Looking back at Batman: Arkham Asylum

With their first venture into the world of superheroes, Rocksteady Games have created something developers have been attempting for over 30 years: a superhero game that’s actually worth playing. In fact, more than that, it’s the best darned superhero game this planet has ever seen. Still in shock at the sheer magnitude of it all, we caught up with senior gameplay programmer Paul Denning to find out how they managed to pull it off...

Above: Paul Denning, senior gameplay programmer

Cutting cutscenes

“It was smoke and mirrors in a lot of places, but we were very keen to keep the player immersed as much as possible. In Resident Evil 5 there are moments where you’re playing and you find yourself in a completely different place and you think: ‘Well, hold on. I wasn’t really here – you’ve just cheated to get me here,’ and we really didn’t want that.

“One of the cool things we did was in the second Scarecrow encounter. At the very end when you become young Bruce Wayne, it looks like it’s all scripted and sequence based, he’s crouched down over his parents and nothing happens. Then you realise that if you push a button you’re still in control – and you then walk off. That was a really powerful scene and we really enjoyed putting that together.

“There are limitations in what you can achieve in the time you have available, we have a very dedicated team and they worked very, very hard to pull off all the cinematics. If we’d had more cutscenes they probably wouldn’t have been as high quality as they are now. We would have been sacrificing quality for quantity which is something we never want to do.”

Choosing the villains

“Once we got the initial design underway we were looking at characters that could test Batman. A lot of the villains we used can better Batman in their core disciplines. Bane beats Batman in terms of brute strength, and The Riddler is smarter than Batman. But they are all very flawed as well. So, if you can’t take them on in their strongest area you can certainly take them on in another way – so that’s where the gameplay ideas originated from.

“There are just so many characters that there’s no way we’d be able to get all of them in properly. You’d end up with miniscule appearances that were just throwaway. People would say ‘Oh, you didn’t do my favourite character justice..’ So we went for the biographies and the collectibles instead to give the fans what they wanted without doing them a disservice. A lot of these characters are just as good as the ones we’ve used. Some of them aren’t as well known, but when we look on the forums we find people talking about characters you never expect there to be a big following for.”


  • ryno - December 30, 2009 12:21 a.m.

    personally i thought the part starting with joker saying "did anyone catch the game last night?" i realllly could have done without. i thought it was a bug at frist so i shut off my PS3 and restarted it but the same thing happend. i checked the disk 4 defects ,scratches and smudges and came up empty. seeing it as a defective copy i almost returned it to EB games.
  • Dolan88fan - December 23, 2009 5:23 p.m.

  • Dolan88fan - December 23, 2009 5:21 p.m.

    i feel like open world would still be a way to go but it could be scripted nothing would make batman better than chaos in gotham like was mentioned in an early article where gotham is deserted and some areas are shut down we will see but one things for sure ill be picking up the next one. Batman became cool since the new movies instead of cheesy come on arnold, jim carrey hell even cloney please no robin in the movies or game
  • boxmeizter - December 22, 2009 1:30 a.m.

    btw what happend to those DLC additional suits? they were awesome...and twisted some of them
  • TheWebSwinger - December 21, 2009 5:19 a.m.

    "The Riddler is smarter than Batman" ...really? Well neither of them are smarter than Peter Parker, so I'm satisfied. /fanboy.
  • DriveShaft - December 20, 2009 10:51 p.m.

    Are you guys paid off by Rocksteady? This must be the millionth Arkham articleand it's STILL overrated <_<
  • rynmls - December 20, 2009 4:47 a.m.

    the crash incident (Scarecrow level 3)make me believe that my game crash i've even restarted and I even reset my game hahaha, but when I've seen the joker driving the batmobile then I realized it was Scarecrow:-)
  • Tomsky - December 19, 2009 1:51 p.m.

    Shock and awe extreme is nearly impossible! I still can't do it. I do love this game so much, I hope it gets GOTY and not CoD because it really deserves it more.
  • Yeager1122 - December 19, 2009 1:35 a.m.

    ohhhhhhhhhhhh so thats how it was done.
  • slickninja - December 18, 2009 2:37 a.m.

    The only thing that I hated about Arkham Asylum was that Detective Mode was so cool, that I ended up playing the whole game in it and didn't really get to enjoy the "normal" mode of vision. Other than that, it was very good, except for Shock and Awe Extreme, literally almost threw my PS3 controller through my Bravia. 8/10
  • Spacegrass - December 17, 2009 8:50 p.m.

    So what about when you knock enemies unconscious and they land face-down in a stream? This happened several times while I was playing, and there's no way they'd survive that.
  • idlemindkiller - December 17, 2009 6:52 p.m.

    Ummm... Riddlers not smarter than Batman. Dick. Thanks for a great game though. Also, the camp Batman cheat is retarded. Adam West batman was awful.
  • bamb0o-stick - December 17, 2009 4:44 p.m.

    The game crash sequence I thought was bloody brilliant. I was really fooled into thinking my PS3 crashed, I was looking at my friend and we were like "oh shit..." All the Scarecrew sequences were so ingeniously put in, like a slight cough when Batman exits a door is just so subtle, but effective. I wish I could re-experience playing this game again for the first time...
  • Vagrant - December 17, 2009 7:24 a.m.

    Really interesting article. It's a crying shame the "bam kapow" cheat was shot down though.
  • garnsr - December 17, 2009 4:49 a.m.

    This was probably the game I've enjoyed the most this year, and I've played pretty much all of the majors on PS3. I didn't expect that much out of it, but it sucked me in, and kept me up way later than my bedtime many nights. As for not being able to kill people, only knock them out, I always thought they were dead, unless I saw that it said unconscious, but I still thought the others were dead, so how does it help for WB and DC to panic if I still think the people are dead? My PS3 has been locking up a bit lately, in AC 2 and Ratchet, when there were a bunch of guys on screen, and I'd use a weapon that filled the screen. I don't know if this is common or not, but PS3 freezing does happen. It was cool when you died, though, and got to go on. Also, I'd have enjoyed the camp cheat, too.
  • nadrewod999 - December 17, 2009 3 a.m.

    I knew that the "system crash" was a scripted event as soon as I heard someone say on the announcements right before the crash "Did you catch the game last night?", and then when I hit a button to show which button you need to press to skip the cutscene, it showed a weird symbol, making me laugh at the fake death scene, which said "Move the third joystick to make Batman dodge the bullet."
  • RebornKusabi - December 17, 2009 2:41 a.m.

    While I wasn't fooled by the "crash" hallucination in the third Scarecrow encounter (I played this game on my PS3 which has never freezed or glitched in any game I have ever played on it... ever!), I still ****ing loved it and hoped it freaked out some people ; ) Good article, extremely informative! Exactly why I love this damn site- while there ARE **** and **** jokes every once in awhile, it also has some extremely informative and insightful articles as well lol reCAPTCHA- Bankers nightfall (???)
  • Sabtos - December 17, 2009 1:25 a.m.

    I agree with keeping it confined. I hope they don't sprawl out too much with the sequel and lose the magic of a potent atmosphere. I wish them luck, but these guys are talented and trust their judgment after comments like this. They seem very aware of some many angles, as far as quality gaming goes.
  • Sebastian16 - December 16, 2009 11:12 p.m.

    Good shit.
  • Gamesradar - December 16, 2009 11:02 p.m.

    The 'crash' on the 3rd Scarecrow level really was an amazing idea, lucky for me the cut scene started before I'd held the PS button down long enough. There shoulda been a cheat for the 'Pow!' 'Bop!' AND the Adam West era costume by the way.

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