Holy game-playing brilliance Batman!
Sorry but I had to do that.
First, the plot. Batman has captured the Joker and is delivering him to Gotham’s legendary Arkham Asylum. The caped crusader suspects something is amiss as the Joker barely put up a fight and fuck is he right. The whole thing is a trap as the Joker is out to get him and Commissioner Gordon. The Joker releases all the prisoners – including the most mental, scary and famous ones and soon our plucky eponymous hero is battling hordes of henchmen and baddies like Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Harleyquinn, the Scarecrow and more.
The voices and acting are great. Batman and the Joker are voiced by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill respectively. These two did the same voices for the cartoon, so geeks and fanboys (obviously not myself) will know what to expect and how good it will be. The whole cast is great – which is nice when compared to some games I’ve played. The cut-scenes and action follow each other seamlessly. Which is something you would expect these days and not like 5 or more years ago when the difference between gameplay and pre-rendered scenes could often be glaring.
The graphics are superb. Arkham’s corridors are satisfying dingy, the well-known baddies are well animated and look like they should. Even the henchmen are scarred, tattooed and muscular. The game looks magnificent except for when you are in detective mode when you lose a lot of the detail. More on this later.
The game-play is fun. Really fun. You are Batman. Which is unbelievably cool. The controls are simple – a button for counter-attack, a button for attack, one for evade, and another to confuse with your cape. Your ability to use a grappling hook and fly up a line to perch above henchmen is easy and obvious, as is gliding down again.
For me this was one of the funnest parts of the game.
By this, I mean the actual taking down of room-fulls of lackeys. There are generally two ways to go about this. The first is to leap among them and just beat the living crap out of the poor bastards. The combos and counters are easy to do but look brutal and cool and cinematic. When you deliver a final kick to the head it feels solid and satisfying. The other way, especially if they are armed, is to sneak around Dark Knight style and pick them off one by one. You have a ton of fun options to help you in this. You can crawl through the vents and spray your explosive bat-gelignite on a weak section of floor then blow it up as enemies walk over or under it; you can glide down and kick someone unconscious; you can sneak up behind a poor unsuspecting sod and take them out silently; or my favorite – drop down bungee style and pull some poor bastard up as he passes below you and hang him. As you take each guy out the others grow increasingly nervous (as shown by their heartbeats) and they run around in a panic occasionally firing at shadows. You really feel like Batman and it is bloody great fun.
There are a few flaws, but they are minor. The game can feel slightly repetitive. Mostly when you have to take out a room filled with bad guys. As mentioned above, this is so much fun it could hardly be seen as a flaw. The main gripe I had, and again it isn’t much, is with the detective mode. This mode allows you to alter your view so that you can scan for clues, follow trails, find flimsy walls, and see enemies from a distance through walls. It is unbelievably helpful. Too much so in fact. You can play almost the whole game in this mode and then you miss all the lovely graphics. If you are sneaking around taking out hoods one at a time it is easier if you can see them all, so you tend you stay in this mode. It is so cool taking someone down though, that you really want to see it properly and you might find yourself flicking back to normal mode just to watch the action.
Once you have completed the main game, which will take a respectable amount of time, you have a load more options. You can go back through the game and try and find all the little extras like the Riddler’s hidden trophies or sound recordings of inmate interviews and so on. Or you can go for the challenge mode. This is where you take out room-fulls of baddies in either a stealthy way or a kick-ass way. You compete against an online leader board where people much better than you. I almost got in the top 75,000 the other day. It adds a lot more to the always important replayability factor. I think I have already mentioned that it is damn good fun so no need to say it again I guess.
So should you buy it? If you like Batman then GOD YES. If you like action and pretty graphics and a good old fashioned beat ’em up then again with the same answer. This is a fun game.