Miracle's Whip - Batman: Arkham Asylum

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

This is a belated review indeed, but I have just played through the game a second time and feel it deserves a little retrospective.

Miracle's Whip

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Poor old Batman. Is there any more tortured 'super' hero? Orphaned at a young age and having to live with the fact that he's pretty much just as bat-shit insane as the maniacs he spends his time hunting down. Good for him then, that last year he finally got a game worth getting excited over, courtesy of Rocksteady.

image

Unfortunately, in all his years of training Batman had never learned the Heimlich Manoeuvre

Arkham Asylum is one of those rare games that attempts a hundred and one things and nails almost every one of them. Almost.

The game is so good in parts that you may find I tend to gush here and there... but it's well deserved. Now, down to business.

Story

Well, it was always going to be great wasn't it? Writer Paul Dini was behind the animated series, which is many nerds' favorite incarnation of the world's most energetic insomniac. Characters are very close to their comic book origins, which makes me and a lot of Bat-fans nerdgasm.

The main plot begins with a wonderfully immersive interactive cut-scene. Batman is escorting Joker into Arkham under heavy security, and we learn that Joker started a fire in the local jailhouse, got himself caught by Batman and has had his newly homeless thugs sent to Arkham until the fire damage is repaired. Of course, he escapes and runs off into the bowels of Arkham, as this was his plan all along. Trapped in the loony bin with his nemesis, Bats must delve deep into the darkest corners of this hellhole to apprehend him.

image

Johnny Rotten's really left himself go since 'I'm a Celebrity'.

To say any more would be spoiling it for you, suffice to say the story is fantastically written, bar some cliched dialogue here and there (Over? Oh no... It's only just begun!') It moves along at a brisk, perfect pace and has some wonderfully emotional and disturbing moments that really let you see into Batman's soul, more than any other game and most of the movies.

See, this is what Arkham Asylum does best... makes you feel what it is like to be Batman. Not just in the gameplay... I'll get to that in a minute, but it deeply explores the troubled, disturbed mind of Bruce Wayne in a way we have never seen before. Truly remarkable.

Visual Presentation

Let's not beat around the bush here. This is the best looking game environment I have ever seen. It is absolutely gorgeous. The developers have used the Unreal 3 engine to a level that surpasses even Gears of War, creating a stunning Gothic nightmare vision of Arkham.

Dynamic lighting and shadows add character to buildings and plant life (which you will see an awful lot of later on in the game) and the game shimmers with ghostly luminous green, hellish red and of course lots and lots of black. Like Bioshock it uses tenebrism to great effect, creating a haunting, epic atmosphere that sucks you right in.

image

Totally not gratuitous in the slightest. Wonder if the Ivy matches the Vines

There are many different environments in AA, and you really feel like you're sneaking off into deep, unknown, secret places. It's pure escapist joy.

Character models are incredibly detailed, with Joker and Harley Quinn particularly well done. Animations are fluid, especially impressive during the beautiful, brutal and balletic combat. Batman's cape is almost fetishistic with its liquid, flowing animations. Ahem.

Faces tend to suffer from the same 'cheese grater scraped across plasticine' effect that Unreal can't seem to escape, and the first hour sees you stuck in some rather samey Gears style grey corridors, but they're pretty much the only flaws in an otherwise gobsmackingly gorgeous game.

Sound

Sound design is almost flawless. Punches and kicks give sickening thuds and cracks, really making you feel the hurt being dished out. Batman's gadgets have wonderful whizzes and whirs, clicks and clanks, making them very satisfying to use. The sound of firing your grapple and the metal screeching back as you fly into the air never gets old. The asylum is full of creepy weather and ambient effects that will send shivers down your spine.

image

The plight of Gotham would have to wait while Batman played with his new dolls' house

Voice acting is top notch, using the actors form the aforementioned animated series to great effect. Mark Hamill's Joker can get a little irritating due his almost constant prattling, especially in open areas where his dialogue is looped. One or two of the guard/thug voices are a bit naff too (head guard Cash is particularly bad), but it's not a huge problem.

