Even though everyone (and their mother) seems to love all the latest Batman movies, I haven't been entirely convinced myself. Batman belongs in the world of comics where stories like Year One, Blind Justice and A Killing Joke are good enough for a Nobel prize. Therefore, I'm happy to announce that Batman: Arkham Asylum is based on the comics rather that Warner Brothers movies and really feels like a genuine Batman adventure.
The game starts out with the Caped Crusader in his Batmobile. Riding shotgun is the Joker, newly captured and on his way to where he belongs - Arkham Asylum. The situation is really creepy with the Joker looking extremely mad, and it is obvious that Batman thinks that something isn't right. The Joker seems to be planning something and taking him down was a bit too easy.
Inside Arkham Asylum, it turns out that Batman was right and the Joker escapes with some help from long-legged beauty Harley Quinn. Together, they lock the place down so no one can get in, or out. Over the PA system, the Joker declares that he has placed bombs all over Gotham City and that commissioner Gordon and Batman are his hostages now and no help may assist them.
As luck would have it Batman has no plans of being either trapped amongst all supervillains (and other nut cases) or accept the situation and decides to do something the way only he can. That sets up the story of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which surprised me many times throughout the winding plot.
First of all, unlike other Batman games, this isn't a brawler. It is actually more of a stealth game like Splinter Cell where you can spend your time up in the ceilings of Arkham Asylum, only to dive down to drop kick a criminal in the back of the head, or silently capture them in a trap. Of course, from time to time there will be fighting, but as Batman, you got really good possibilities to avoid it by playing smart. The fighting system is great though and it is really enjoyable to use Batman's fists to knock bad guys out of their socks.
Even though you spend your time in Arkham Asylum during the whole adventure, the environments still provide enough variation. You will venture inside very different wards of the hospital and also quite some time outdoors. The level design is also really good and you never have to waste any time wondering what to do next. Batman knows his shit and doesn't spend any time just running around looking for a clue on what to do next.
It really feels like a dark and exciting adventure when you constantly hear the Joker ranting about how Batman can't stop him with lame jokes and eerie voice. Perfectly in character and the voice actors (mostly the same cast as the animated series) have done a great job in keeping everything true to the fiction and they deliver their lines with authority. I would also like to praise the boss fights that are top-notch all the way to the end with several really good and memorable moments.
Batman: Arkham Asylum does a better job than any game before it in making a Batman portrait worthy of the Dark Knight. This is Batman at his best and for me much better than the recent movies. It's cool, it's creepy and I didn't want to put the controller away until the Joker was beaten and in the end, this is probably the best superhero game ever.
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