What can be said about the famous Dark Knight Detective, The Caped Crusader, the Batman. For decades he has triumphed in comics, television and has succeeded more often than flopped in the box office. However, when it came to video games, Batman’s glory days were left on the NES. So when I heard about this brand new Batman title from Eidos I did have my doubts for several reasons. First Eidos delivered a bomb in the form of Kane and Lynch, so I was feeling on edge of their ability to deliver a good Batman game. And second, the overall history of comic book/superhero based games had been very lackluster and disappointing to fans. In its GameInformer debut however, some impressive screenshots and some storyline clues were released which actually managed to gain my interest, then game play footage was released, and finally a demo. Well fellow gamers I have played through Batman twice by now so to answer the question…Did lighting strike twice for the Dark Knight; first in theaters and now on consoles? Well I’m happy to report that not only did lighting strike a second time, but it arrived and completely blew me away. This game is a must have for anyone who owns an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3.
First let’s discuss to overall presentation of the game. For starters the voice work was perfect; two main player from Batman the animated series are back, first Mark Hamill has returned to voice the maniacal Joker and Kevin Conroy is back to voice the Dark Knight, so don’t worry fans no deep voice growl for this Batman. The character models are also extremely well done. Eidos did a wonderful job giving all the characters that fascinating comic book look but also giving them a real world appearance. The rest of the game’s graphics are stellar, Arkham Asylum really has a brooding, tormenting look to it from the patient lockdown cells to Arkham Manor; every inch of the island seems to have been carefully crafted to fit the action in the game. Also, even though the whole game takes place in this one setting, Eidos managed to make all the environments varied enough to keep the game experience fresh. Another aesthetically pleasing aspect to the game is in the beginning, Batman is clean shaven, his infamous batman suit looking perfectly clean cut, however as the game progresses Batman takes battle damage to both his face and suit so by the end of the game the player almost feels Batman’s exhaustion as well as being able to see it, not exactly a main part of the game but for a Batman fanboy like myself it was a welcomed addition to the game.
Second let’s discuss the story and difficulty of the game. Without giving too much away, the story essentially boils down to this; Joker takes the mayor and all of city hall hostage and, as expected, Batman saves everyone and he now has the duty of taking the Joker back to Arkham. Arkham has been upgraded with all the latest security measures but that doesn’t stop the Joker from putting his real plan into action…breaking out of custody, taking control of Arkham Island, releasing his henchmen and other super criminals like Bane and putting Batman through the longest night of his life. The plot itself is fascinating and is enhanced by the boss battles and other combat sequences as well as the Joker bantering over the asylum’s microphone system and playing mind games with Batman. However, the finale to the game I found to be very anticlimactic, don’t worry I’m not going to give anything away, because I expected a real grand finale between Batman and the Joker after this night of hell but what I got instead was a two part boss battle that is very easy to get through but this is not enough to bring down this masterpiece of a game. There is a side plot as well, the Riddler manages to contact you and he poses a challenge for Batman to find all of the Riddler’s riddles and puzzles hidden all around Arkham, this side plot really enhances the game experience adding a certain degree of free roam but don’t worry by the final mission you will have all the gadgets you’ll need to find all the puzzles so the process if fairly easy to get through. The difficulty aspect is something that can add to a game or take the player out of the game experience completely and here developers did a good job of finding middle ground, while combat is very fluid and the boss battles are relatively low key gamers may want to try the hardest difficulty if they really want to give themselves a challenge. If it is a challenge you want but don’t want the game to end just yet, players will have several combat and silent predator challenge rooms to play around with, which are extremely worth to play once you’ve completed the game and unlocked all the rooms from the Riddler challenges.
Finally, game play is what really brings the game to that “must have” status. The combat scheme is extremely fluid and easy to use, there’s one button for attacks, one for counters and two button combos for special moves the player unlocks by earning experience points. This is also a very fluid process but at least the second to last boss players will have all of the main upgrades bought already. While hand-to-hand combat was amazing the real fun comes from the game “silent predator” game play. Here Batman is place in a scenario where a room is filled with armed guards and using gargoyles Batman can grapple around the room picking off guards as you see fit whether that be using Batman’s explosive gel, an old fashioned silent takedown, a long range glide kick, using the bat grapple to pull enemies over railings or my personal favorite grabbing an enemy and suspending them from a gargoyle. The AI in these scenes are perfect; each time you take down a guard the other will react and genuinely become afraid of their own shadows, making them easy targets for Batman. Often you can isolate one guard to simplify things. The gadgets in the game really make you feel like you are Batman; you have the standard batarang which can be used for stunning enemies, explosive gel to destroying weak walls or taking out nearby enemies, and after unlocking them a remote controlled batarang, (which is kind of a nod at Batman Returns, I felt), a hacking device which is useful for getting passed locked doors, a three batarang attack which can take out three enemies at once, the bat grapple, a sonic batarang, and a line launcher (another gadget used in Batman Returns), so Eidos mixed movie and comic mythology in this game really making the player feel like they can honestly say, “I’m Batman”.
In conclusion, this game is every comic book fans dream as well as every gamers dream. From beginning to end to game keeps the player interested while delivering a fascinating, serious plot with impeccable game play. So my final rating 5 stars out of 5 which means that if you’re a casual console gamer, hardcore gamer or comic book, fan stop playing Call of Duty for a couple of days and buy this game. I also have to mention, while both the PS3 and 360 versions of the game may have an exlusive map from GameStop, PS3 owners are going to be treated by getting to download challenge maps where you can play as the Joker; these maps are fun because the Joker plays radically different from Batman. Well that’s enough out of me go out there and buy this game, it is well worth the money.