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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

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.

 

 

Batman Begins?
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.

 

LEGO Batman?
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. 
 

Just for you, Metacritic!

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.

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

  • Jordo141 - August 21, 2009 4:02 p.m.

    AA promised awesomeness. It delivered
  • gtakiller7 - August 21, 2009 4:06 p.m.

    i will be FIRST to pick this up
  • SCRubS77 - August 21, 2009 4:22 p.m.

    Wow. Todays paycheck = This game.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - August 21, 2009 4:34 p.m.

    garnsr: The wonder of Batman, my friend, is universal. The bookshelves, DVD collection and Joker t-shirt in my very British flat are a testament to that.
  • mramccall - August 21, 2009 5 p.m.

    typical american AA looks good. The demo on PS3 is just alittle taster :)
  • sixboxes - August 21, 2009 5:07 p.m.

    I have a raging bat-boner for this game now. Though I'm more excited for Columbo Team Deathmatch. "One More Thing, Motherf*cker!" - that's GENIUS.
  • 2muchGuitarHero - August 21, 2009 5:26 p.m.

    When I played this demo, my initial fear was that it would become too repetitve. Just jump on gargoyles, glide down and kill people. This game probably won't be my collection come next year, as there are many more games I'd rather buy: Uncharted 2, Brutal Legend, MW2 etc
  • sorenaarlev - August 21, 2009 5:58 p.m.

    Good review. I really enjoyed the demo so will have to buy this asap!
  • boxmeizter - August 21, 2009 6:13 p.m.

    Batman Arkham Asylum... WOW! Buy, play, play, play!
  • Tasty_Pasta - August 21, 2009 6:46 p.m.

    Ha, I lol'd @ Peter Falk.
  • TheWebSwinger - August 21, 2009 6:49 p.m.

    DAMMIT! Bats has the highest grossing movie AND the best comic book game now. C'MON SPIDEY! GET BACK IN THE GAME!
  • Pr0fesserCha0s - August 21, 2009 7:08 p.m.

    Wow It's a real honor to get a compliment from the author 'u', so thank you David an nice review Gamesradar is REALY reliable :P
  • theHeadCase - August 21, 2009 7:09 p.m.

    It's release date can't come quick enough!
  • garnsr - August 21, 2009 7:44 p.m.

    I didn't mean it was wrong for the Brits to review it, but comics (other than Watchmen and V for Vendetta) seem so American to me, it just seemed sort of unusual to me to have a British review of it. And the British review style seems a little more constrained and organized than the Americans' style, in my eyes. Good review, though, I may pick up the game if I run out of games next year (which seems almost impossible, with the lineup for the next half year or so.)
  • hooterscpufantasm - August 21, 2009 8:40 p.m.

    phhhhhhffffffttttttt... Spider-Man? How dare you mention his name on a page dedicated to the Batman? Begone, heathen! Seriously though, ultimate spider-man video game was the last good one, and spiderman 3 failed... sorry dude.
  • ragingearth - August 21, 2009 9:22 p.m.

    man, i really can't wait until monday. this is gonna be an all day event.
  • mgkyo666 - August 21, 2009 9:56 p.m.

    well that's 100$ wisely spent, i am gonna play this game endlessly!!!!!!!!!!
  • manmeatpizza - August 21, 2009 10:34 p.m.

    Day. 1. Purchase.
  • cart00n - August 21, 2009 11:03 p.m.

    I've actually had the CE on pre-order from Amazon as soon as it was announced. I am now strongly considering paying for release day delivery. It's only $6... reCaptch: unhorses Now
  • gatornation1254 - August 21, 2009 11:15 p.m.

    @ Pr0fesserCha0s: how would you know that if you haven't played the game through to completion.

Showing 1-20 of 91 comments

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