The score is fantastic. Dark and cinematic, it fits the mood perfectly and gets going at all the right times.

Gameplay

Onto the meat of the game. Arkham Asylum knows Batman well. It knows he is the world's best detective, a master of stealth and a skilled martial artist.

Combat in AA is very simple but very satisfying. There are two types, both equally as fun.

Melee involves timing your attacks, jumps, cape stuns, Batarang throws and counters to merge into long, fluid combos. It all flows together beautifully and although there is only one attack button, Batman will perform scores of fantastic looking martial arts moves that are both brutal and elegant.

image

Alfred must get tired of sowing up all those ladders in Batman's tights.

Stealthy combat involves prowling around the highest beams, walkways and conveniently placed gargoyles, taking out armed opponents one by one using your brain instead of your muscle. Batman has a whole toy-box full of helpful gadgets for this purpose. You can swoop down and hang thugs on a gargoyle, stun them with an exploding Batarang, send them in the wrong direction with sonic devices, even set traps with explosive Bat-gel, which our demented protagonist delights in spraying into a little bat shape.

Exploring Arkham is highly satisfying due to every movement mechanic being precise, weighty and fun. From grappling to high ledges, to using your cape to glide from a height, to using your (slightly overpowered) detective vision mode to see every hidden secret, air vent and terrified enemy.

image

Guess who spent most of their twenties in the tanning salon...

However, it's not perfect. It has been said before but bears repeating... the game falls flat on its face when it presents you with boss battles. The first time you beat a foe by making him run into a wall, you can forgive it. But when you have done the same boss fight over 10 times with exactly the same tactic, it becomes a slog. Not all of them are bad, one DMC style boss battle against a very large plant is kind of fun and utterly OTT in its presentation. Another started off reminding me of Salazar's Right Hand from Resi 4, but 10 minutes later had me growling at the TV willing the overly long QTE hell to be over.

Fights against multiple thugs and repeated boss characters together suck. It's hard to explain just how bad they are, but basically all the joy of the intuitive combat gets thrown out the nearest Romanesque window and everything becomes a big chaotic mess. It's awful. And don't even start me on the final boss fight, which is possibly the least enjoyable, anti-climactic piece of shit excuse for a final battle I've seen this gen. And you thought gears 2 had a crappy end boss... wait till you get a load of this turd.

There is also a challenge mode, where you fight waves of thugs in various arenas for a place on the leader boards. It was fun for five minutes but ultimately forgettable.

Overall Opinion

So yeah, I wasn't keen on the boss battles. But don't let that put you off. This game is perfect in so many ways that you will forgive its little stumbles here and there. My game of the year for last year? Well, alongside Dragon Age. Hard to pick between the two. Five or six hours into this masterpiece you will stop playing Batman and become Batman. That's how good it is at immersing you.

High Point:

The hallucination sequences. That's all I can say without spoilers.

Low point:

Boss battles that frustrate and disappoint

So on the small off-chance anyone reading this hasn't already got Batman: Arkham Asylum...

Verdict:

Buy

Other Miracle's Whip reviews:
Bioshock 2
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.175856-Miracles-Whip-Bioshock-2#5002435

Change verdict to rent, and we're in agreement.

I rented that. Great game. But I never will play it again.

And the hallucination sequences sucked. Hide behind wall. Run. Hide. Run.

Great review! One of the best I've read in ages!

Much better than your Bioshock review, and that was pretty damn good itself.

I've only played this game for a very fleeting moment at a friends house, but I'll probably try and pick it up if it's cheap on Steam again.

Furburt:

I've only played this game for a very fleeting moment at a friends house, but I'll probably try and pick it up if it's cheap on Steam again.

Keep an eye out this week then. Steam have been doing deals on Square-Enix/ Eidos games all week, and haven't done this game yet. I reckon there's a very good chance of them doing a deal on Arkham Asylum.

