Finally, a comic book game based on Batman that's truly a fun and fantastic adventure has arrived on the scene. Rocksteady Studios was just known for Urban Chaos prior to Batman: Arkham Asylum but after this game they're going to be a pretty big name. Today I'm going to look at the PC version of the game and I'm also going to be playing it in 3D using NVIDIA's GeForce 3D Vision setup as well as utilizing PhysX to enhance the environment. The NVIDIA setup combined with an incredibly well designed game makes for Batman Arkham Asylum a title you have to own even if you are remote fan of the characters.
The story starts out with Batman transporting the Joker to Arkham Asylum and you know it's not going to be as simple as locking him up in one of the cells. The Joker quickly escapes and a large portion of the rogues' gallery for Batman will do battle with the Dark Knight as you try to bring order back to the Asylum. You have to uncover the secret as to why The Joker wanted to be placed at Arkham Asylum and what his ultimate plans on. Along the way you'll have Commissioner Gordan and Oracle to help you through the game. You'll use your vast array of gadgets, detective skills, and combat prowess to take down the various enemies along the way.
One of the great things about Batman: Arkham Asylum is that it's written by a Batman veteran. Paul Dini worked on Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond so he knows the character pretty well. He was also a writer at DC so if there's one guy who can bring a good Batman story to life in a video game, Paul Dini is it. Here Dini produces a fun storyline that involves many of Batman's villains while not being too corny and outlandish. The story reminds me of some of the better Animated Series episodes and while it's not going to blow you away with twists and turns, Dini does provide some meat to the action game as well as delivering some fun dialogue to boot.
Not only that, but many of the great voice talents from the Animated Series lend their talents to the game. Mark Hamill, Jedi extraordinaire and professional voice actor, does an incredible Joker and I was really impressed when I first heard him in the Animated Series. He's got the moxy to give The Joker real life with his incredible talents on the mic. Kevin Conroy's also superb at voicing Batman and out of all the voices that have done him recently, his is my favorite. Arleen Sorkin also returns as the voice of Harley Quinn. In fact, all the voice acting in the game is superb but to hear voices from the cartoon series makes it that much better. But by far, Mark Hamill's Joker tops most everyone in the game. Since he's in control of the island and there are practically speakers everywhere you go, he's always making himself known to you. He's got some truly great lines and Hamill delivers them at a level like I've never heard before. If there's a Joker performance that defines Hamill, Batman: Arkham Asylum provides it and is one that he should be remembered for for a long time.
Batman: Arkham Asylum does an incredible job in turning you into the Dark Knight. One of the greatest things about Batman is he's a master hand-to-hand fighter. Arkham Asylum absolutely nails his effectiveness and skill with the Free Flow combat system. As a person who's trained many, many years in all sorts of combat styles Batman can easily battle multiple opponents moving from one enemy to another and dishing out impressive hits and counter attacks when needed. The controls can be simplistic in that you press the attack button and the direction of the enemy you want to attack. Later on you can combine other buttons to do such things as take down enemies or throw them through the air. The engine does do most of the work carrying Batman through the air or along the ground while he kicks and punches his way from one opponent to another but the way it's done and how graceful he looks in doing this makes the combat a delight to watch. It's almost like a ballet in terms how smoothly he dances around and transitions from one move to the next. You can concentrate your attack on one person but to really get the most efficient way to take down a group surrounding you, directing Batman to do one blow on each person is the most effective way to handle the situation as it helps prevent an enemy from gearing up to land a blow on you. The brutality that Batman can dish out is depicted incredibly well and combined with the great sound effects; you can almost feel each blow that Batman lands on an enemy. A few times the camera will pan to a nice view of Batman performing a finishing move with the requisite slow motion applied to the scene. Combat in Arkham Asylum is both beautiful and intense and Rocksteady really nailed this one on the head.
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