I recently completed the long awaited Batman game, Batman: Arkham Asylum. I was not entirely sure what to expect, as while it has achieved stunning reviews all around the board, even making it into the Guinness book of World Records, I was initially put of by some of the press material. Namely, the exaggerated size of Batman, being much bigger than he appeared in comics. I get that a comic book character will be exaggerated, but when they are exaggerated out of proportion, it can break the suspension of disbelief. However, after actually playing the game, this concern was not warranted, with Batman appearing in proportion, and consistent with the way the world and other characters were portrayed.
The portrayal of Bane was my second initial concern, and this concern was warranted. When Bane was introduced in the comics, he was a cunning strategist. The man who broke the bat. He studied Batman from afar, studying him, toying with him, finding out how to, and succeeding in weakening him so as to be able to oppose him. Very much the opposite of the character portrayed in the Batman and Robin film. Unfortunately however, that portrayal, i.e. a submissive artificially over-sized brute with diminished capacity, has become the norm. I don’t understand the appeal of a character like this, as it removes all the interesting and unique aspects, and leaves behind a villain no different to the most bestial portrayal of Killer Croc, or any other over muscled foe.
However, I believe the portrayal of Bane in the game, is consistent with Batman: TAS, and that is what this game is far far closer to. Which was a slight disappointment. I don’t know why exactly, but I much prefer the realistic take on Batman. Having him use technology, and still be limited. Showing what a real Human could do with that much money and determination, and showing their struggle along the way. I guess personally, I find it easier to suspend disbelief, and perhaps identify with the characters. While I get that this is not true for everybody, I find it odd that the game developers chose to use TAS as a base.
The gameplay, and even the world to an extent, seems oddly real, with exaggerated cartoon elements, and cartoonish characters made real. It sounds as though it may no work, but it actually works rather world. Unlike the Nolan films, in which the world is ours exactly, except for the existence of Gotham city, and unlike the world of TAS, where everything is exaggeratedly and surreal, the world the game has created is quite real, with exaggerations in all the right places. It is a world of it’s very own, and it works brilliantly.
Having said that, I can’t help but wonder if it is a missed opportunity of sorts to have made an amazingly real game, with a universe closer to that of the Nolan universe. Having done so would have allowed for a much more realistic and darker story, with much more exploration and depth. As it stands, the story is quite weak, and something out of a two part episode of TAS. Joker gets captured. Joker was planning it all along. Joker steals a modified venom formula. That’s it. The game revolves around beating henchman, and then some titans(souped up henchman), and then a titan Joker. The focus is on detecting and skulking around, so this is OK, I do feel it is a shame an opportunity was wasted however.
If nothing else, I was hoping that the game may have been based on the comic of the same name. That would have been an amazing game. The comic in question is a one off comic, in which everything has gone to hell within the asylum, and Batman volunteers to go in and restore order. Along the way, observing the inmates and reflecting on why he does what he does, and wondering if he deserves to be in with the other inmates. That would have made for one hell of a game, and would have allowed the same styles of characters to be used.
I believe it also affects the length of the game. After successfully completing the game, seeing the last cutscene and all, I was told I had completed only 62% of the game. After about…7 hours. Maybe 10. This is because the remainder of the game is focused on finding hidden Riddler puzzles in the form of quoting question marks, and beating certain challenge mode..challenges. This was not enough to save the game however. The riddler puzzles are all easy, and not terribly hard to find, and the challenge mode becomes repetitive, and there is no motivation to continue when there is no cutscenes or story progression to follow. This was in my opinion, the single biggest flaw with the game.
The one thing that is undeniable is the graphics. The graphics are a thing of beauty. Everything is wonderfully rendered, and the cutscenes are amazing looking. This is the kind of treatment a Batman game deserves. Again though, I would have loved to have seen a deeper storyline rendered with this loving care, rather than a throwaway storyline with simple bossfights. The game was a lot of fun, and is a worth addition to the batman universe.
Looking at other reviews from various blogs, it seems most people consider the game to have been marvelous, in line with the obscenely high reviewes handed down by magazines and online sites. An average score of 9 seems about right, which is honestly just bizarre. Once again, it seem my opinion is contrary to almost everybody.