Soft Meat Reviews: Batman Arkham Asylum + Joker Challenge Maps (Video)

Hello, and welcome to my first review ever. As I said in the title, this is a video review but I also posted a full text transcript of the review below. Please tell me what you think.

Soft Meat Reviews:
Batman Arkham Asylum
(PS3, Xbox 360)

As is implied by the title, the game is set in the infamous Arkham Asylum, home of the worst villains Gotham City has ever seen. Unsurprisingly, the main villain in the game is Batman's arch nemesis The Joker as he tries to take over the asylum, but quite a few other baddies make appearances as well. It's pretty clear from the beginning that this is more than just a prison break and after a series of betrayals and twists, you find out that Joker has much more planed then just escaping the asylum or killing Batman. I don't want to say much more than that for fear of spoiling anything but I will say that the story isn't exactly anything groundbreaking (especially in the comic book world) but it is interesting and it gets you from point A to point B. It is a much darker story then you may have seen in the Batman universe though. The tone is much more in line with the recent Batman movies as well as the older animated feature Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

This game takes a slightly different spin on combat then most games. Rather then slowly bringing in bigger and tougher enemy types, they simply try to overwhelm you with many weaker enemies. This is where the Free Flow combat system kicks in. The idea behind this system is that Batman is a martial arts master and that normal thugs are no match for him. The problem with this is that it makes the game a little too easy. All you will be doing is mashing the attack button and pushing the control stick in the direction of the enemy you want to hit and avoiding damage can be as simple as pressing the counter button whenever someone is attacking (this is shown by little lightning bolts above their head). As you gain experience and buy upgrades you can eventually unlock new combat abilities but, because the combat is already so simple, there isn't much reason to use them except to increase your score in the challenge mode. There are two enemy types that kind of change things up later in the game, but once you learn how to handle them (the game actually tells you how) they don't put up much more of a challenge then the normal enemies. I highly recommend starting the game on hard difficulty as it eliminates the lightning bolts telling you when someone is attacking and generally make the enemies more of a challenge.

The boss segments aren't much more challenging. The majority of the boss fights are essentially the same fight, just with more enemies each time. All you have to do is to wait for the enemy to charge you, hit him in the face with the Batarang to blind him so he runs into a wall, then melee him in the back. This is literally the formula for almost every boss fight. It only gets hard when Jokers henchmen jump in as well and it's hard to find time to stop fighting them and throw a Batarang at the boss. The only variety in the boss battles is when you fight Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and Scarecrow but, even though they are different, they are all just as simple. The latter two aren't even really fights; all you have to do is avoid them while traveling through their arenas.

Other then bosses, the only people you really have to worry about are the guys with guns. They will tear Batman to shreds. The problem is that they only really show up in the stealth segments, so as long as they don't spot you, you're safe. These segments have you taking the enemies out quickly one by one as opposed to taking them all on en masse. You use your grappling hook to perch yourself on gargoyles and other structures above your enemies to get the jump on them or crawl through vents and on lower walkways to get them from below without being seen. This is where your Detective Mode will come into play. You can switch Batman's vision to Detective Mode in order to track your enemies throughout the area. In this mode you can see through walls and any important structures such as gargoyles, vents, and destructible walls are highlighted. The henchmen follow scripted paths MGS style and only deviate from this path when they hear or see something suspicious. After you have taken a few guys out, the remaining men will temporarily group up to make it harder for you to take them out individually. They don't stay together very long though and, even if they did, there are plenty of ways to take out multiple targets at once. All in all, the game play is actually really fun. It's really entertaining watching Batman jump from bad guy to bad guy pulverizing them one by one and its fun coming up with creative solutions to the stealth segments. Just don't go in expecting any real challenge.

