Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

It is safe to assume that almost everyone knows who Batman is. The “super” hero without any super powers but plenty of gadgets at his disposal, the Dark Knight is a comic book icon. However, Batman has never had an iconic videogame to follow in his footsteps. Until now, that is.

The creators of this amazing game are Eidos and Rocksteady, who have set it in Arkham Asylum, the Batman universe’s iconic insane asylum that has housed any and every major villain the Caped Crusader has encountered. Combining Batman and Arkham with the quintessential Batman villain, the Joker, the publisher and developer created what is a formula for a great game. And boy did they deliver with a third-person action game that should be considered the Batman videogame.

This game has it all for fans that want to know what it is like to be Batman. Players will duke it out with groups of thugs, hide in the shadows to terrify and eliminate even more thugs, play with several gadgets, solve great riddles, and do some detective work as well. If anyone ever wanted to know what it is like to be Batman, minus driving the Batmobile, this game is it.

When you first start the game, all the challenges will be locked. As such, one will be forced into playing the story mode right from the get-go, but that is by no means a bad thing. The game begins right after Batman has captured the Joker, as a failed attempt to kidnap Gotham City’s mayor has landed Joker riding shotgun in the Batmobile. Batman brings Joker to Arkham Asylum, but something isn’t right. Batman claims Joker did not put up a fight and Joker seems to be enjoying his return to Arkham. It doesn’t take long before the reason is revealed. Joker escapes and announces that his capture was all an elaborate ruse to trap Batman within the asylum, which now has every inmate running amuck. As Batman, it is your job to stop Joker and bring order back to Arkham.

The game will introduce you to the combat system right away as Joker immediately throws goons at you. The combat is very simple, yet deep and easy to pick up. There is one button to attack, one to counter, one to dodge, and one to stun. You will eventually unlock other moves, such as throwing enemies into one another or taking a thug out in a single manuever. Batarangs and the Batclaw will also be usable against enemies with a quick pull of the left trigger. All of it adds up to some great ways to beat Joker’s goons to a pulp. One of the best things about the combat is how seamless the animations are from one move to the next. Every fight flows as if it was choreographed. There are a few occassions where the controls may be a tad unresponsive and a kick in the direction you want may not register, but those problems aren’t frequent enough to cause much frustration and could be attributed to bad timing.

The thugs’ A.I. is very well done. They may not all attack you at once, but they do pull objects from walls to use as weapons, go looking for things to throw, and take weapons from fallen allies. They also know the right moments to attack, so in order to rack up high combos, one has to also mind the enemies around him or her.

Batman will also use the environment to his advantage to terrify and eliminate thugs in the game’s predator scenarios. At certain times throughout the game, the player will be pitted against a group of guards armed with guns. If players try to take them head on, they will be riddled with holes in seconds. So as Batman would do in this situation, players will use stealth to render their foes unconscious. Players will be able to use a grappling hook to climb to ceilings, hide in air ducts, and stalk around corners in order to take out enemies. One can also destroy wall and floors with explosive gel when a goon or two foolishly walk near.

Probably one of the best parts of these scenarios is how effective the game’s detective mode becomes. One can see enemies behind walls and monitor their pulse to see just how calm or terrified of the Dark Knight they are. This allows players to determine where and how to methodically eliminate every thug. Players can string a thug up from a gargoyle, glide down and kick them to the ground, fall on top of them, throw a Batarang, take them out silently from behind, and much more. Your gadgets will also be upgradeable to help better eliminate enemies.

Aside from sometimes being able to grapple up past a enemies without them noticing, the A.I. of the thugs is very good and they will see Batman if he’s not careful. They also react to enemies falling prey to Batman within the level, and depending on how scared they are will either split up, pair up, or be so paranoid they feel it is every man for himself. This really adds to assuming the persona of Batman, who is famous for putting fear in his enemies.

The boss fights are wonderfully done. While some may not even feel like traditional boss battles, they all fit the personality of the enemy in question. It’s that authenticity along with the variation that makes them great. In all Batman only encounters approximately seven of his greatest villains, but it is definitely enough to satisfy.

Other Batman characters are given several nods throughout Arkham. Anyone exploring the grounds can find allusions to The Riddler, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, The Penguin, and several more. Many of these nods can be found by listening to Edward Nigma, The Riddler himself, as he taunts you over the radio to find and solve his 240 riddles and hidden items. Doing so will unlock character bios, challenge missions, audio tapes, and even a history of Arkham Asylum.

The game’s voice acting is absolutely superb. Mark Hammill’s Joker and Kevin Conroy’s Batman, who both starred in said roles for Batman: The Animated Series, stand out above all. However, all of the actors and actresses do their parts exceptionally well and they are all well written.

The game’s environments are beautiful and feel very much like what fans would imagine or hope Arkham would look like. The only downside to this is that players will be spending most of their time in detective vision to solve riddles, find hidden items, and take out thugs. Cinematics are equally beautiful, although sometimes the audio doesn’t quite perfectly sync up with characters’ lips.

The unlockable challenge missions are split equally across combat and predator modes. They also are split by difficulty: normal and extreme. Players accumulate points to earn medals for achieving high combos, combo variety, not taking damage, and other factors in the combat challenges. In predator challenges, players must eliminate thugs in certain ways. These range from dropping through glass from above an enemy, to blowing a wall that must take out three goons. Combine the medals with an online leaderboard and players have plenty of post-story mode fun ahead of them.

This game lets players know just what it is like to be Batman. No matter how much of the story mode or challenge missions you play, it will suck you in and keep you there. The game is an absolute love letter to the source material and has addictive combat, stealth, and puzzle solving to keep it entertaining and fun the whole way through. Combine that with top-notch voice acting, an amazing story, and plenty of tiny little nods to the Batman universe, and you have the Batman experience.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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