When it was announced that a brand new Batman video game was coming out with no direct ties to any feature film, the fandom went crazy. Batman has such an insane following ever since The Dark Knight came out that it actually kind of makes me want to throw up a little bit. Not in a mean way, but seriously. And with a Batman Begins game but no Dark Knight game, people were somewhat confused as to when they’d get to play the Dark Knight again. Add to the fact that acclaimed Batman writer Paul Dini was penning the script and that in the first press release in Game Informer, it was hailed as similar to Bioshock. PLUS – KEVIN CONROY IS BATMAN AND MARK HAMMIL IS JOKER! AMAZING! So all in all, Arkham Asylum was an exciting moment for a lot of people.
That is, except for me.
Now – people who read here on a daily basis will know that I do my best to be overly positive in my comic reviews. When I dislike something, I get cruel, but all in all I’m a pretty positive guy. This is only for comics. In everything else, I’m really harsh. I tore Zack Snyder’s Watchmen to shreds and can get pretty raw when it comes to reviewing video games. So when Arkham Asylum started getting rave reviews, I pounced on the opportunity to be the one to tear this game down and highlight all it’s negative aspects. So prepare yourself for one of the less starry-eyed reviews of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Allright, let’s start with the basics: plot! In case, you know, you SOMEHOW follow a comic blog and don’t know the basic plot of one of the most hotly anticipated titles of the year. Batman is bringing the Joker back to Arkham after defeating him yet another time, and as he brings Joker in, everything goes wrong. Of course. It turns out that the Joker wanted to be in Arkham all along, and he has a wild night in store for Batman. As prisoners from Blackgate’s most recent Arkham transfer are set free and the current Arkham patients start running wild, Batman has to fight his way through all of the island in order to find the Joker and stop him before whatever nefarious deed he has is unleashed. But that’s not all! Harley Quinn is working behind the scenes to make sure everything goes smoothly, Killer Croc has broken out of his cell after recently being re-admitted to the Asylum, Mr. Zsasz (if you remember him) is going nuts, and Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Bane are also waiting for you to have a little fun. Oh, and the Riddler has hacked into the channel you use to talk to Oracle and taunts you with riddles. It’s going to be a fun night.
So that’s the basics. Does it pan out? Kinda… Let’s put it this way: What Arkham Asylum attempts is loftier than it can achieve at the end of the day. We have a large group of villains here, and when it comes down to it, there are three boss fights. That’s not an understatement: the only boss fights are Bane, Poison Ivy, and Joker. You’ll go up against Zsasz, but it’ll end in under a minute. You’ll get chased by Croc, but don’t think you actually have to fight him. Harley Quinn? She is ultimately just a tease. And Scarecrow… I don’t even know how to describe Scarecrow, but I wouldn’t call it a boss fight, that’s for sure. So you’ll be running around Arkham for 10 hours, and you only get to fight 3 Batman villains? Really? On top of that, I spent the entire game fighting with just two buttons: square for punch, and L1 for batarang (I played on the PS3). In most fights I didn’t even use L1. Seriously – I just would hit square and then make Batman move around. That’s it. On top of that, all you do is run through a linear map, solve very simple puzzles (also known as: where do I shoot my batgadget next to get through? You can also use Batman’s special visions to solve puzzles. In fact, in the first one, you use your batvision to follow traces of alcohol in the air to find a perp. I’m not kidding – you follow puffs of alcoholic air residue. Let’s be serious here, that’s just ridiculous.Continued below
Now, this isn’t to say there is nothing good about the game. Sure, it’s fun to play as Batman. And there are some really creative parts! In fact, one part left me confused and ultimately amused (it’s about halfway through and involves a bit of fear). There are a lot of cool references to Batman comics, and the Riddler’s riddles tie into it very well. Mark Hammil shines as the Joker, albeit a bit darker than he was in the cartoon, and Kevin Conroy once again proves why he is the voice of Batman to a generation (and be sure to check him out in the upcoming Superman/Batman movie, Public Enemies). On top of that, this is probably the only good Batman game to exist ever. It quite possibly will be the only good Batman game to ever exist ever. However, that doesn’t excuse it’s overall weakness. Take away the Batman, take away the Joker, and what do you have? You have a cookie cutter action adventure game that is exactly the same as all the games like this on the market. Think Infamous, Prototype, Devil May Cry, Prince of Persia, God of War… the only thing that makes this game special is that it’s Batman. However, this game only makes you fight 8 different villains! 3 boss fights and 4 different basic villains and 1 type of plant. That’s just bogus no matter what way you look at it.
This is not the best superhero game ever as some people claim. The best superhero game ever was Spider-Man 2 because it showed you exactly what it was like to be Spider-Man and gave you enough freedom around the city to really have some fun. What Arkham Asylum is is a fun game to rent, play for a couple days, and then return without ever thinking about it again. This is precisely what I’ve done – I played it, I had my fun, but I doubt I’ll ever play this game again. In fact, I know that there really is no reason to. There are certain games that you buy even if you know you’ll never play again, but this isn’t one. You’ll have your fun as Batman and then you’ll move on and go back to the comics, which are by far superior. So all in all, Batman makes a fun game, but save your $60.
Pros: the only good Batman game ever?, great graphical design, great set design for Arkham, amazing voice cast
Cons: horrible combat, worse boss battles, tedious fight system, repetitive cookie cutter gameplay
Final Verdict: Rent