As most reviews have said, Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of the best licensed games ever made. The graphics are great, controls handle well, the voice acting is outstanding. There is one thing missingthough.
It’s the stealth combat. It’s not as good as it could be. Stealth combat feels as though it is limited to set pieces. Why is that? It’s because of the gargoyles. They feel contrived. Why is it that Batman is limited only to flying around in areas with gargoyles? That just doesn’t make sense to me. Batman is resourceful, clever. Given a room full of armed thugs, I’m sure that The Dark Knight could find ways to pick them off one by one.
In the film Batman Begins, it is explained to us that in order for Batman to be effective as a deterrent of crime, he needs to rely on theatricality and deception. He needs to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. That element of Batman is missing here. The AI doesn’t really distinguish between calm, nervous, and panicked. They don’t act all that differently. What I’d like to see is real fear. Take a thug who’s in a state of panic for example. If you throw a batarang, he ought to start going bananas over that noise that spooked him. Maybe he’ll investigate it, or maybe he’ll start shooting at it wildly. If he’s smart, maybe he’ll ask one of his cohorts to come take a look with him. All of these varied behaviors would most certainly spice up the stealth gameplay. Batman also doesn’t have all that many tools at his disposal when it comes to playing it quiet. Why can’t I throw my batarang at lights to take them out? Why can’t I explode into a puff of smoke to disappear? As it stands right now, it’skindof difficult to divide and conquer.I think the game could use a little bit of Splinter Cell in it. There’s not enough sneaking around, not enough shadowplay. Batman is, after all, The Dark Knight, boogeyman to all those who would do evil. In Arkham Asylum, we don’t get enough of that sense of dread and fear in the criminals. Part of fear is the unknown. People fear what they cannot see. There isn’t any decent integration of the use of shadows and lighting for gameplay. Additionally, the levels are a little too bright for my tastes (and I did properly calibrate the brightness according to the in-game adjustment panel). It made no sense to me that the thugs who were shooting at me couldn’t see me sitting on top of a gargoyle after three or so jumps: I was squatting there, in what visually appeared to me as broad daylight. Batman didn’t exactly melt into the shadows. Invisibility is a matter of agility and patience. But we don’t get all too many chances to put that principle in action.What makes Batman scary? He can disappear, he can fly. But he doesn’t do much of that in this game. Sure, he kicks a lot of ass in this game. But it’s lacking that psychological element. Because Batman doesn’t have any superpowers, I feel that it’s important to play up his ability to become a legendary omnipresent boogeyman. I’d feel a lot more awesome being able to manipulate those goons with clever distractions and sneakily maneuvering into dark corners.
I’m not hating the game: I love it. But I just wish it reached the full potential of playing as Batman, a man who rises to legendary proportions through extreme resourcefulness, theatricality, and mystery.