Dealspwn Rating: 9/10
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
‘You look absolutely ridiculous!’
These were the first words out of my sister’s mouth when, upon popping down for a weekend visit, she walked in to find me ensconced in the comfort of my leather chair playing Batman: Arkham Asylum in 3D and muttering unintelligible noises to myself.
Yes, the Dark Knight is back again for a beefy looking Game of the Year edition of Arkham Asylum that comes with a load of new challenge maps and, perhaps more excitingly, the option of playing the entire game through in 3D, courtesy of the new TriOviz engine and two included pairs of frighteningly flimsy cardboard spectacles. You can forget about looking cool whilst playing this game, as these badboys are alarmingly retro.
In all honesty, I don’t think there’s anything in the world that I care less about right now than 3D. Oh wait...motion control. But, apart from Natal and Move, 3D is pretty much the perfect filling for my apathy sandwich, so it was with a certain amount of nonchalance with which I approached the new graphical revamp, and I’ve got to say...I was actually pretty impressed.
I won’t bore you with the science stuff, and I don’t understand half of it anyway, but the result of this overhaul is a complete game experience in cinematic 3D without having to spend shedloads of cash on a TV with the thing built in. It takes about 10-15 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the new format and get used to the green and red tinted specs, but once you get used to it, the illusion of depth becomes more and more pronounced as you progress.
It’s far from perfect, and the opening scenes of the game don’t really lend themselves well to the 3D experience, but there are certainly standout moments where the technique really adds to the level of immersion in the game. Running down corridors, for example, the strut on the walls and objects you pass will begin to stand out. Batman himself is probably the most noticeably 3-dimensional object on the screen and it draws you in to the cowled protagonist even more than before. It’s a subtle effect but one that makes the action in the game feel more robust. When Bats is gliding down towards a goon, or spreading his cape to ease his descent from atop Arkham’s highest spire, you really get a sense of the ground falling away as you kick off, the figure of the masked Bruce Wayne seeming more solid. Whilst nothing really jumps out towards you, the atmosphere rendered by the TriOviz engine is such that everything stands out a little more, sucking you a little further into this wonderfully constructed world.
Unfortunately, in spite of claims to the contrary, the colour palette does suffer somewhat with the goofy goggles on. In all fairness, Arkham Asylum was never a particularly bright and vividly painted game, but there’s little bit of colour distortion and backgrounds often seem less sharp than before. It’s an interesting novelty, sure, but that’s pretty much all it is.
The game itself is all relatively unchanged apart from the optional 3D mode and the six extra challenge maps (the Scarecrow Nightmare Challenge is excellent), but for those of you who never got round to playing the game last November, here’s a little five point recap as to why it’s a fantastic investment:
- It Might Just Be The Best Superhero Game Ever Made: To be fair, this isn’t a particularly tall order, as you can pretty much count out the good superhero games on one hand – Spider-man 2, City of Heroes/Villains, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Marvel vs. Capcom 2...erm...yeah. But Arkham Asylum not only brings Batman to life, but presents a corner of Gotham City that has been researched and realised to maximum effect. Taking its inspiration from the Animated Series – getting Kevin Conroy and the superb Mark Hamill to reprise their roles as Batman and Joker alike was a masterstroke – and imbued with the muscular tone of Chris Nolan’s cinematic reboot, this is a game that drips with sublime authenticity.
- The Combat System Requires More Than Mere Mashing: Combat in this game is a rhythm based affair. Sure, you can try frenzied tapping, but the game rewards good timing with crushing Bourne-esque action without sacrificing interface simplicity. There are no fiddly combos to learn, meaning that anyone can excel if they take a moment to get a rhythm going, and the feedback is bone-crunchingly satisfying.
- There’s A Stealth Mechanic...And It Works: One of the most fun parts of Arkham Asylum is being in a room full of henchmen and picking them off one by one from the shadows. From gliding between parapets to using guards as crash mats to hanging from beams and gargoyles and stringing up goons before they have a chance to cry for help, this game excels at capturing the shadowy nature of Batman’s activities. A well implemented fear system, that allows you to see the heart rate of your foes, adds to the atmosphere, and your adversaries will gradually become more and more frantic and terrified as their pals are dragged into the night one at a time.
- There’s So Much To Do: Aside from the excellent main tale, penned by Animated Series producer Paul Dini, there are a whole host of collectibles for you to find and Riddler puzzles to solve if you want to fully clock this game. On top of that, you’ll find unlockable challenges that will test both your ability to fight hordes of enemies at once and also your knack for overcoming your foes without being seen.
- It’s BatFan-tastic: This is an undeniably great game and will appear so to those who’ve never even heard of Killer Croc or Harley Quinn. But to those of us steeped in DC lore, old or young, this game becomes so much more. It’s quite simply packed to the brim with references and in-jokes. If you’re favourite character isn’t in the game directly, chances are there’ll be a Riddler file on them somewhere hidden in the expanse. There’s no overkill – characters don’t just appear for the sake of it – and that restraint with the main storyline is what makes it so effective, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something in here to please every BatFan, with a few of the optional puzzles directly testing your knowledge of the Dark Knight and his exploits.
So there you have it. Arkham Asylum recently won Best Game and Best Gameplay at the BAFTAs in Mid-march and it’s not hard to see why.
To wrap up, I’d say that if you’re yet to add Arkham Asylum to your collection – and dear god if you haven’t yet then why?! – then I’d go for the Game of the Year Edition with its extra challenge maps and curious, if not gamechanging, 3D option. If you’ve already got the game then I’m not certain this does enough to warrant a second purchase.
- Best. Superhero. Game. Ever.
- Packed with content
- 3D an interesting touch
- It has to end
- Little bit of colour loss with 3D
- 3D perhaps not the gamechanger you might expect
The Short Version: Better than the original? Yes. Worth getting if you already have the standard version? Nope. The GOTY has more stuff and the 3D engine is an interesting novelty but in the end these things are really just supplemental padding for a game that was pretty damn near perfect the first time around.