Furburt:
Great review! One of the best I've read in ages!

Much better than your Bioshock review, and that was pretty damn good itself.

I've only played this game for a very fleeting moment at a friends house, but I'll probably try and pick it up if it's cheap on Steam again.

Thanks buddy!

Definately get it.

Even if you're not a Batman fan it's worth playing!

Onyx Oblivion:
Change verdict to rent, and we're in agreement.

I rented that. Great game. But I never will play it again.

And the hallucination sequences sucked. Hide behind wall. Run. Hide. Run.

I had to give it a couple of months before a second playthrough but really enjoyed it both times. It does lose a little excitement when nothing is a mystery anymore though.

I actually don't have this, I'm shamed to say. It was further down my list of games to pick up and it has just recently made it's way to the top of that list. Damn budget restraints.

I did order it yesterday. Thank you amazon for pre-order incentives! It was $30! So I am now looking forward to it even more. Excellent review.

Paul Dini did this, eh? I had thought it was Grant Morrison who had done it, since he did the graphic novel of the same name. BTW, excellent read if you get the chance. I like Dini though (War on Crime he did with Alex Ross is simply breathtaking. For that matter, so are all their collaborations), so I'm sure I'll enjoy the story.

meganmeave:
I actually don't have this, I'm shamed to say. It was further down my list of games to pick up and it has just recently made it's way to the top of that list. Damn budget restraints.

I did order it yesterday. So I am now looking forward to it even more. Excellent review.

Paul Dini did this, eh? I had thought it was Grant Morrison who had done it, since he did the graphic novel of the same name. BTW, excellent read if you get the chance. I like Dini though (War on Crime he did with Alex Ross is simply breathtaking. For that matter, so are all their collaborations), so I'm sure I'll enjoy the story.

You are clearly a Batfan... the sooner you get AA the better, you'll love it :)

MiracleOfSound:

meganmeave:
I actually don't have this, I'm shamed to say. It was further down my list of games to pick up and it has just recently made it's way to the top of that list. Damn budget restraints.

I did order it yesterday. So I am now looking forward to it even more. Excellent review.

Paul Dini did this, eh? I had thought it was Grant Morrison who had done it, since he did the graphic novel of the same name. BTW, excellent read if you get the chance. I like Dini though (War on Crime he did with Alex Ross is simply breathtaking. For that matter, so are all their collaborations), so I'm sure I'll enjoy the story.

You are clearly a Batfan... the sooner you get AA the better, you'll love it :)

Supposedly it comes tomorrow. We shall see.

I edited my post, but not fast enough! I managed to pick it up for $30 from Amazon. I love those pre-order incentives. Amazon has me pegged, that's for sure.

Batfan from long ago. Ever since I read Frank Miller's Dark Knight I was hooked.

meganmeave:

Supposedly it comes tomorrow. We shall see.

I edited my post, but not fast enough! I managed to pick it up for $30 from Amazon. I love those pre-order incentives. Amazon has me pegged, that's for sure.

Batfan from long ago. Ever since I read Frank Miller's Dark Knight I was hooked.

Sweet. I've a soft spot for old crazy Bats since I was little and used to watch the psychadelic TV series!

MiracleOfSound:

Sweet. I've a soft spot for old crazy Bats since I was little and used to watch the psychadelic TV series!

The original Batman: The Animated Series? The Art Deco looking one from the early 90s? That was a good series. I love that art style.

meganmeave:

MiracleOfSound:

Sweet. I've a soft spot for old crazy Bats since I was little and used to watch the psychadelic TV series!

The original Batman: The Animated Series? The Art Deco looking one from the early 90s? That was a good series. I love that art style.

That one was great, and much more in tune with the comics... but this is the one I was talking about!

MiracleOfSound:

meganmeave:

The original Batman: The Animated Series? The Art Deco looking one from the early 90s? That was a good series. I love that art style.