Arkham Asylum is actually a little bit smaller then you might expect and it doesn't take long before you are doing a bit of backtracking. It's not too bad but it would have been nice to see some more unique areas, especially outside. The grounds of the asylum only really serve as a means to get from building to building and it's disappointing to see them not used for anything else. There is a Batcave on the island, but it's really small and you only visit it twice in the game to scan something into the computer and to pick up a new tool. The areas you visit are pretty varied though. You have a penitentiary, a medical facility, botanical gardens (guess who you fight there) and a few others. All have unique architecture and layout.
The game follows a linear path (not that there's anything wrong with that) but the majority of the game is just going from point A to point B to initiate a boss fight or other event. The developers tried to break this up a bit by putting in detective scenes where Batman investigates an area to find a clue to where he needs to go next. These segments are incredibly lame. Literally all you do is go into Detective Mode, find an item that is already highlighted on your screen, and scan that item. That's it. At that point all you have to do is follow the trail left by whatever you scanned (like a fingerprint or scent trail). Batman is supposed to be the worlds greatest detective and these segments do nothing to reflect that or to make the story progression any more interesting.

One thing that this game does do really well is the bonus content. Every area has a lot of secrets and it is really fun tracking them all down. Throughout the game there are Riddler Trophies that unlock bonus content like challenge maps and character trophies. You can also find recordings of the inmates, some of which can be quite creepy, like the interviews with Zsaz (a maniacal serial killer loose in the asylum). In every distinct area there are also a series of riddles that you can solve. Some of them can be quite fun to solve but some are just stupid, like ones where you have to line up question marks that you can only see in Detective Mode. You get the impression that after they had come up with all of the real riddles they just got lazy and added the question mark ones as filler. You don't have to worry about finding all of this before you beat the game either because, after you finish the campaign, the entire island is unlocked for you to explore.

The last thing that you can do is the Challenge Maps. Sadly though there really isn't much to say because all of the maps are ripped, pixel for pixel, from the campaign. If you're into leaderboards then these modes will have some value but otherwise you might as well just play the campaign again. The stealth maps do have Predator Medal Challenges that may force you to do things a little differently than you would normally but they never amount to anything more then taking down enemies in specific ways. However, if you get the PS3 version you can do the maps as Joker and, I have to say, it's really fun. In the combat sections he has his own unique fighting style and moves but these differences are purely aesthetic. He plays exactly like Batman. The real difference is in the stealth maps. The Joker isn't like Batman. He doesn't swing from ledges and fly across the room. So, in order to move around you have to rely on vents, ladders, and stairways to get around which really limits your tactics. One thing you have, that Batman doesn't, is a gun that can pierce multiple targets, but it only has one shot so you need to make it count. You also have a pair of chattering teeth that act as a remote controlled explosive but you only have one of those as well. It's a nice change of pace to play as The Joker and you'll have a lot of fun terrorizing the prison guards but, again, all of the areas are ripped from the game so don't expect any new terrain to come with him.

Overall, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a really fun and, to be perfectly honest, completely surpassed my expectations. It could, however, have been a lot better and I hope they make a sequel that utilizes the full potential of the ideas in this game.

Note: I know that the audio quality isn't the best but hopefully I'll be able to get a proper microphone before I do my next review.

An actual audio review posted in this section that I didn't regret listening to. Nice.

One qualm I have though, you seem to contradict yourself many times during the review, next time you should try to be more clear on your stance. I only really found out that you liked the game near the end of the review.

Good job otherwise though.

Thanks.

I had a discussion about that with my friend shortly before I posted the video. It's definitely something I'll work on for my next review.

Good job. You flowed really well, and you did an excellent review. Only problem is is that you seemed a little monotone. I'm not saying to wacky-zainy fun fun, but there's nothing wrong with a little comedy here and there.

white_salad:
Good job. You flowed really well, and you did an excellent review. Only problem is is that you seemed a little monotone. I'm not saying to wacky-zainy fun fun, but there's nothing wrong with a little comedy here and there.

I think I was a bit nervous, which made me sound a bit stiff. I tried to ad-lib a bit but it usually sounded dumb when I played it back, so that stuff got cut out. I'll try to make my next review sound a bit more human.

I liked it, I think you should have maybe the game audio be louder at times. Just so it isn't you talking the entire time. And this is just me, but I think you should toss in a rating to help sum up the review.

Great review, you don't see to many audio reviews here.

Good review. What did you use for the video? Did you do your own capture? I noticed you have the video available in 720p.

Thanks

funkball:
Good review. What did you use for the video? Did you do your own capture? I noticed you have the video available in 720p.

Thanks

For this review I used a Dazzle 170 capture card. It's not actually in 720p. My other reviews use a Hauppauge HDPVR which is.

 

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