles. In fact I picked up too much and I just haven’t played them. They will wait. However, I did pick up a copy of Batman, Arkham Asylum for my Xbox 360 and I’ve completed it. Played it straight through.

I haven’t touched any multiplayer, I couldn’t even tell you if there is such a thing in the game! But it’s another example of a developer proving that there is still life in the single player market. It’s up there with the Bioshock for me.

The game kicks off with the Joker being re-incarcerated into the Arkham Asylum. It doesn’t take long before you discover that this is very much part of Jokers plan and he’s masterminded an inside job to take over the Asylum by force.

There’s not a fantastic amount more to the story to be honest! You spend the game working towards taking back the Asylum. There are some distinct phases to the game and the early section drips in the game mechanics on a gradual learning curve. Nicely paced and well judged.

The game mechanics themselves are nice and varied. Well sorted and offer just the right amount of contextual buttons alongside skill combos. The gameplay itself is one of discovery, problem solving and action/beat’em up. I would judge that they come along in equal measure. The Asylum is split into 3 broad, large, outside areas and these are sub-divided with buildings, from the mansion to the medical building to the holding cells. All the areas and the graphics in general are realised with a dark edgy feel. Everything looks nice and together and its another case of there being a strong and coherent artistic style and it really pays off. The unreal engine is powerful and this game really maximises its strong points.

The game goes through distinct phases as well. It seems to get darker the more you play and as the story unfolds the environments also take radical twists and turns. Batman himself also changes through the game, with the effects of tussles and altercations leaving his suit torn and his cape ripped. Not every game takes the time to add these nice little touches but it really makes a difference when they are there.

If I was playing through the game again, I’d spend more time on the discovery aspects in parallel to the story. The Riddler has left a tonne of trophies to find all around the differing areas, in hidden, hard to reach spots. It’s very satisfying working out how to get them all and is a game long pursuit of it’s own. I finished the main story and then went back through all the areas once more time to get every last trophy and unlock. Had I done more of this through the main game, it would have felt more balanced.

The game also throws in some great set pieces and different gameplay styles. Whether it’s avoiding the glowing stare of the Scarecrow using shadows to hide in or areas of the map where you can’t use your ever faithful grappling hook and have to revert to the games free-running style mechanic. It’s varied and keeps interest all the way through. You have a nice selection of gadgets and gizmos that gradually unlock through the game. These new toys are sometimes needed in order to get to other areas of the maps. Areas you’ve noticed earlier in the game are sometimes unreachable until you have the correct tool to get to them.

If I was going to criticise anything, it would be that the unreal engine doesn’t do people as well as environments. Don’t get me wrong, the character models are stunning and extremely detailed, however, I always feel that they are a little too shiny. Occasionally, the third person perspective also means that Batman obscures what you trying to look at but again, this never really hampers and having the lead character on screen in a single player game is great and adds that movie edge to proceedings.

The fact that you can pick this game up on classics is excellent. It’s an AAA title with a relatively small price tag. I’ve seen it going for just a few pounds on PC via Steam but I thought that the XBox control implementation was perfect and am glad that I plumped for the console version.

If you’ve got some time to kill, like single player games and haven’t yet picked up this one, then you’ve missed out on of the best. It’s not long before Arkham City, which is now an essential purchase for me. If they can re-create half of the interest and enjoyment of this, then it will be another excellent game.