That one was great, and much more in tune with the comics... but this is the one I was talking about!

heh heh! Yes, caught some of those on Nick at Night when I was a kid. Great special effects, right? "POW!"

Fantabulous review!

I agree with you on pretty much everything.

Julianking93:
Fantabulous review!

I agree with you on pretty much everything.

Cheers! Glad ya liked it :)

I'm half tempted to go start yet another game of it now.

Another entertaining review dude, you clearly have a flair for this (I would be very interested to see you review something you aren't that impressed with too) The caption humour made me snigger, mainly the Johnny Rotten one (teehee, might be because I actually remember the sex pistols when they first came out mind you..)
I don't own it and taking all the comments on board might not buy it but will borrow it from my dear son, who I believe does own it :-) (after playing FFXIII of course)

whats the point of this? better, proffesional reviewers (yahtzee, IGN, gamespot, gamspy, the list is bloody endless) have already rated this months ago.

HotFezz8:
whats the point of this? better, proffesional reviewers (yahtzee, IGN, gamespot, gamspy, the list is bloody endless) have already rated this months ago.

So? MiracleOfSound has only just gotten into reviewing, and some people have posted reviews of games from decades ago.

Another great review from Miracle, I agree with most of what you said, But I actually liked the bossfights, Simple old school end of level type ones...except there is no levels.

HotFezz8:
whats the point of this? better, proffesional reviewers (yahtzee, IGN, gamespot, gamspy, the list is bloody endless) have already rated this months ago.

And your point being. People review older stuff all the time. I myself reviewed KOTOR not too long ago and that's a hell of alot older than Batman AA

Edit: Alright now I've read the review and can give my opinion. This review is very well detailed with very small grammatical errors that do little to take away from the review. I feel that there are a couple of pictures that could be removed, but that's just my own opinion. All in all a very good review that is eligible for my LITV seal of approval

Jenova65:
Another entertaining review dude, you clearly have a flair for this (I would be very interested to see you review something you aren't that impressed with too) The caption humour made me snigger, mainly the Johnny Rotten one (teehee, might be because I actually remember the sex pistols when they first came out mind you..)
I don't own it and taking all the comments on board might not buy it but will borrow it from my dear son, who I believe does own it :-) (after playing FFXIII of course)

I'll often throw on Never Mind the Bollocks and have an old mosh around the kitchen. Love em!

Thanks for nice commments :)

HotFezz8:
whats the point of this?

The point is I wanted to do it. That's enough of a point for me. Now your post, on the other hand... that to me seems a good example of something pointless.

Also... read the very first sentence in the review.

imahobbit4062:

Another great review from Miracle, I agree with most of what you said, But I actually liked the bossfights, Simple old school end of level type ones...except there is no levels.

I enjoyed the

one, in it's wierd DMC, God of War bigness. It was wonderfully silly.

I just got so damn sick of all those henchmen... henchmen henchmen henchmen....

Lost In The Void:

Alright now I've read the review and can give my opinion. This review is very well detailed with very small grammatical errors that do little to take away from the review. I feel that there are a couple of pictures that could be removed, but that's just my own opinion. All in all a very good review that is eligible for my LITV seal of approval

Thanks dude! I wasn't sure about having that many pics myself, but in the end I kept them in as it I felt prevented having too much of a wall of text!

Good review man. A few laughs in there (I especially enjoyed the one in the beginning about the "most energetic insomniac") and some very good points. There are a few I disagree on, like the paragraph where you make love to the graphics, but it's all opinion based, so of course most people will find things they disagree about.

Very enjoyable read man, just a few small grammatical errors here and there, but nothing major. Looking forward to reading another.

SniperWolf427:
Good review man. A few laughs in there (I especially enjoyed the one in the beginning about the "most energetic insomniac") and some very good points. There are a few I disagree on, like the paragraph where you make love to the graphics, but it's all opinion based, so of course most people will find things they disagree about.

