Monday, January 11, 2010

Xbox 360 - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

by Eidos / Rocksteady / Brady Games

This game is a third person fighting and questing style game. You play as
Batman (Dark Knight). As Batman, you enter the Arkham Asylum to ensure the Joker is properly restrained and placed into a cell. Batman is taking no chances and goes into Arkham Asylum. Of course, the Joker has other plans... and that's when things go wrong.

So, of course, the plan to secure the Joker fails (otherwise there would be no game) and that's where you begin this Batman game.


This game has many problems. From the 'death screens', which are incredibly long and annoying with their 'Sorry you're dead' speeches, to the game constantly cheating and ultimately to bad control over Batman during critical times. Ultimately, the game does not give the gamer a fair shake. While Batman has limited abilities and aim, the enemies have perfect aim and perfect skills. Combining this with overly broad collision detection (bullets always find Batman), and you've got a winning (or losing, as the case may be) combination to make this game entirely frustrating to play.

Worse, the game is designed as a 'death trial and error' style game. So, Batman ends up dying over and over and over and over until you're sick of this process (or you figure out how to get through). Frankly, there is no point in this. It takes far too much time to cycle through all of those 'death' screens waiting to get back into the action. On top of that, you have to wait through intro screens before you can press B to skip the cinematics.


You play as Batman to re-secure the Joker properly into a cell in Arkham Asylum. Along the way, you gain skills and unlock Batman features. To get these skills, you gain Experience Points (XP) which unlocks upgrades. As you upgrade your character you can add armor, weapons and skills. Unfortunately, these upgrades come far too slowly for my liking.


This is one of the biggest flaws in this game. While you play, there is no real way to add health to Batman. Instead, as you unravel quests or subdue 'bad guys', your health meter is increased (if you've lost health). Unfortunately, a single action never adds enough. So, you spend a lot of time trying to gain back lost health. There are no 'health pickups or medicine packs' in this game. So, you have to rely on subduing people and finishing quests to get health back. If you've already cleared the level of enemies and quests, you're kind of stuck.


This is another in a long list of games that just simply and plainly drives me nuts. Again, the developers have designed the game so Batman must 'die' in order to replay the level again and again and again. So, you find Batman is constantly dying only to restart the level from the last checkpoint in order to muddle through the strategy of the level. Not only does this become frustrating just from the 'starting over' perspective, you have to endure incredibly annoying taunts from the Joker and Poison Ivy (among others) at the 'death screens'. That part of the game frustrated me so much, I turned voice audio off. I simply did not want to listen to this anymore.


The style of fighting in this game is limited and, again, the game cheats. There are far too many times where you press the buttons on the controller, but it doesn't respond and the game takes away health anyway. I really despise games that cheat and this is one of them. So, for this alone, this game loses one point immediately from its overall score.

Disarming Enemies

Unfortunately, Batman cannot do this. Instead, you have to keep hitting them until they drop their weapon. However, even though they've dropped the weapon, they can pick it right back up. Batman has no control over discarding, destroying or throwing away weapons laying on the ground. Batman also cannot use these weapons. So, the weapons continue to lay there for some other thug to pick up and use on Batman again.


The levels get progressively harder and harder. The bosses also get progressively bigger and bigger (thanks, in part, to the Titan formula.. which you find out more about as the story progresses). The Titan formula (which comes from Bane) increases soldier sizes to much larger soldiers (bosses). As you progress, the game throws more and more of these at you in waves. So, you might fight one big boss and five fighters early in the game, by the end you might have 3 waves of 10 fighters combined with two big bosses (all at the same time). The fights get longer and longer and are extended by the 'death trial and error' gaming process.

Trial and error gaming

I despise games that force the gamer into using trial and error to play through the game. As a gamer, you waste lots of time trying to find the proper 'strategy' to defeat the bosses rather than focusing on the game and story. So, you might spend a day working through a boss level rather than actually progressing in the game. For me, making the story come to a complete stop by requiring trial and error gaming tells me that the story isn't important. It also tells me that the game developer doesn't value the gamer's time. A gamer's time is critical to use properly. Wasting a gamer's time is the quickest way to the death of a quality game. Don't do it. Don't use trial and error as a gaming strategy. Don't require dying as a strategy to play the game. Don't use annoying repetitive dying screens and death taunts that are unskippable. Let the gamer get immediately back into the game.

The End (of the game and of each level)

The endings of the levels and of the end of the game needs work. You work through fighting the bosses, but when it comes time to finish off each boss, it's a complete letdown. Instead of getting to put the finishing moves on the character, the game moves to a pre-recorded cinematic that shows the final blow. Taking this approach is a complete letdown. I've spent the better part of an hour or two fighting through the level only to see a cut scene?

This issue is present on each level and even on the final Joker showdown. Ultimately, this is extremely frustrating and a huge letdown not being able to give the final blow in game.


The music is tolerable, the chatter is not. After about 1/3 of the way into the game, I quickly realized the trial and error nature of this game. Worse, though, is that during the death trial and error sequences, you have to sit through annoying taunts from the enemies during cut scenes. You can eventually cut these scenes short, but not before the annoying taunt is mostly finished. I ended up turning off the voice audio about halfway through the game and that simplified the game dramatically. It also made the game much more bearable. Otherwise, I would have probably put this game down completely.


The imagery used in this game feels an awful lot like Bioshock. The game isn't as dark and moody as Bioshock, but there is still enough feel here for me to think of it while playing Arkham Asylum. But, even as much as the game may look like Bioshock, that's where the similarity ends. This game plays nothing like Bioshock and is a weak wannabe contender to Bioshock.


This game is a reasonable game that contains some nasty flaws. The levels are reasonably well done. The Bat tools are well thought out and work well. But, the annoyances far outweigh the coolness of playing as Batman. I realize this is the first installment to this series, so the first one will have problems. For the developers, the takeaway is to get rid of these annoyances and let the gamer move forward in the game (and story) without them. Also, you should never ever stop the progression of the story at the expense of a boss level. Never. Let's hope Batman Arkham Asylum 2 fixes these issues.

  • Sound: 7/10
  • Graphics: 9/10
  • Gameplay: 7/10 (a mixed bag)
  • Story: 8/10
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 7/10
  • Bang-to-buck: 1/10
  • Play Value: $5 (rent)
  • Overall: 6/10

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