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Published by: EIDOS Interactive
Developed by: Rockstar Games
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, XBOX 360
Genre(s): Action-adventure
Mode(s): Single-player
Game Type: , , ,
96/ 100

User Rating
3 total ratings



Fluid combat and stealth mechanics, great atmosphere, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill


Repetitive boss battles, too short

Bottom Line

With the new TellTale Batman scheduled for release this month, and all the hype getting built around the upcoming Justice League movie, everyone’s favorite dark hero from DC’s multiverse is once again in the mainstream radar. Not that the Batman is ever far from the mainstream consciousness, what with the abundance of material about him available […]

Posted August 14, 2017 by


With the new TellTale Batman scheduled for release this month, and all the hype getting built around the upcoming Justice League movie, everyone’s favorite dark hero from DC’s multiverse is once again in the mainstream radar. Not that the Batman is ever far from the mainstream consciousness, what with the abundance of material about him available in all forms of media over the years. Which makes it almost hard to believe, now, that not even a decade ago, the Holy Grail for fans of the Dark Knight had been a game worthy of the name. Yes, once upon a time, every game based upon the Bat was so bad, they were the one part of his multimedia franchise that truly embarrassed him (okay, sure, there were the Bat-nips, but that was just one film).

“Batman: Arkham Asylum” changed all of that eight years ago.


After capturing Joker in Gotham City, Batman hands him over to Commissioner James Gordon at Arkham Island where the eponymous mental facility stands in isolation. Once there, however, the Joker breaks free of his restraints, announces a trap for the Batman and the GCPD, and proceeds to take over the asylum with the inmates he broke out of Blackgate Prison earlier. The villain isolates the island further by threatening to detonate bombs that he secretly placed in various places in the Gotham mainland if anyone from the outside attempted a rescue. It is now up to the World’s Greatest Detective, alone, to save the subdued Commissioner, members of the GCPD, and asylum personnel from the Joker’s thugs and the asylum’s most terrifying patients, while also uncovering clues that lead to the truth behind this latest episode of chaos orchestrated by the Clown Prince of Crime.

Batman Arkham Asylum Poison Ivy

Fan-favorite “Batman: The Animated Series” scribe Paul Dini pens the narrative that drives this game, and together with superior voice work headlined by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, reprising their roles as Batman and Joker, respectively, they put fans old and new alike smack in the middle a fresh but familiar struggle between the forces that shape Gotham’s underworld, right from the get-go. And just like in one of the overarching storylines in the comic books, Batman’s adversaries are used to great effect in this game. From the Riddler whispering annoying riddles through the Bat’s encrypted comms, to the Scarecrow waiting to ambush him with a lethal dose of “fear toxin” at every unexpected corner, with all other murdering villains and even a ghost in between, they make this dark, dark tale worthy to be told as a standalone story that will no doubt be met with more than a moderate success. But as a vehicle for this action-adventure offering from Rockstar Games, it is so much more.


Creepy. Haunting. But in a good way. Let me explain.

In the comic books, Arkham mansion was a relic of the past, of Gothic design, and of a certain state of decay and disrepair prior to it being re-purposed as a mental health facility for Gotham City’s criminally-insane at the turn of the previous century.

Rockstar’s painstaking attention to detail shows in their environment designs that attempt to recreate Arkham from the comics but with their own flavor to them. The mansion itself, which becomes the entire asylum’s administration building in the game, and the adjacent recreational garden/aviary are almost totally Gothic in design, with textures and tones that give them that centuries-old look not alien to stories of ghosts and hauntings. The treatment facility and holding cells, which are housed in different buildings on another part of Arkham Island, have the look of hospitals and sanatoriums in the Victorian era, the inspiration and setting to many a Gothic tale that involved madness and insanity. Decay and disrepair characterizes the island’s underground making the sewers, the foundations, and the caves seem like the home to an unspeakable horror.

Batman Arkham Asylum Mansion

Needless to say, the developer could use the same environment assets here to make a survival-horror game instead and no one would be the wiser. That’s just how creepy these designs are. But with characters like a man driven to murderous insanity by his horribly disfigured face, a woman who can command plants to strangle and poison her enemies, and a half-human, half-alligator monster waiting to devour unsuspecting trespassers in his waters, the Batman mythos is easily one of the scariest of any mainstream superhero’s when seen from a perspective of horror. So while the game is essentially of the action-adventure genre, the environments help give it the sense of being more than that.