Very enjoyable read man, just a few small grammatical errors here and there, but nothing major. Looking forward to reading another.

Hehe, make love to the graphics. It's true, I did have a boner for those environments.

MiracleOfSound:

SniperWolf427:
Good review man. A few laughs in there (I especially enjoyed the one in the beginning about the "most energetic insomniac") and some very good points. There are a few I disagree on, like the paragraph where you make love to the graphics, but it's all opinion based, so of course most people will find things they disagree about.

Very enjoyable read man, just a few small grammatical errors here and there, but nothing major. Looking forward to reading another.

Hehe, make love to the graphics. It's true, I did have a boner for those environments.

See, for me, it isn't that the graphics were bad, it's just that games using the Unreal Engine (which is every fucking game in existence) look bland and washed out to me. It feels like they can only animate black for darkness, dark grey for buildings, green for foliage, and a dark shade of brown for everything else.

Mass Effect, Gears of War, Arkham Asylum, Bioshock etc. They are all excellent games, but they all have that graphical non-diversity (opposite of diversity) that bugs me.

SniperWolf427:
[
See, for me, it isn't that the graphics were bad, it's just that games using the Unreal Engine (which is every fucking game in existence) look bland and washed out to me. It feels like they can only animate black for darkness, dark grey for buildings, green for foliage, and a dark shade of brown for everything else.

Mass Effect, Gears of War, Arkham Asylum, Bioshock etc. They are all excellent games, but they all have that graphical non-diversity (opposite of diversity) that bugs me.

I totally understand.

I remember playing Red Faction: Geurrilla, Dark Void and ME2 and thinking how everything looks the same when it's done on Unreal.

I did think they made great use of it in AA (especially in the mansion and Botanical Gardens) for the environments, but like I said, the faces had the same old muddy textures as always.

As ugly as Dragon Age was, it was refreshing to see a game built on a different engine for once, with nice clear lines and textures that didn;t look all grainy..

MiracleOfSound:

SniperWolf427:
[
See, for me, it isn't that the graphics were bad, it's just that games using the Unreal Engine (which is every fucking game in existence) look bland and washed out to me. It feels like they can only animate black for darkness, dark grey for buildings, green for foliage, and a dark shade of brown for everything else.

Mass Effect, Gears of War, Arkham Asylum, Bioshock etc. They are all excellent games, but they all have that graphical non-diversity (opposite of diversity) that bugs me.

I totally understand.

I remember playing Red Faction: Geurrilla, Dark Void and ME2 and thinking how everything looks the same when it's done on Unreal.

I did think they made great use of it in AA (especially in the mansion and Botanical Gardens) for the environments, but like I said, the faces had the same old muddy textures as always.

As ugly as Dragon Age was, it was refreshing to see a game built on a different engine for once, with nice clear lines and textures that didn;t look all grainy..

Dragon Age used a different engine you say? I had no idea.

Jesus Christ, it's begun. Engines that aren't the Unreal Engine are starting to look like the fucking Unreal engine.

We're all screwed.

You're right though, the gardens did look nice in AA. Regardless of the fact that they were annoying as a level.

SniperWolf427:

MiracleOfSound:

SniperWolf427:
[
See, for me, it isn't that the graphics were bad, it's just that games using the Unreal Engine (which is every fucking game in existence) look bland and washed out to me. It feels like they can only animate black for darkness, dark grey for buildings, green for foliage, and a dark shade of brown for everything else.

Mass Effect, Gears of War, Arkham Asylum, Bioshock etc. They are all excellent games, but they all have that graphical non-diversity (opposite of diversity) that bugs me.

I totally understand.

I remember playing Red Faction: Geurrilla, Dark Void and ME2 and thinking how everything looks the same when it's done on Unreal.

I did think they made great use of it in AA (especially in the mansion and Botanical Gardens) for the environments, but like I said, the faces had the same old muddy textures as always.

