by Joseph Barron
reviewed on X360
The World's Greatest Detective
The combat and violence of Batman isn't the only thing where Rocksteady have paid close attention to detail. They are also the first developer to have taken note that Batman is "The World's Greatest Detective" and they give you the tools to achieve it. Batman has a "detective mode" in his cowl which allows him to determine threat levels of enemies and find hidden objects in the environment, like breakable walls and other interactive objects. Some key story moments also require the analysis of finger prints, DNA in blood and other forensic techniques, similar to gameplay in Sega's Condemned: Criminal Origins.
Progression through the story is largely influenced by clues in the environment which lead you to different locations around Arkham Island. You are free to go anywhere you like, but you will often need to backtrack repeatedly to places you have already visited to collect something to further your investigation. This makes the story feel very stilted and progress can feel slower than it really is. There are no ways to quickly travel around the map either. You have to run or swing on your grapple everywhere. This could have been avoided if Batman's on-site Bat-cave had been located more centrally on the map, offering a hub to make the island easier to navigate.
Where does he get those wonderful toys?
Thankfully, the developers offer you more than a few things to keep you going. There are twenty suit and weapon upgrades to work towards. You earn these by gaining experience points as you play. Eventually you gain items like a zip-line gun and special batarang variations. These upgrades become essential in the harder boss battles later in the game. The bosses themselves can be a bit too "gamey" though. One fight against a larger enemy involves standing near walls and dodging their charges so they injure themselves. Most of the boss fights are similarly unimaginative, so it's a good job that everything in-between is so beautifully executed. The major stand-out boss fights are those that involve the Scarecrow. These usually take place in a nightmare world covered with imagery of Bruce Wayne's worst fears. It is without doubt the most thoughtful portrayal, in any medium, of the effects of Scarecrow's Fear Toxin.
Riddle me this, riddle me that
When you are not beating criminals to a pulp you can take time out from the story to hunt for hidden items and riddles placed around the Asylum by The Riddler. There are Riddler trophies hidden all over the Island and several sneakier riddles which really require a bit of thought to solve. These usually involve some cryptic clue from The Riddler which leads to a hidden bit of Batman history. Completing these riddles unlocks detailed bios for each character and character models which can be viewed from the main menu.
The story will take most players between 7-10 hours to complete, depending on how many of The Riddler's side missions you attempt to solve. The game doesn't end there though. There are also a variety of challenge modes, involving completing specific goals in predator or free-flow combat scenarios. More of these will be made available as DLC in the future and PS3 owners can exclusively access several Joker challenge maps as a free download from the PlayStation Store.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a triumph for a developer who is only on their second full retail game and it is comfortably the best Batman game ever made. It isn't without its flaws but there is enough content and enough action to satisfy every gamer. Whether you are a Batman fan or not, this is just a hell of a game.
Beautiful special effects.
The bosses can be a bit too gamey.