Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum First Impressions

Batman: Arkham Asylum was released today and I picked it up for the Xbox 360 at Walmart for a cool $38.83 launch day only pricing (believe that's a Canada only deal, but I've heard Target and other places in the states have gift cards and other goodies for our American friends). As I've only logged about 4 or 5 hours worth of play time on this bad boy, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is one of the best games I've ever played and an easy game of the year contender. If you haven't picked it up yet, run, don't walk, to your nearest retailer and get a copy. You won't regret it. Hit the jump for more of my first impressions of the game.


The first thing to talk about is the graphics. It's dark, moody and as smooth as butter. There are virtually no load times and I haven't noticed a single hiccup in the framerate that I could see and it's one of the prettiest games I've seen in a while.

Actually, for load times, I suppose I should mention they 'hide' them behind security doors and ventillation ducts that you have to wait to scan/navigate through before moving on in some cases, but it never feels like a chore and feels natural enough. Very good job at keeping the 'Now Loading' screen out of my face while still making it feel like I'm the goddamn Batman sneaking around in the air ducts.

I'm The Goddamn Batman

If there's one thing this game succeeds at, it's that you feel like you are Batman. You've got an Assassins Creed-like combat system that relies more on rhythm and timing than it does complex inputs (one button handles all forms of melee attacks, another is for counters, a third is for a cape stun/evade and the fourth is for run/jump) and that, to me, is a good thing. There's enough variety in animations and with how you time it in this simple configuration for combat that I feel like I'm just tearing into thugs and villains alike.

Add to the simple combat all of Batman's gadgets, like batarangs and small explosives, as well as detective-like clue finding and stealth play and you are Batman in this game. When you jump into combat to get your feet wet for the first time and you get that slow-mo finisher on someone, you'll immediately be hooked.

Riddle Me This

One thing I wasn't expecting was the Riddler trophies and other collectibles found in the game. Every odd room has a Riddler Trophey to be found hidden somewhere in the vents or secret rooms that needs to be found to unlock character art, challenges and what have you. There's also riddles for certain rooms that give you a hint on items to scan with your cowl that will give you a character profile or other bonus and it's just fun trying to figure out the riddle and what you need to scan. This has not been tedious in the least so far and it's actually one of the best 'scavenger hunt' featuers to a game I've had as it rewards you with XP and other goodies for everything you find, making it actually enjoyable to do so.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

Yes, I should have mentioned it earlier, you can level up in this game, making this an Action RPG Stealth hybrid game. You're awarded XP based on how you defeat enemies (bigger combos = more XP) and from extras you find in the game, as mentioned above for the Riddler Trophies. When you level up, you get to pick new skills. They are fairly simple skills, like more health or some 'finisher moves' that can be activated once your combo meter gets high enough, but add some extra depth to the game and makes it feel like, again, that you're Batman by letting you tailor his abilities to your specifications.

Boss Fights

So far, I have a couple of boss fights under my belt. None have been overly difficult and rely on a certain mechanic to get through. The first time you run into Scarecrow and his fear gas is probably the best encounter I've had at this point, though. The actual fight with Scarecrow, however, was...interesting, to say the least. Not what I was expecting from a boss fight, but not terrible either. To be honest, it's a small complaint, but I actually enjoy fighting thugs and goons more than the actual bosses.

Metal Gear Batman

Can't talk about the game and all the fun combat without mentioning the stealth parts of the game. While the combat is a joy, the stealth parts are just as good. You can place some explosive on walls, ceilings or floors and time it to collapse on villains or drop down off a gargoyle and string them up Predator style or just sneak up and choke them out, systematically taking out everyone in the room in most cases. It's been a perfect blend of stealth and straight up combat so far and I think they've hit a perfect balance between both.


Even though these are just first impressions after a few hours of gameplay, I'm confident in saying this game is absolutely spectacular. I haven't even touched the Challenge Rooms yet, which are, from what I understand, similar to Metal Gear Solid VR training mission extras.

For those that only played the demo, let me tell you this - it's a million times better than the demo. That demo is literally 2 or 3 rooms spliced together to show off combat and stealth and those rooms are actually seperated by a good 10-20 minutes of gameplay. Batman has more options, more gadgets, can level up and there's just plain more to the actual game. I was blown away by the demo, too, and I can't believe how much more there is to the actual game than that.

Interested in Batman: Arkham Asylum? Purchase it from Amazon.com and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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Mike Haynes said...

Yeah, this is by far the best comic-based game I've ever played.

Kirk Warren said...

That undersells the quality of this game, though. Aside from Marvel vs Capcom 2 and a couple of random others, which have been merely good, there's never been a great comic book based video game. Arkham Asylum is just plain amazing and trumping it as the best comic book video game actually down plays just how good it is.

Andrenn said...

Thanks for rubbing it in that I can't get this game for another month *sobs*

in all seriousness this was a great review. Glad you liked the game and that makes me even more confident in getting and playing it when I do. I'm really excited. I've been constantly replaying the demo damn near every other night. It's so great. I can't wait to get this game.

Klep said...

I went out to Best Buy earlier to buy this only to discover the PC version doesn't come out until the 15th. Launch fail.

Anonymous said...

I think that its awesome that Kevin Conroy is the voice.

Daniel Woburn said...

I think it's awesome that Mark Hamill is back as The Joker! that's awesome. I have no idea how long I'll have to wait, being in the UK... hope it's not too long. I played the demo last week - absolutely awesome. Haven't been this excited for a game since Halo 2.

Pat said...

although there havent been too many good ones kirk, I never imagine a game to top the fun factor of spiderman 2 and hulk: ultimate destruction...both made you "feel" like the hero which I think this game accomplishes the best..kudos to Eidos and Rocksteady on putting together a non movie tie in amazing batman game thats been long overdue for fans

Matt Ampersand said...

I have to agree that Hulk: Ultimate Destruction did a great job in making you feel like you were the Hulk, but that's a much easier feat than making you feel like you are Batman.

Can't wait to play this. Ironically, I am going to have to wait until I buy either a PS3 or an XBox 360.

Anonymous said...

Comes out in UK tomorrow and I have never been more excited for a game. I'm getting the collector's edition on PS3 so I get the batarang, making of etc... And then I get the exclusive Joker Challenges to download! (And a downloadable batcave living space on playstation home, but I never play that.)

mrpeepants said...

I was a skeptic, even after the initials impressions and reviews came out. But after logging some time over the weekend, I gotta agree with everyone else - this game is pretty badass. Good job on the coverage was gonna, I like it when non strict comic stuff is covered (toons, games, tv shows and movies). Only nit picky thing I can say so far is that it seems like a lotta of this generations games have a shinyness to the overall appearance and its also obvious the unreal engine was used.

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