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    dkirschner's Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC)

    [December 4, 2010 02:17:54 AM]
    What a great game! All I knew before playing was that it got high review scores across the board, the fighting was supposed to be fun, and there was a detective mode where you could be stealthy. I played a demo that Daniel had on Xbox for about 10 minutes this summer, so when Steam had it on sale for $10, I pounced.

    First of all, this is the best looking game I've ever played, hands down, especially the views of Arkham from up high. The graphics are mind-blowing and it's a year old. The style is great too, total Dark Knight stuff. The whole game's presentation is dark. It's very much the Batman of the last two movies and the first Tim Burton one that I watched about 50 times when I was a kid. Joker is the main bad guy in this one, and he's straight up sadistic. I found out watching the credits he was voiced by Mark Hamill. Joker gets himself arrested to hatch a plan to take over Arkham Asylum. He breaks out all the inmates and it's really great listening to him on the closed circuit prison TV taunting both Batman and his henchmen. Generally, Batman walks into a room with a handful of inmates and you've got to pick them all off. Joker is omniscient in the prison, watching everything. He'll say, after you kill an inmate, "Is someone missing?! Oh, I'm losing count," to which the other inmates respond by yelling at each other, finding the dead guy and getting terrified of being in the same room as the Batman. Joker's taunts are dynamic too. Say there are four inmates, he might say "Come on! There are four of you and only one of him!" Then you kill another one and he'll say, "You guys are supposed to be the criminals and murderers!" Get one left and he might say like "It looks like you're all alone with the bat! Hahaha! My money's on the bat!" And the inmates go from acting ballsy in groups to being scared of their shadow as their numbers dwindle. They'll slowly walk turning around every 5 seconds and talking to themselves. It's really neat to watch.

    The other omniscient character is the Riddler, and I have no idea where he is or how he can talk to you. He's in charge of all the "extras" in the game. You can find hidden riddler clues, interview tapes featuring various of the famous inmates, these weird history of Arkham Island tablets with some old guy that I never figured out the point, and you can solve riddles. The Riddler will also taunt you, more at the beginning, but less as you find more of his secrets. Then he'll start claiming that you're cheating, you must be cheating, how did you find that one, and you must be looking on the internet. He's pretty amusing and I found it fun to cause him distress by completing his challenges. His challenges unlock bonuses like character art and biographies, which were cool to flesh out the world. Most of the extras required no real thought, just some looking around, and you're able to find more as you acquire new abilities. So most of them weren't about figuring much out, but recognizing a weak wall or a Riddler clue that you can either get to now or have to wait until you get a new gadget. The kind I did like though were these where you had to go into Detective mode (highlights clues and things you can interact with) to find big Riddler question marks, which were always split somewhere, so you might see the dot in one place and the top part of the ? in another, and you've got to find a vantage point to line them up. Those were the most challenging.

    The fighting was supposed to be a big deal, and I think it's very fluid. Stringing together combos is very satisfying. There's a context sensitive counterattack move that often chains punches and kicks together. You can also throw enemies, use gadgets like your batarang, and stomp them when they're down. The game ends up pitting you against 8 or so enemies at a time, most of which are basic inmates with fists or steel pipes. Sometimes inmates will have a gun or knives or a cattle prod and those can be deadly if you don't play it right. I'm not a huge fan of these more free-form fighting systems. I really like the strategy turn-based stuff or shooters better than the action-y punching and kicking, but it was fun, and I got used to it. I never got past like an 18-point combo, which I feel like is low since there are achievements for all the way up to 40. General progression through a room can be more or less stealthy. I tended to prefer going stealth mode, zipping from gargoyles up high, dropping on enemies, stringing them up, doing stealth kills. The game does a great job making you feel like the stalking predator that Batman is. The scared inmates really help with this.

    Boss battles tended to be both unique and easy. Since it's Batman, you never actually kill the villains, which I realized most of the way through and liked, and they tried to make the battles fun and interesting, but they all used the same mechanics over and over, that is, double-tapping to dive side to side to avoid things and fighting a ton of inmates while trying to kill the boss. The contexts were cool, but the actual doing of the fights were repetitive on the whole. My favorite sequences were definitely the Scarecrow ones. When Batman starts coughing, you know Scarecrow is near and you're about to be pulled into a nightmare with a 10-story tall Scarecrow trying to find you and break your mind. You have to run platformer-style through the levels avoiding his gaze and holding onto your sanity. Scarecrow's demise is so good too. It directly precedes my second-favorite boss fight.

    One of my favorite things about this game was the dynamic environments and characters. The Asylum feels alive and it changes over the course of the night. First, over the course of the game, Batman's cape and suit get progressively more torn and ripped, complete with a cut on his face by the end. He might have even been growing stubble. As Joker's plan unfolds and he gets a tighter and tighter grip on the Asylum, you see his 'renovations' to it, including spray paint tags proclaiming "Joker Asylum," his giant visage that gets constructed over time at the entrance to the visitor's center, presents he leaves for you containing those chattering teeth of his, and just general destruction and dead guards who used to be alive. It's very neat. Then the huge one is when you have to stop Poison Ivy from taking over the island with her mutated plants and her plants literally destroy the place and change the landscape drastically. Incredibly cool.

    Batman gets an easy recommendation from me. The last game I played that was anything like it was Bioshock, which was also amazing, and it's good to have found another type of action/stealth/whatever mash-up of genre.
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    dkirschner's Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 29 November, 2010

    GameLog closed on: Saturday 4 December, 2010

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Great game. Total crazy villains, dark atmosphere, funny, looks amazing, fun fighting and gadgets, inmates are great fun to pick off.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See dkirschner's page

    See info on Batman: Arkham Asylum

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