|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rocksteady Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos / Warner Bros.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 25, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
August 25, 2008 - Let's face it, every Batman game you have played up until now has felt like you stepped in guano. Not to sound too harsh, but let me be real for a sec. Aside from the Superman titles, there is no other comic book character that has been mistreated more. It's always been a challenge to comfortably balance all of the elements that make Batman, well Batman.
Thankfully, there is a bright and hopeful bat-signal lighting up the sky. This hope is coming from the fine folks at Eidos and Rocksteady Studios. The great thing about this pairing is they understand the importance of capturing Batman the way most people know him. Another strong thing going for Batman: Arkham Asylum is the game is in no way tied to the recent movie. After all, we all know how good video games based on movies are. This brings me to the major reason Arkham Asylum has the potential to become the best Batman game ever. Not being tied to a film or television show or anything of that nature has given them some room for creativity in the story. One of the individuals they tapped to help co-write Arkham Asylum is none other than Paul Dini.
Paul Dini is one of the minds behind probably the best representation of Batman outside of comics. In the time when Catwoman was licking Batman and there was a nasty, vomit-inducing portrayal of The Penguin on the big screen, Batman: The Animated Series debuted - thankfully. Even Robin was properly handled and introduced in the series when the movies failed horribly. Batman: The Animated Series succeeded when the movies turned to neon, nipples, and, ultimately, failed. So having Mr. Dini on board with the writing chores for Arkham Asylum is something to get the fans eager.
To further prove that point, Batman: Arkham Asylum will take place in none other than Arkham Asylum, the "housing unit" for Gotham City's criminally insane and home to all of Batman's "biggest fans." The opening of the game centers on Batman escorting the Joker to Arkham. From there, Batman begins to feel as if something is not quite right, and sure enough, he was right. They don't call him the greatest detective in the world for nothing. The Joker escapes from his restraints and all hell breaks loose as the other villains are released from their cells. So, Batman springs into action to prevent the Joker and his goons from finding and obtaining one of Arkham's darkest little secrets. It will be up to Batman to find his way through the massive asylum in order to prevent a catastrophe, and it will take all of his skills in order to do so.
Batman is known for being something of a "Jack of All Trades" kind of guy, so Rocksteady Studios has their work cut out for them in bringing Batman to life in the way he deserves. If some of the early stuff that has been revealed is any indication, I am not worried. Of course, there will be gadgets of all shapes and sizes. In case you are worried that Batman will find his gadgets randomly strewn along the floors of Arkham, don't fret; they have simply included the recently revealed pseudo-Batcave from the comics, which is practically right below Arkham. Plus, Batman will be able to pick up objects he can to use to improve upon or create new gadgets to use throughout the game. Using the grappling hook to reach the rafters, the batarangs to knock out enemies, and several other gadgets will be rewarding to fans. But, "Bats" is a brawler after all. He will have certain combat skills at his disposal, including a takedown system similar to what was used in The Bourne Conspiracy, only with a little more Batman flair to it. Batman will also use his skills as a detective to piece together the clues in the rooms he encounters, with CSI-like prowess.
There is one feature that has me a little perplexed at the moment though: The leveling system for Batman. My issue, at least for now, is that Batman has trained extensively for various types of situations over the years, and this leveling system will have him improve in what may be just a few hours. Like I said, depending on how this is laid out will determine whether it is great or not. Either way, we know the characters will please the senses, judging from the screenshots. Batman looks good; he's like a cross between The Animated series and the recent modifications to the Bat-suit on film. Jack Nicholson's and Heath Ledger's Joker have been fused to really capture a rather creepy, but awesome version of Batman's greatest villain.
Of course, battling over the shoulder of a great Batman model would mean nothing if Arkham Asylum didn't look like it was a living hell. Thanks to several artists at Wildstorm Productions, a division of DC Comics headed by none other than Jim Lee, Arkham will not just be a row of cells for you to peek into in order to find the Joker. Catacombs, massive floors, and nearly everything creepy you'd think you would find in an asylum are present.
Knowing how the gameplay is going to be structured and how it's going to look is all fine and good, but, what about the voice casting? Unfortunately, there hasn't been a cast listing released but, with Paul Dini involved, one could imagine him tapping key members from the cast of Batman: The Animated series (most notably, Kevin Conroy, who voiced Batman for the better part of two decades, and Mark Hamill who provided the best vocal representation of the Joker to date). While nothing is concrete, having the Heath/Jack modeled Joker voiced by Mark Hamill would be a "nightmarish" dream come true for some.
Even though concrete details about the game are still scarce, it still seems like we know a lot. I am eager to find out as much as possible about the potential "saving grace" of Batman games. Fantastic environments, great character models, compelling story, and intriguing gameplay are enough reasons to wish it was already 2009.
CCC Project Coordinator