Dec 31, 2011

Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Oh boy, this one has been so long overdue I don't even know where to begin apologizing.  Do note, this is not a review for Arkham City, this is Arkham Asylum. Yep. I got this game in one of the Game of the Year discounts on Steam, which was a pretty good while ago too.

To get the tech stuff done with, this review is based on gameplay on PC through Steam and Games for Windows Live on an average spec PC. Don't mind the not-maxed graphic settings and lack of extra anti aliasing on my screenshots please, I know this game is still a beauty to behold on the right specs and won't critizise looks.

Oh, snap!

I don't know where to begin on this one, bear with me.

You're Batman!

The game opens with awesome cinematics, as you drive The Joker to Arkham Asylum to be put under arrest or treatment, I don't even know what you're supposed to do with that guy, have a feeling I'm not alone on that one.  As you take over the reins of batty, he decides to escort Joker into the Asylum to make sure he gets put where he belongs, he's got a feeling something isn't right...

Spoiler alert. Things aren't right. Joker kills his guard and escapes into the asylum aided by his consorts, triggering a prison riot just to make things suffiently interesting, leading Batman into a intricate trap created just for him.  I think that's as far as I will go on the story stuff, to not spoil the it completely for people.

Never saw me coming

So! You're Batman! This needs to be emphasized, as it is pretty awesome in itself. You rock the Batcave. The Batmobile. The bat.. gadgets, of which there are quite a few. All awesome, of course.  Another given though, is that you are the favourite kill target of all the inmates in Arkham Asylum, allied with Joker or otherwise, which leads to quite a bit of fisticuffs, which are all awesome, too.

Batman:AA is a third person beat'em up along the lines of God of War.  What sets this game apart from most of the others of its ilk that I have played before though, is that while Batman is Awesome(!), he is very much a human, and getting shot by shotguns, and machine guns, and stuff like that.. will actually kill him.  And so, quite a large part of the gameplay revolves around using the environment, the tools at your disposal, and in a pinch, some stealth.  And then with the fisticuffs!

This results in a very pleasant game where you can if you wish be planning, use traps, gadgets and stealth to get where you need to go, or if you want (and have the skillz!) kick ass head on.  Like it or not, though, Batman's brains and gadgets will be needed as well outside of the combat parts of the game. I'd say roughly 50% of the game's story involves some manner of detective work on your end. If you buy this game expecting to brawl your way from start to finish you will get stumped, pretty badly.

The combat in itself needs to be explained a bit finer detail, I feel. While its certainly possible to mash buttons to get through, the combat is laid up to reward parrying and combination attacks against multiple enemies. When you're fighting the goons of Arkham Asylum, the game speed actually slows down so you can time your attacks, blocks and throws. This might not sound like a big thing, but when you take advantage of it, keep your cool and get your groove on in battle, the fighting takes on an almost movie-like feel when you emerge from seemingly overwhelming battles unscathed, taking down a large numbers of goons in one seamless combo.  You can't help grinning to yourself and feel like you are Batman. You're awesome.  If my awful describing doesn't help, you just have to try it yourself, really.

Bit of Crane poison flashbacks

Including all the time you spend fighting, you can expect to spend a whole lot of hours on Batman:Arkham Asylum, especially if you are a completionist. To go with the main story of the game is a ridiculous amount of hidden areas, trials and areas unacessible until you come back later with the proper tools.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit, I'm not sure how much of this all is included in the Game of the Year edition and left out of the base game, but be sure to get the GOTY version.  I'm not sure, but I think its the trials outside of the campaign that consist of the GOTY content, but they are actually very fun also. There's a wide variety of trials to take on, from endless brawl rooms to sneaky takedowns and other stuff in there complete with online leaderboards, to see how bad you are.

Bit of Crane poison too much

This particular rant is exclusive to the PC version of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Before I round this up, I need to adress how much trouble this game can be to play on PC. Before reading further, if you have Xbox or PS3, get this game there instead. Sssh.. Just don't. No, don't buy the PC version.

And here's why: In order to play Batman: Arkham Asylum you need to install and somehow find an updated version of Games for Windows Live, otherwise known as the Devil.  I really hope Ubisoft won't read this and pick up on these ideas, because just managing GFWL has to be the most tedious business ever.  Don't expect to install this game and get started. Don't think you can buy this on Steam, download, and play it.  No, install the game.  Done ? Ok, it didn't launch ? Hm ? Ok lets search a bit online. Oh.. (10 minutes of Googling later) you need Games for Windows Live.  Okay, cool.. downloading.. Start game. WTF? Still not getting in? Damnit, I wanna play this, lets google a bit more.. Okay, needs an update. Search for GFW update. Okay, got it, downloading.  Start. Still not getting in !? WTF did I just download? GFWL Marketplace? Why can't I just download the GFWL update I need to play this game? There's no update links anywhere, no sensible way to figure what downloads I need to get from windows update, what the heck ?   --- Pass 2-5 hours depending on your level of PC competence and previous experience with GWFL, including reading about how GWFL is all but abandoned as a platform, exclusively used as a tedious form of DRM these days... Play game.


End rant.. I think, I'll try to be good now.

Okay.. I'm fine, I think. So.. In conclusion, if you have a console, this game is mandatory in your collection if you happen to like any kind of action games that involve a bit of fighting, and isn't shy to throw a few fairly logical puzzles at you now and then.  If you only have a PC this is still a great game but expect to have a heck of a fight just to start the damn thing. Console versions imo are far superior than having to cope with several layers of DRM on PC, even if the PC version supports 1920*1080+ with AA and consoles don't.

+You're Batman
+Really well choreographed battles
+Gorgeous, audio and visual

- PC version (review) has hideous DRM

10/10 - Yep. It's that good, DRM woes on PC aside, unfair to take points on that.

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