With this being the last summer before Rocksteady’s epic trilogy is planned to draw to a close with Batman: Arkham Knight, this holiday seemed the perfect opportunity to revisit the title that began it all. Batman: Arkham Asylum, developed by previously little-known developer Rocksteady, was a game that no one was too sure on before release. Little did people know that this would end up to be one of the most immersive, dark, compelling, and ultimately fun experiences ever. People that dreamed of being Batman finally had the near perfect chance to fill the Dark Knight’s boots.
There are a plethora of reasons as to why this title was considered the milestone of superhero games akin to that of Spider-Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Within the opening moments of the game it’s easy to see why. The level of graphical detail, the personas of the various characters, the tremendous voice-acting, the atmospheric musical score, and the dark, gritty, big-brother-esque feel to it all instantly made players feel like they were in an authentic Gotham and, more specifically, an authentic Arkham Asylum.
The game itself reaps the field of cartoon and video game voice actors, including Kevin Conroy as Batman, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn, and Mark Hamill (or Luke Skywalker) making a return with his infamously talented and twisted rendition of the Crown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker. With the impressive roster of villains, all the voicing give them an excellent sense of individuality. The Riddler’s inferiority complex and hubris shine, The Scarecrow’s maniacal obsession with fear is terrifying, Killer Croc’s savagery is bestial and raw, and Poison Ivy’s concern for her precious plants comes across as genuine maternal affection.
But the true art lies in the presentation, and the gameplay. With an incredible attention to detail, the Rocksteady team managed to build an Arkham with seemingly infinite possibilities. In your attempts to stop Joker’s unknown scheme, the story takes you all over Arkham where many nefarious deeds lie waiting to be stopped by you/Batman.
Exploration is interwoven with seamlessly simple yet in-depth combat, of which there are two types. The standard brawl segments have you playing with the ‘Freeflow’ system, using from one to fives buttons in order to excel. It may seem simple at first but it’s beauty arises when your stuck in a room with eight of Joker’s minions and it takes you about two minutes to clear the room…or get beaten to a pulp.
Alternatively there are the ‘Predator’ sections, where a number of heavily armed thugs (who can shoot and kill you vey easily) are patrolling a room and you are forced to do as Batman does and clear the room with a mixture of stealth, gadgets, and general shadowy, Batman badassery. Apologies for the slight colloquialism there.
Of course that isn’t all. Early on in the game is the introduction of The Riddler, or as you come to know him, one of the most patronising and annoying characters in the game. He reveals to you that he dispersed 240 puzzles across the island and it’s your job to solve them all. It may sound daunting but it encourages you to fully explore the island as well as giving you a welcome reward of excellent back-stories on both well known and background characters. It’s not all fun and games as soon as he says go though as you soon come to realise that you can’t beat him until you’ve unlocked all the gadgets and upgrades in the game.
Additionally there are the sections for which this game is famous for, the legendary Scarecrow sections. Affected by fear gas you are forced into the nightmarish world of Dr. Crane- and these sections are as compelling as they are emotionally poignant as Batman is haunted by the visions of his lost parents and the very motivations that led him to don the Dark Knight persona.
There is much, much more to this game’s charm and quality but I’ll quite while I’m head before this becomes a love letter to Rocksteady. Lets say this; this game has near everything you could want, Batman, Joker, kickass characters (both male and female), awe-inspiring boss fights, varied gameplay, the list goes on. In the end it’ll be sad to bid farewell to this excellently developed trilogy but replaying Batman: Arkham Asylum has rekindled my excitement for the closing chapter. And if you haven’t played it, you definitely should. If you like it, like me you’ll undoubtedly want more before the end game next year. But you’re in luck because there’s a sequel, one that’s just as worth playing as this. Google it.