Every night that I play Batman: Arkham Asylum, a little Xbox oval pops up on my screen to tell me “friends playing this game.” This is a newish addition to the Xbox Live communication functionality, but with this game, I hardly need to see it. It’s redundant. Whenever I play Batman, all of my friends who have their Xboxes turned on are playing Batman and nothing else.
There is a good reason for this. With some games, you get a beautiful presentation, but behind the pretty facade, there isn’t always enough game to match it. With Batman, you get a gorgeous facade that is intricately tied into every aspect of the game. So not only is there pretty eye candy grabbing your attention all the time, it ties into functional aspects.
Find a Riddler item? You’ll hear an audio response from the Riddler and a menu pulls up to show you what it was. A quick legion of bats flies by to note you’ve collected something else, and because of these simple little things, you’re drawn just a little deeper into Batman’s world.
I’m only 22% through the game, but I am so impressed by the well-thought out overall world of Arkham Asylum. If you die? During the reloading screen the Joker appears and gives you shit, until the retry button appears. What about water or falling off a cliff? If you fall in water, a cutscene shows you climbing out of it. Oh, the game is telling me not to go in the water. I don’t die like in old GTA games, and there are no invisible walls preventing me from the water–like in a dozen other games. If I fall off a cliff, in slow motion I’ll have the option or using the grappling gun to save myself. Similar to the water scenario, I’ll climb back up. These seems like natural, logical ideas, but how many games have actually done this?
Those are the little things that add up, but Rocksteady nailed all the big ones, too. Batman isn’t just a beat’em-up, it’s a Batman game — one part action, one part detective story, one part adventure, and one part living comic book. Rocksteady really knows its Batman characters and it has done an excellent, excellent job at not only getting their looks right, but capturing them the way they would be in the comics; this too is another thing that most comic book games miss.
Come to think of it, DC has been pretty screwed when it comes to video games. I mean, the best comic book games are, what? Spider-Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance? Not bad, but there hasn’t been a good Spider-man since like 2004, and once you’ve played Ultimate Alliance, erm, I mean Marvel’s Ultimate Diablo, you’ve played them all. Batman has never been handled so well or transposed into the videogame format as he has been in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. Thank you, Rocksteady, for making the best Batman game I’ve ever played.