As ugly as Dragon Age was, it was refreshing to see a game built on a different engine for once, with nice clear lines and textures that didn;t look all grainy..

Dragon Age used a different engine you say? I had no idea.

Jesus Christ, it's begun. Engines that aren't the Unreal Engine are starting to look like the fucking Unreal engine.

We're all screwed.

You're right though, the gardens did look nice in AA. Regardless of the fact that they were annoying as a level.

Yeah the new engine in Dragon Age is called Eclipse. The character models were pretty clumsy and there was far too much ugly brownish red, but it's a nice clear engine, especially smooth with skin texture and stuff. Has a lot of potential by the looks of it.

Great job on the review. Well written, easy to read, and funny. I want this game but have been waiting for it to come down in price since I dont want it THAT bad. I'll probably buy it when it drops to twenty bucks. Its not personal AA, its just how I buy most of my games. Heck I just bought the force unleashed recently.

khaimera:
Great job on the review. Well written, easy to read, and funny. I want this game but have been waiting for it to come down in price since I dont want it THAT bad. I'll probably buy it when it drops to twenty bucks. Its not personal AA, its just how I buy most of my games. Heck I just bought the force unleashed recently.

Thanks :)

I get like that sometimes. I dind't play Dragon Age until a couple of months after it came out. Though most biggies I'll be in on the first day!

If you're in any way a Batman fan you'll love this.

Good review.
I didn't get bored while reading it which is rare as I usually click into a review, start reading it then leave about halfway through. You flow nicely between paragraphs and point out the good and the bad points about this game while picking up on the little things like the facial graphics.

I owned this for about 3 months before I traded it, not because I didn't like it, trust me, it was one of the best games I've played, it just felt like it had no re-playability to me.

Looking forward to reading some more reviews by you. Gonna go check out your Bioshock 2 review, unless it contains spoilers. I've just got it alongside FF XIII. Which was a stupid decision to make, really.

HotFezz8:
whats the point of this? better, proffesional reviewers (yahtzee, IGN, gamespot, gamspy, the list is bloody endless) have already rated this months ago.

Oh, you'll love my upcoming reviews then.
The newest one on my list is FF XIII. The second newest one is Borderlands. The oldest one is Bioshock. I expect to see you in my reviews posting that. If you don't, I shall be very upset.

Sassafrass:
Good review.
I didn't get bored while reading it which is rare as I usually click into a review, start reading it then leave about halfway through. You flow nicely between paragraphs and point out the good and the bad points about this game while picking up on the little things like the facial graphics.

I owned this for about 3 months before I traded it, not because I didn't like it, trust me, it was one of the best games I've played, it just felt like it had no re-playability to me.

Looking forward to reading some more reviews by you. Gonna go check out your Bioshock 2 review, unless it contains spoilers.

Thanks man, nice kind words :)

There are no spoilers in the Bioshock 2 one either, I have a strict 'no spoilers' rule for all my reviews.

I really enjoy the challenge rooms. I don't understand how they can be unappealing.

Sections of gameplay branching off of the main game, with variations in play style, map and difficulty which you can replay as much as you want. What made you think they were forgettable?

starfox444:
I really enjoy the challenge rooms. I don't understand how they can be unappealing.

Sections of gameplay branching off of the main game, with variations in play style, map and difficulty which you can replay as much as you want. What made you think they were forgettable?

Just a matter of taste. I never really get into arena style modes in any game to be honest. They were fun to play throgh once but I didn't want to repeat them.

I think I prefer to have my gameplay in the context of the story, it's an immersion thing.

Got around to reading this a bit late, seeing how I just got back from 12 days of vacation.

Nice one, I agree with most of it. Personally, I would've added one or two sentences about the secrets/riddles and how the game managed to make the optional scavenger hunt sidequest fun and immersive as well.

Curse you for using that Poison Ivy pic. Now I've drooled on my keyboard again... -.-

I can't believe they wasted space on a run button. That button should have been for crying about your parents!
image

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked