Developer(s) – Rocksteady Studios
Publisher(s) – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment & Eidos Interactive
Director – Sefton Hill
Producer(s) – Daniel Bailie & Nathan Burlow
PEGI – 16
Released in the summer of 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum was instrumental in establishing an unusually high standard for games based on pre-existing licenses and has since gone on to inspire the development of games such as Alien: Isolation and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I did find a few faults with this game, and by proxy, I think it is somewhat overrated, but nevertheless, it is a fairly solid gaming experience.
Graphics – 9/10
This game was one of the best-looking of its time, containing some of the most advanced graphical renderings of the seventh generation of gaming, showing off stunning textural detail; specifically in things such as the Joker’s hair, Batman’s cape, Killer Croc’s skin, and the Scarecrow’s clothing. Aside from all that, however, the game also excels conceptually. Taking place in the infamous Arkham Asylum of the Batman universe, it is home to some extremely dark imagery, and a vast range of different and gritty locations, such as the sewers where Killer Croc resides, and the greenhouse, where Poison Ivy eventually overgrows with deadly flora.
Gameplay – 9/10
The gameplay is equally as immersing. An action-adventure title, there is a heavy emphasis on combat, with an extremely intricate system of stringing combos together and in using different techniques to tackle enemies either head-on or using both stealth and conveniently placed vantage points to pick them off one after the other. In addition, there are a fair few side quests to undertake, such as finding all the interview tapes of each villain, the Riddler trophies, and finding each of the history runes scattered throughout the asylum. Though the Batman game on the NES is often regarded as a decent title, Arkham Asylum did more than use the license, but it also celebrated it, making the player feel more as if they are in the shoes of the dark knight.
Controls – 10/10
The game can most definitely be seen as an extremely positive departure from the extremely ill-fated Batman and Robin game released for the PlayStation in terms of its controls scheme. It plays out somewhat similarly, but the controls in Arkham Asylum are most definitely more developed on and more intricate than the latter.
Lifespan – 4/10
The game’s length is certainly its most disappointing feature. The story campaign can take merely 6 to 7 to complete, taking in all side quests, and because of that, it also seems like a criminally fleeting experience. Fortunately, Rocksteady would go on to address this issue in later games in Batman: Arkham City, and did so again in Arkham Knight, but the saga started out short, which is the primary reason why I believe it to be the weakest out of the three games released so far.
Storyline – 8/10
The story follows Batman, who is fresh off capturing the Joker, and decides to accompany the staff of Arkham Asylum in the middle of the villain’s re-admission to the institute; suspicious of why he seemed overly easy to recapture. The Joker then escapes his captors, and he then proceeds to take over the facility with the help of his henchmen, as well as Harley Quinn. It’s later revealed that the Joker has a plan to turn Arkham’s inmates into an army of insanely strong soldiers, using an advanced form of venom; the poison, which gives the villain Bane his superhuman strength. The plot is extremely strong and compelling; especially through the interactions between Batman and the Joker throughout, as well as his encounters with the Scarecrow and his fear gas.
Originality – 7/10
This game stands out a great deal for the fact that before it, not many other games released to coincide with films or other forms of media were of the same kind of quality as stable video game franchises; the worst example of which being E.T for the Atari 2600, which is cited as a major contributor to the industry crash 1983. Arkham Asylum celebrates the Batman license, but at the same time, the developers stayed true to the fact that immersing gameplay is the most important aspect of any video game, and they ended up making one of the most well-received titles of the era.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Asylum, despite the major flaw of a short lifespan, is a pretty enjoyable experience and was a concept most certainly worth improving on. The sequel would be a colossal improvement on the first game, but this was an extremely good starting point.