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Batman: Arkham Asylum review

AT A GLANCE
  • The superbly, nightmarishly realized Arkham
  • The brutally satisfying stealth and combat
  • How right the whole thing feels
  • A couple of unnecessary, overly traditional boss fights
  • Maybe missing a couple of your favorite villains
  • Finally finishing it

We’re frequently disappointed by games based on our favourite licenses because we and the people making them usually want very different things. We want to live the essence of our favourite movies, comics and heroes. We want to directly experience what we love about them and by doing so make them more real. Developers and publishers usually just want to use a recognisable brand name to sell a few extra copies of something, and it doesn’t really matter what that something is. Thus the strong, layered, nuanced worlds we love are squashed into convenient-to-make anygame templates and we usually end up with something like this:

You’ll have heard a lot so far about Batman: Arkham Asylum being the greatest superhero game ever made. But while the sentiment has now lost all meaning through its dogged repetition in the press over the last few months, it still needs addressing. Not only because it’s completely true, but also because Arkham Asylum gets the treatment of its subject matter so right that it’s now the new benchmark in games licensed from anything. Sorry, Goldeneye.


Intro for the Bat-fans

Fellow Chiroptera-geeks, your time has come. Recognising that Batman’s character, abilities, world and cast are already solid, diamond-encrusted gold in terms of drama, visuals and action, Rocksteady Studios has distilled everything that’s made Batman so mind-bustingly awesome over the last 70 years and created a true, legitimate, interactive showing for him. Games can now stand proudly alongside movies, comics and animation as having a “proper” Batman in their line-up.

More on the details of that as we get further into the review, but know for now that Arkham Asylum is all of the dark, grimy, brutal, twisted and utterly enthralling things that spring to mind whenever you think of Batman. The attention to detail and sheer love of all things Gotham will make even moderate Bat-fans tingle, and serious fans will positively vibrate with joy. As a small example, take a quick look at how seriously Rocksteady has taken the all-important matter of Batman’s iconic cape physics.

Borderline pornography, is it not? And it only gets better.


Intro for everyone else

But we must rapidly move on from this nerdy Bat-fap love-in (for a while, at least). Because while Batman: Arkham Asylum is indeed The Best Superhero Game Yet Made ™, that title actually does it a weighty disservice. Because rather than simply a staggering piece of fan-service, it’s also a completely legitimate and utterly brilliant video game in its own right.

Arkham takes starting points from several of gaming’s big hitters (Splinter Cell, Ninja Gaiden, GTA, Metroid, Condemned and even Prince of Persia on occasion) but by focusing them all through a shrewd bat-shaped lens makes them completely its own. Any hardcore player with an appreciation of a finely-crafted game will have a lot to love, regardless of whether or not they’re the sort of person who’ll get excited when Bane does this after he beats you:

The core game takes Batman on a heavily story-led journey through the eponymous hell-hole during a Joker-headed takeover; a journey requiring calculated stealth violence, smart exploration, the odd bit of detective work and plenty of good old fashioned beat-downs. The sprawling Arkham Island acts as an overworld hub of sorts, allowing progressive access to the asylum’s facilities and catacombs while leaving you completely free to re-explore old areas and discover new ones as your abilities and Bat-tech expand.

It’s a big, ambitious game made of many diverse elements, and that Rocksteady has realised its vision in such a cohesive, compulsive, immersive and shockingly fun way is a testament to the immense progress it's made since 2006’s good but flawed Urban Chaos: Riot Response.

And now, on to the details!

More Info

Release date: Sep 15 2009 - PC
Aug 25 2009 - PS3, Xbox 360 (US)
Sep 15 2009 - PC
Aug 28 2009 - PS3, Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Published by: Eidos
Developed by: Rocksteady Studios
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Alcohol Reference, Blood, Suggestive Themes, Tobacco Reference, Violence, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
16+

91 comments

  • bbro3733 - January 6, 2014 5:16 p.m.

    Best batman game made yet-even better in game of the year edition
  • Agent36496 - November 13, 2012 4:04 p.m.

    It definitely has all kinds of gameplay. We've got puzzles, stealth, and head-on action. And even though they're getting old, Kevin and Mark still have their talent.
  • psycho ninja 4 - August 24, 2011 2:56 a.m.

    IT DESERVES A TEN, THIS GAME IS EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • PevMaster - May 7, 2011 12:58 p.m.

    Overrated trash! Nah I'm kidding, I LOVE THIS GAME! But it is pretty hard.
  • gamestorminc - January 22, 2011 1:24 a.m.

    I'm not finished with this game yet, but I think it's awesome. I've been playing for 2 days now and I've gotten tons of achievements and gamer score. Although I don't like the point of view (third person and to an angle) I like the fighting alot. Thats pretty fun to.
  • Genericpenisjoketista - August 5, 2010 4:37 a.m.

    Dear Perfect Game, You are perfect. That's all. Love, Genericpenisjoketista P.S. I love you.
  • pakk99 - May 31, 2010 3:06 p.m.

    AA is an awesome game, almost ruined by ridiculously large biceps and an endless parade of boss battles that ignore all of the abilities you collect during the course of the game. This is a great start, but there is plenty of room for improvement in AA2.
  • MaynardJ - May 17, 2010 9 a.m.

    I started playing this last week, and OMG am I enjoying it. After reading an FAQ on the combo mechanics, the challenges are starting to open up for me as well. The extremely smooth fighting, the compelling story, the genuinely rewarding search for riddles and trophies, the Metroid-like progression achieved by finding new gadgets, this game has everything.
  • halowarfare - May 16, 2010 4:52 a.m.

    Cautious to buy, but in the end it was worth every penny- and then some. A solid 9 out of 10
  • Adamister10 - January 2, 2010 12:09 a.m.

    INCREDIBLE!!!!
  • Axcleblade - December 21, 2009 9:42 p.m.

    Game of the year! Woot!
  • benjaminb85 - November 20, 2009 9:47 a.m.

    best game ive played in a while
  • benjaminb85 - November 19, 2009 10:21 a.m.

    awesome game still playing through it just got game yesterday love chaining combos together !!
  • CreeplyTuna - September 1, 2009 7:43 p.m.

    too many boss fights? the bosses in this game were actually fun, so it should be a 10
  • gtakiller7 - August 29, 2009 7:38 a.m.

    don't think I'll get it didn't really like the demo
  • jacob_kreed - August 27, 2009 6:57 p.m.

    Ah...got my Batman on Wednesday, the great thing was that son had put 4 dvds and ruler and a coin into ps3...Thursday Sony collected my ps3 to fix....I really really really want to be the Bat tonight...
  • forza - August 27, 2009 4:04 a.m.

    This has Game of the Year written all over it for sure. Its my Game of the Year I don't care about anything else this year. Better then wolverine and any other super hero game ever!!
  • BrassMonkey8280 - August 26, 2009 2:15 p.m.

    Excellant Game...hope they make a second one
  • DrPretorious - August 26, 2009 4:51 a.m.

    im like 16% done and ive loved every minute of this game
  • nadrewod999 - August 24, 2009 11:33 p.m.

    Pre-ordered this baby as soon as I saw the first in-store demo, then changed my pre-order to PS3 when I learned that Joker was hiding out in some PlayStation challenge maps (plus you can have every map be the "Dem Bones" map by just playing with detective mode on). I personally admit, I like the 9 rating and the demo didn't show off the quality the trailers did.

Showing 1-20 of 91 comments

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