It’s rare in this current climate of games when I’m actually compelled to finish a game, let alone replay it on numerous occasions like I have with Batman Arkham Asylum for Mac. Upon examining what’s drawn me back on numerous occasions, I have come to the conclusion it is because of the story, gameplay, and atmosphere.
In this third-person action game, you play as the Dark Knight, who’s about the encounter the longest night of his life within Arkham Asylum. The Joker has broken free and Batman as always captures him and returns him to the madhouse (Arkham) only for the Joker to break free once inside the Asylum and set into motion one of his greatest ever plans. Throughout the game, you are introduced to a number of villains from Batman’s famous rogues’ gallery such as Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Bane to name a few. Batman has well and truly fallen for the trap this time, hasn’t he?
Enter Batman: Arkham Asylum
I have seen the combat described in many different ways, but I see a lot of similarities to God of War here. Mixing free-flowing combat, chaining together combos and counter block mechanics, Batman gives you have a potent formula for combat. You can even use special abilities mid-move like throwing a bat-a-rang or three (once upgraded) to knock an enemy down. It really is a lot of fun to try out different tactics whilst taking on the horde of the Jokers goons.
Predator mode is unlike anything I had ever played before this game. Essentially, you get to stalk enemies from high up vantage points. You can then hang guards upside down from gargoyles after you catch them by surprise. Dropping down and sneakily rendering them unconscious by choking them out is another option, or simply go in all guns blazing and glide kick into a group of enemies. Before doing any of those, be sure you switch to the appropriately named ‘Detective Mode’. This turns on a type of blue vision and highlights everything in your current environment. This is very handy for picking out armed thugs. So be sure to switch to ‘Detective Mode’ before swooping down from the shadows to deal out some rough justice as to not find yourself in a sticky situation.
It’s not all brawling and lurking in the shadows. There is also a mini-game segment which revolves around stealth when Scarecrow pulls you into his Fear Toxin fueled nightmares. This really breaks up the pacing of all the combat, and I swear the first time it happens you actually think your Mac might be experiencing technical issues. It’s all very well designed, and as I said, gives you a totally different focus whilst quickly switching between cover trying to avoid Scarecrows gaze.
The boss battles are poorly implemented in my opinion. You’re forced into the same actions time and time again. A well-timed bat-a-rang to the face, dodge then attack. This becomes repetitive and tedious towards the end. This is such a crying shame as the rest of the game is first class.
Finally, the upgrade system. As you venture through the Asylum, you gain XP which can then be used to purchase upgrades from the Wayne Tech division of Wayne Enterprises. These upgrades allow you to upgrade Batman’s offensive/defensive arsenal as well as adding new combat abilities. It’s not the most innovative system nor is anything groundbreaking, but it serves its purpose and those extra gadgets and extra armor really come in handy later in the game.
Arkham Asylum is gorgeous! FACT! The presentation of this rundown Asylum is nothing short of astounding. This looks and feels like the Batman universe from the comics I love reading so much. You can really tell a lot of time, effort and attention to detail was taken when piecing together the levels. At times I found myself just grappling and gliding between buildings just exploring the open plains of Arkham. If you can find the highest point in the Asylum, you can try to glide for as long as possible to really appreciate this gorgeous yet grotesque setting.
The character models are outstanding, with Batman looking like an absolute bad-ass. What really impressed me though was the way in which Batman’s appearance altered during the course of the game. At the end of the game, he looks like hell after being beaten, bludgeoned and even injected with Titan during one stage. The Joker looks like you would expect: a tall gangly figure but with a face, only a mother could love.
My personal favorite is Poison Ivy. She is a little minx even with green skin. All around, the character models are outstanding and again they look like they have come straight out of the comics.
It was hard for me to pick a feature which stood out more, the art direction or the voice acting. The voice acting won by the closest of margins.
To me, Batman is Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill is the Joker. I grew up watching Batman TAS (The Animated Series) so seeing these cult figures from the Batman Universe return in video game format is the biggest joy I could have ever experienced. Hamill’s portrayal of the Joker is perfect in every way. He makes you laugh, makes you feel sick and sometimes outright scares you. Conroy as always is cold, calm and calculated in his approach.
Strangely enough, I found myself rooting for the Joker at times just because I wanted to see if he could actually make Batman snap. The rest of voice acting is spot on: Harley, Ivy, Bane, Jim Gordon, they all put on stellar displays. There are a few dodgy NPC characters and some of the lip syncing is out of time, but this really isn’t enough to pull you out of the immersion.
Batman Arkham Asylum is not a very demanding game graphically speaking. You will find most older generation iMacs and MacBooks will run this game at a steady 25/30 FPS on the lowest settings. It goes to show the quality of the port from Feral Interactive, being able to play the game on older machines. The game ran well on my rig with medium detail, and all other graphical options switched on. I rarely suffered any technical issues, the odd frame-rate drop here and there, but nothing to stop me enjoying the experience of being Batman.
The minimum system requirements:
- OS: OS X 10.6.8
- GPU: 128MB
- CPU: 2.00GHz
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 10GB
My mid-2011 iMac:
- OS: 10.8.3
- GPU: AMD Radeon 6750M 512MB
- CPU: Intel i5 2.5GHz
- RAM: 12GB
- Deeply character driven
- Excellent combat
- You feel like Batman
- Poorly designed boss battles
- Upgrade system is lacking in detail
Batman Arkham Asylum is a masterpiece. A love letter to Batman fans everywhere. Never before have I been drawn into a gaming experience as much as I have with this game with its gripping story, exquisite combat, and immersive atmosphere. All these points added together make Arkham Asylum a must own for any gamer. Period. Arkham Asylum is clearly one of the best superhero video games of all time.