Product Type: Eidos Xbox 360 games
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Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)
Member Name: honest-word
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Storyline and Graphics
Disadvantages: Repetitiveness and lack of innovation
Batman Arkham Asylum was released in 2009, and is a action-adventure 3rd person title. Developed by Rocksteady studios, a relatively new developer, with only one prior release on the PS2, and published by Eidos interactive, known best for the Tomb raider series. Could they pass on their knowledge to create a well defined Batman game, and give the experience that Spiderman fans have been able to enjoy in the last few years.
Arkham Asylum is based around the Joker setting a trap for Batman to lure him into the asylum, and attempting to develop a breed of creatures to attack Gotham. The game progresses through combo focused combat, solving puzzles and investigating clues through the detective mode.
The game is easy to pick up and play, with the early section of the game acting as a tutorial. The game play is pretty average for this genre and the developers haven't really tried to push themselves to be innovative. One of the areas where they have tried to set themselves apart is in the games detective mode. This switches Batmans view of the world to one that spots and analyses the world around him, be it seeing enemies heartbeat and whether there armed, searching for clues such as alcohol fumes, or even finding a vent to progress to the next section.
The game contains different set pieces set up by the joker, although the solving of this is generally get into this room and kill/save this person. The levels have a false openness to them, really there are very few deviations you can take and so leave the game feeling a little linear at times, and while the climbing sections add an element of depth, they are quite error proof, and I think a more assassins creed style of climbing may have worked better.
One part though that is surely aimed at keeping you playing is the joker or one of the other villains taunting you on screen when you die, these are often clever comments that make you want to go back and finish the level.
There is a basic XP system which provides upgrades for armour and weapons, whilst this comes in handy it does feel a little pointless, as often they are things that you can't see or don't feel as though they have much need.
The combat is focused around getting high combos; because of this it lowers the difficulty in fighting large numbers of enemies. One repeated press of a button allows you to jump between several inmates, throwing punches and kicks whilst watching the numbers go up. This is tiring after a while, and with a game with so much combat, it's a disappointing outcome for it not to be a little harder or player controlled. Combat also includes the use of different takedowns and attacks which can be unlocked, such as hanging from a point and then grabbing your target. Other gadgets such as the batterangs can be used, but their usefulness in combat is low, so are more used as a tool for destroying objects. You also have the ability to stun and counter during combat, this helps you prevent losing help as well as building up your combo hits, they all work well and the fluidity into the next move makes it a really comfortable experience.
Throughout the game you fight a number of villains from the Batman universe such as bane and scarecrow, as well appearances of course from the joker, however the majority of combat is against the seemingly cloned members of the asylum and all whilst being watched by the same types of guards. This is disheartening as it is great that they have the licenses for so many of the important icons of Batman, but on your journey there, fighting the same people is just too generic to be entertaining.
The boss battles are classic and will be easy for many seasoned gamers, simply dodge, then attack, then repeat. But none the less offer a challenge, and are fun to play.
Whilst the game states it contains a stealth element, this can't be taken too seriously as it definitely isn't metal gear solid, it's more along the lines of stay out of sight of the enemies and attack when the opportunity appears. This is also partly due to the enemies AI which doesn't do much unless your directly in front of them or perform a big action, merely crouching and walking towards them is usually enough to perform "Stealth".
There is a good amount of character development as you learn about Batman's past, this development is slow to begin with and only truly comes into play halfway through the game when events lead you to care about the other supporting characters, as well as understanding Batman's want for revenge.
The graphics on the game are very nice, Batman's cape rises and falls as he walks around the different areas of the asylum, characters are highly recognisable and act really well, especially the jokers performance and one liners, as well as the environment is beautifully harsh to fit the game. A lot of work has been put into the scarecrow sections of the game, which often lead to effects such as rain falling indoors and the merging of two environments.
One effect I didn't like though is the use of flying bats to bring up new objectives; this looked tacky and didn't fit in with the style at all, similarly the slo-mo at the end of an attack is fine once in a while, but when it's a similar attack most of the time, it loses it subtle appeal. Overall I loved the dark style the game tried to put across.
The cut scenes are done well, simply because they keep you in the action and only tell you what you need to know.
The games soundtrack does add to the atmosphere, however some voice acting performances are a little weak. As are the general henchman, who's phrases soon become repetitive and are either "Where is he" or "There's the Bat".
The controls will be recognisable to anyone who has played a 3rd person adventure games before and even those who have not, will pick it up in no time. The simple single button presses for all important area's of the game allow you to focus more on what's happening in the story, rather than what your doing.
An overlooked element of most 3rd person games is how the camera moves, here it is usually well placed and it is highly unlikely you'll be trapped in an area with a bad view. When zooming in or going through vents, the camera moves to a more first person mode, this is simple but effective and stops unnecessary issues.
There is a decent longevity to the game at around 12 hours, there is also the additional Riddler trophies, patient interviews and artefacts to find to add a little more play time.
Overall I'd say that this is a slow burning game, but give it time and it soon develops into a well made game and story. But it's repetitiveness and lack of new ideas stops it being the complete package, but the well written story and action push it above the average.
Batman Arkham Asylum is available for £20 on Amazon, and is a good title for any Batman fan or those who want to waste a few hours.
Summary: A great game, but parts let it down