Perhaps taking cue from the critically-acclaimed Dark Knight films, the game’s score takes a backseat to the story, the visuals, and the characters. We all remember scenes and performances in “The Dark Knight,” yes, but the score? Not so much. The same goes for Arkham Asylum. Indeed, it’s the use of ambient noises and silence that lets the “creepiness factor” of the environments really creep in (just like in a horror movie!). That’s not to say that the game’s music is totally pointless. Just like in the Dark Knight films, the musical score here adds a great accent to the combat and plot reveals. Also, the Joker speaks to everyone on the island, including the Batman, using Arkham’s PA system which could be really hard to hear over the ambient noises most of the time. Music could drown these out completely which would have been a total waste as the Joker is constantly cracking jokes, issuing orders, and monologuing, sometimes providing clues about why he’s on the island.

Batman Arkham Asylum Battle

Character designs in the game are somewhat uninspired, given the awesome environment. Even Harley Quinn looks a bit disappointing, although the idea behind her original look for the game seems to be the right one. And with the exception of the Bat, the Joker, and Poison Ivy, there is little variety to the characters’ looks. Everyone seems to be of the same height and build, especially the Blackgate escapees and the asylum’s insane inmates, who both make up most of the combat encounters. Of course, what they look like doesn’t really matter when they’re getting beat up.


Batman Arkham Asylum Combat

Combat is the best aspect of the game to make players feel like they are the Batman. The fun and the challenge is in the game’s “free-flowing” combat system: in defeating multiple enemies using every move, grab, throw, and counterattack in Batman’s repertoire without breaking his combo chain. This actually takes some getting used to, especially for button mashers, as button presses should be timed correctly to make sure the combo chain does not stop halfway through just because Batman took a hit or is punching air, which can happen often if one isn’t paying close attention. Batman can also only hit one opponent at a time although he can switch targets easily just by pointing the controls at an opponent’s general direction and hitting attack. Ever see Jackie Chan take on four guys at a time? The Combat levels are exactly like that, except Batman hits harder and twists the bad guys’ limbs or breaks their bones quite often.

Batman Arkham Asylum Predator

For baddies with powerful automatic rifles, Batman can go “Predator” and pick them off silently one by one. Next to combat, this is the most Batman-like a player could get in the game. And the variety of ways that the Caped Crusader can take enemies out unseen, like sneaking up on them from behind or swooping down on the clueless and then hanging them upside-down from the rafters, basically just toying with them from the shadows until the remaining ones get frantic with fear, is essentially what makes the Batman such a fearsome figure to criminals. The game’s Predator levels capture that perfectly. The onboard computer in the Batman’s cowl allows him to view the environment in “Detective mode” which is augmented reality predisposed to crime-fighting and crime-solving. Using Detective mode is usually how one can identify the Predator levels: thugs armed with guns show up in red wireframe while in Detective mode and if there are more than one of them in a room, its best to take them out quietly.

Batman Arkham Asylum Detective

Detective mode is even more useful during the game’s exploration levels, when Batman has to move from place to place while fulfilling in-game mission objectives. It could be used to follow a trail of evidence like footprints, blood drops, or specific scents. Sometimes, the Batman will find himself in a seeming dead-end where he’ll need some ingenuity and one or more of his gadgets to continue. Surveying a room in Detective mode helps the player decide which of Batman’s arsenal to use by identifying exit and entry points, structurally weak walls, security panels to disable, etc. (Side note: some of Batman’s gadgets can be used in combat and are quite challenging to pull off and chain into a combo)

Now, for gameplay as polished as in this one, it is a bit of a let down that the boss fights, which are few and far in between, are repetitive. Indeed they are so repetitive that there’s just one pattern to all of them, except the final boss. Seriously, there’s more fun to be had in taking on Combat levels with eight or more opponents, or in clearing a Predator level in less than 30 seconds. The good news is these levels become available as standalone challenges when players progress through the game and complete certain mission objectives. Other rewards are also won this way, like character models, bios, and info from the comic books.


To those of us who suffered all the Batman games of the past which were mediocre or worse, this was the game we were waiting for all our lives when it came out. Sure, Arkham City and subsequent games that followed have vastly improved on the foundations laid by Asylum, but even now, eight years later, this game still stands as the beacon that heralded a new era for Batman games. And it is still vastly enjoyable where its quirks, narrow corridors and confined spaces, even its linear gameplay, in contrast to the later Arkhamverse titles make for an endearingly intimate Batman experience.

Lex Reyes

Listens to 90s Seattle grunge, film score, April Boy Regino, anisong, heavy, death and thrash metal, Miley Cyrus, video game music, Sara MacLachlan, punk rock, and AM radio. Weird, right? Also, quit drinking and smoking 01 August 2017, so... um... yay?


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