The Bat Man

August 26, 2009 by Tim

So, Batman. It’s finally out. It’s incredible, it’s amazing, it’s near-perfect. But you know all of this already, it’s what every review is saying. Frankly, I’d have to agree. Put aside all the hype and excitement about Batman, and finally getting a good Batman game, and you still have an enormously impressive display of game development here.

I could write paragraphs and paragraphs gushing about all the cool moments, and how I love this, or had a blast doing that, etc etc. But I’m not going to… you’ve read it in other reviews. If somehow you’re still on the fence about buying Batman Arkham Asylum, if somehow your purchase hinges on my blessing, then go forth, my gamer friend. Buy this game knowing you will be playing an A+ experience, and enjoy the ride.

Instead I want to talk about some of the smaller game details and mechanics which, on top of an already fantastic product, stood out to me as examples of what a delicately crafted experience this game was meant to be. I wish to extol the virtues of some of the often overlooked finishing touches which I took notice of while playing Arkham Asylum, and that I appreciated.

Cutscene Interactivity
I love it when games let me control the camera, or sometimes even my protagonist during in-game scripted cut-scenes. The opening scene of Batman is a perfect example of this, but nearly every cutscene in the game at least lets you move the camera around to a degree. It’s a small detail, not terribly crucial, but I enjoy not feeling like I’ve just completely surrendered my immersion to instead sit back and watch a movie. Letting me move the camera around a bit while the characters have their conversation makes me feel like I’m still playing, it keeps me there, in the game. Arkham does this and it’s great.

Accumulative Protagonist Damage
You’re Batman, and you’re trapped on an island with a metric fuckton of villains and violent crazies. You’re getting into fights, dodging explosions, getting elevators dropped on you. In most games, you’d finish the last level with your protagonist looking like he just got out of the shower and got dressed. Not in Batman.

Over the course of the game, Batman’s suit shows the wear and tear of your rough night in Arkham Asylum. It’s not dynamic, all of the displayed damage is scripted, but it doesn’t matter. Rips, tears and tatters in your armor and cape remind you that you’re not picking up a magic health potion and suddenly everything is all better. As you progress through the game, it is a visual reminder of the harsh circumstances and dangers that Batman has battled his way through. I wish more games did this.

Forgiveness Pits
In a lot of action/platformer games, if you misstep and fall down a pit, it’s the end of the road, load from last checkpoint. But frankly, it would look pretty stupid if Batman met his end because he misjudged a distance and dove flailing into a ravine.

No, in Arkham Asylum, if you fall into a pit (or whatever environmental trap it happens to be) the game says “Excuse me, we noticed you’re an idiot… would you like to save face?”, and gives you a couple of seconds to have Batman fire off his grappling gun and get himself out of whatever sudden mess you put him in. Because he’s the goddamn Dark Knight, and it’s what he does.

It’s nice to not see Batman plunge headlong “durrrrrrrrrrrrrr” into a pit, and it keeps gameplay moving along nice and quick, because you’re not as nervous about making those leaps or swings from ledge to ledge. Because remember, you’re Batman.

One last note… I purchased the Collector’s Edition… I don’t regret it… I was so hyped up on this game I probably would have paid the guys at Rocksteady to throw the game disc at my forehead for twelve hours. However I do have to point out that while the leather-bound journal in the CE is pretty quality stuff, the advertised Batarang is a hunk of vacuum-formed plastic dog shit. And let’s face it, that Batarang is the only reason you buy the damned Collector’s Edition.

I wasn’t under any illusion that the game was going to come with a metal Batarang that I could actually fight crime with, but you couldn’t get worse than this if it were made out of styrofoam. You know that really cheap plastic they make kids beach toys out of? It’s kind of like that. It’s not even good vacuum molding… the edges are all sanded up where they ground off the flashing.

So just on the FYI, skip the Collector’s Edition on this one. It’s actually a little bit insulting to an otherwise top notch game.

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