Batman: Arkham Asylum

Play begins as Batman escorts the bound Joker into the depths of Arkham Asylum's Intensive Treatment ward

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Eidos Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Eidos Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Eidos Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Eidos Batman: Arkham Asylum

Pros

  • Art direction, variety of stealth tactics, spectacular moments, addictive challenge maps, accessible controls, collectible riddles

Cons

  • Rote melee combat, dull stock opponents, recycled bosses, some throwaway upgrades, precious few super-villains.

Bottom Line

Finally, a Batman game worthy of the taking on the mantle. It's been a long time coming but they really hit one out of the park here. Stylish and wonderfully executed, Arkham Asylum is a visual marvel.

Would you buy this?

While other superheroes merely catch the crooks and then parade around with smug smirks, Batman goes out of his way to get inside the criminal mind and twist it into submission; that alone makes him one of my favourite comic book characters. Similarly, Batman: Arkham Asylum crawls inside your head and rearranges the furniture. It?s a triumph of mood and psychological tension, and devoted fans will find a great deal to excite them. But they're also bound to be disappointed by its reliance on repetitive combat and a shortage of villains worth the big man's attention.

Welcome to the Madhouse

Play begins as Batman escorts the bound Joker into the depths of Arkham Asylum's Intensive Treatment ward. It seems that our hero has foiled another of the Joker's bizarre plans, but Batman's suspicious of the ease with which the cackling wing-nut allowed himself to be captured. Of course, Batman's hardly a paragon of sanity himself. Anyone who runs around the filthy streets of Gotham in the dead of night in a cape and mask has some deep issues to sort out, so the howling mad world of Arkham Asylum could easily pose a dire threat to the dark knight's remaining marbles.

These early moments make a remarkably strong first impression. Batman's imposingly broad physique certainly calls to mind the exaggerated features of the comics more than any matinee idol, Mark Hamill's voice-over work breathes the full spirit of insanity into the toothy green-haired mastermind, and I cheered openly the first time I planted a boot straight into a rampaging inmate's kisser in slow-motion. Oracle, Batman's disabled former partner, guides me through an introductory encounter with Victor Zsasz, and a little exploration earns me the first few of the Riddler's 240 simple puzzles and hidden collectibles. The stage is set, and my blood is pumping.

The Great Outdoors

I learn to shimmy along ledges and grapple up to hidden nooks, and battle my way through to the outside. It's here that the world of Arkham Asylum really opens up. Okay, so you're not going to find a free-roaming world with the scale of a Grand Theft Auto, but there is a solid amount of space to explore all the same. You'll seldom have a choice of objectives to pursue, but the outdoor grounds do nicely complement the more restricted interiors that make up the lion's share of the game.

The presence of the Botanical Gardens notwithstanding, the hospital setting and grim tone don't lend themselves to a great deal of visual variety, but Batman: Arkham Asylum still excels when it comes to mood and audiovisual flourishes. Whether you're stalking a deranged murderer in Arkham Mansion or piecing together the Joker's true purpose in the Medical Facility, the most memorable corners of the island feel lived-in, even haunted. An outstanding musical score helps keep the tension from flagging even when the corridors and ventilation ducts start to blend together, and I never saw any of the texture pop-in that's so often been an unfortunate calling card of the otherwise excellent Unreal Engine.

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