Batman Arkham Asylum - Xbox 360

Overview: So a new shooting games . This shooting games doesn’t care about the movies and instead bases off the comics. This allows for a wide inclusion of classic villains and freedom to create a brand new story. As the name suggests, the game is set in Arkham Asylum, the home for Gotham cities criminally insane.
Story: Well the story starts off with Batman returning the Joker to Arkham. He doesn’t seem fazed by this prospect and actually seems quite cocky. Batman then learns that this was all part of an elaborate trap to trap him inside Arkham. The Joker breaks free and takes control of the Asylum leaving Batman to deal with a few enemies to deal with. The Joker then says to Batman “why don’t you just come find me.” Quite simply, the story is stunningly told throughout the entire game. There are also story telling features which have been taken from other games, such as the way Batman holds his ear when talking to “Oracle” instantly sent my mind back to Gears of War. Also in a nod to BioShock, audio tapes are scattered around Arkham detailing interview sessions with various patients. This is a way to please the fans as it is a thrill to hear Poison Ivy seduce her interviewer to do her bidding and hear Killer Croc threaten to eat his interviewer. However my personal favourites were hearing Harley Quinn interview the Joker. There are 5 tapes for every patient and add significant replay value.

Graphics: In a word, spectacular. Usually there is at least something wrong with the graphics in a game but I was very hard pressed to find anything wrong with these. Once again I was reminded of BioShock with the tremendously detailed surroundings and the brilliant character models. Can’t really say much more than that. Fantastic.

Gameplay: The fighting games uses an experience point system which gives you points for winning fights, solving challenges (more on that later) and completing objectives. These are then used to purchase upgrades via “Waynetech.” These upgrades range from more health, to a remote controlled batarang to finishing moves for the combat system. Ah yes the combat. Once again, brilliant. It is called the “freeflow” combat system and with good reason. You have a basic strike attack and as you keep striking Batman will move between enemies to try and keep them all at bay. After enough hits (three if playing in easy) Batman will give them a harder strike which will knock them to the ground and allow you to perform a ground takedown. While these takedowns stop your enemies getting up again, they do take a few seconds to perform and need to be timed well in order to avoid getting struck. As the last enemy is taken out, the camera slows down and moves in close for the final strike which doesn’t add anything to the gameplay but looks really cool. As each enemy is about to attack you, a lightning bolty thingy appears above their heads. This gives you some time to hit a counter button in order to unleash a brief counter attack on you assailant. It isn’t very powerful on its own but is very useful in a tight situation to build up to a flurry of quick strikes. Also present is a stun button. This causes Bats to swirl his cape around and temporarily stun an enemy. Early in the game this is fairly useless but when enemies with knives start turning up, it becomes invaluable. Also is a dodge feature which allows Batman to flip over his enemies. Once again, useless in early game but invaluable later on. Finally your gadgets also come into play as you can throw batarangs mid combat to put enemies on the ground. All these features are part of the freeflow combat system which has a combo counter going. Every successful hit, counter, batarang etc, causes another point on the meter and the idea is to build up big combos (x5, x10, x20, x40). However that is only half the combat.

The other half is known as invisible predator mode. This mode is used when enemies with guns are present as bullets will hurt you like hell. So invisible predator mode utilises more stealthy play such as creeping up behind people for silent takedowns, glide kicks, and inverted takedowns from gargoyles. If spotted you must quickly grapple up to and between gargoyles in order to lose the enemies. And all this brilliant gameplay is made possible by the game’s biggest feature; detective vision. Detective vision can be switched on at any time and highlights objects of interest in the environment. These objects can be grapple points, vent covers and circuit boxes. To help with invisible predator, detective mode also informs if enemies are armed or unarmed and their heart rate. While detective vision is undoubtedly a great feature there is a downside. I found that you needed to spend too much time in detective vision which detracts from the games amazing graphics.

Challenges: There are two types of challenges present. First is the Riddler’s Challenges. While the Riddler does not actually feature in the game, he has left 240 challenges around Arkham for you to solve. A few of these are just things to collect. However, this is where most of the tributes to the fans of the comics are given. For example, one of the collectables is the interview tapes (mentioned in story). Another tribute to the fans is having Chronicles of Arkham. These are spider prints on the wall which need to be photographed. Once photographed you will hear the voice of Amadeus Arkham speaking to you. Less interesting collectibles include Riddler trophies and Joker teeth. However the real meat of the Riddler challenges come with the actual riddles. When you enter a new area a riddle in green will flash up and you must photograph the solution to the riddle within the environment. Some of these are well thought out and some aren’t and a few of them need some knowledge of batman to solve. However they are more than just a novelty and to add to the overall game. The other form of challenge is in the Challenge rooms. These are rooms that you will recognise from the story which has enemies in them. These can be both combat based and invisible predator based and you get bonuses in your score by clearing out a room particularly fast, staying invisible, performing perfect freeflow combat etc. Overall the challenge rooms are fun and add longevity to the game.

Summary: Batman Arkham Asylum is a rare sort of game. The development team obviously cared very much about this license and it shows. The game is just finished to such a high level of detail such as the way that batman looks more scruffy and dirty as the story progresses. It does have a few downfalls however. It would have been nice to see more villains like Catwoman, Two-face, Mr Freeze, The Penguin or Black Mask. They may have been saved for the sequel. Also boss battles sucked. I was really looking forward to a full on hand to hand battle with Harley Quinn while the leaps about like a hamster, and instead I got a cutscene. When you do face a boss they are generally simplistic and unimaginative. But in the end if you consider what it accomplishes instead of what it doesn’t Batman is pretty top-notch. Whatever you thought of previous Batman games this one is miles better, no competition.