But for all of this clinical breakdown of core gameplay elements, Batman: Arkham Asylum is much more than the sum of them. And that’s another key trait it shares with BioShock. Whether stealth-whupping goons, beating their faces to pate, tracking a DNA trail with your all-seeing Detective visor or navigating some PoP-style platform puzzling, everything is bound together with razor sharp pacing and a fantastically cohesive sense of place.
Even to seasoned, long-serving journos like ourselves, playing Arkham Asylum feels like being part of a compulsive, organic story within a very real world rather than negotiating a series of levels and gameplay mechanics. That’s aided no end by a general avoidance of traditional boss fights in favour of story-led climaxes and some thrilling set-piece areas. We’d have to take very long, hard looks at our lives if we spoiled any of those for you, but have no doubt of our word. There are some truly amazing ideas in Arkham Asylum that you will not see coming. One in particular is a masterclass in building tension which rivals even the battle with Salazar’s Right Hand in Resident Evil 4. And another… No, we’re saying nothing. Trust us, you’ll prefer it if we don’t.
It is then a shame that Arkham makes a slight concession to typically gamey trappings right near the end, with a couple of very traditional boss battles that stick out like a pocketed batarang compared to the rest of the game. It's not that they’re especially bad; in fact they’re no worse than many bosses in Resident Evil 5. But after so many hours of clever, fresh design and brilliantly-paced flowing narrative, it’s disappointing that such clunky game design throwbacks are there at all. Not all BioShock parallels are good ones, it seems.
But they’re nowhere near enough to taint your overall experience with the game. Because in Batman: Arkham Asylum, we really are talking about one of the very best of this year. Get it. Get it as soon as you possibly can.
Yes. EA's movie licensed Bat-outing admirably plays with the same idea of stealthy intimidation, but its clumsy execution means that it just cannot compare with Arkham Asylum's slick, organic approach to Batman.
Spider-man: Web of Shadows?
Yes. Spidey's last game was similarly free of a movie license and so as free to revel in the character's history as Arkham is. It did a good job all round, but only got as far as being a solid and enjoyable experience. Batman's game has polish and imagination that put it on a different level.
Yep. While Traveller's Tales' Bats-focused effort is probably the pinnacle of its LEGO platforming series so far, its (admittedly fairly completist) take on Gotham is affectionate knockabout parody rather than serious representation. Arkham Asylum is the dark, grown-up distillation of everything Batman is, executed beautifully.
Not only a brilliantly authentic presentation of its subject matter but a tremendous game in its own right, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a big, clever and finely crafted experience which propels Rocksteady immediately into the realm of triple-A developers. This year's BioShock. That's what it is.
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