Monday, December 28, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3) review

The Joker attacks Gotham City's Mayor's office but is captured by Batman, who escorts him to Arkham Asylum. Due to a recent fire at Gotham City's Blackgate Prison, a large number of sane prisoners have been temporarily relocated to Arkham, many of whom are in the Joker's gang. As Batman accompanies the guards taking the Joker inside, the asylum's security is overridden by Harley Quinn, allowing the Joker to escape and take control of the facility as he enlists the Blackgate prisoners as well as other rogue characters imprisoned at the asylum. Batman quickly realizes that these events, including the Blackgate fire, have all been part of Joker's plan and that the Joker had bribed a security guard to help him escape.

You start the game by escorting The Joker, while he's strapped with a straight jacket. During this intro, you have full control over Batman, you'll hear The Joker talking and joking, this is a great way to introduce the player to the game. The Joker is somehow able to get out of his straight jacket and escapes with his henchmen into the asylum. Now it's up to you to take control of The Dark Knight and hunt down The Joker inside of Arkham Asylum.

This is a very beautiful video game with a lot of atmosphere, you really feel like your inside a mental institution, it's a scary place. The world of Arkham is brought to life in high detail. The character design is superb with fantastic re-imaginings of some classic characters. When you die, expect whichever villain you're currently facing to taunt you. Even the smallest details aren't ignored, from the clues the Riddler leaves around to the scrapes and tears on Batman's costume. It's amazing how big and free the game feels, you can basically go anywhere in the Asylum and everything is in great graphics with a lot of detail, everything from the creepy cells to Gotham City, that you can see on the horizon.

The sound and music are great, everything from the classic Batman theme song, played in a very dark way, to the great voice actors. The Joker with his giddy personality to his high pitched laughter, which is done by Mark Hamill and is the only person any Batman game or cartoon should use. All the voice acting from the animated series was phenomenal, and they brought nearly everyone they could for the game. It especially makes a difference with characters like Harley Quinn, who was originally created for the cartoon and only later became one of the most popular villains in the comic.

You play this game as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game, you have a great view of both Batman and the environment. You have full control of Batman, you can walk, run, sneak and do other maneuvers. Batman is a trained martial artist, and this is the first game where you really feel that. This game has a great combat system, called Freeflow, it's easy to learn, but it requires great timing. You're using three primary buttons: attack, stun and counter, which you have to combine into a combo. By chaining regular and counter-attacks in combos, the player can build up a special experience point multiplier, which increases further if timed well. If you get a certain number of combos, the player then has access to an additional special attack that can quickly take down a single foe. I also like that you can sneak up to enemies from behind and do a silent take down. When you're up on a gargoyle, you can hang upside down and take an enemy up and strap him to a rope so that he hangs from the gargoyle, screaming for help.

Batman has access to a lot of gadgets that you can use in the game. Gadgets include the Batarang, an explosive compound sprayer and detonator, grappling gun, and a frequency scanner that can be used to overload security panels. Some of these can be used both during normal exploration of the game world as well as in combat. You can unlock more gadgets with experience points that you'll get when you fight enemies and destroy Joker teeth. New upgrades include new fighting moves, stronger armor and improved and new gadgets.

You will also have access to Detective Mode. It's some sort of X-ray technology to discover clues and determine enemy locations and armaments. While fun and very well-done, the player will find themselves playing most of the game in Detective Mode. You can turn it on and off any time you want, it's a great tool when you have to make strategic decision, to see where the enemies are.

For the Batman fans out there, they'll be pleased to know that Batman: Arkham Asylum takes most of its cues from both the comic and Batman: The Animated Series. They even used Paul Dini, the writer of most of the cartoon episodes among numerous Batman comics, to write the plot for the game. The touch of someone who knows and loves Batman is obvious right from the start. For the hardcore fans, the designers incorporated various Riddler challenges that dig deep into the Batman mythology. Find the clues and unlock bios and interview taps with characters throughout Batman's history.

Overall: Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best Batman game so far. With fantastic voice acting, gorgeous graphics, and a well written plot, makes this a fantastic video game that everyone must have, not just the Batman fans, but everyone who enjoys great and cool video games. Buy it or you will miss out on this year's best video game!

Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3) XXXXX [5/5].

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