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Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

The Dark Knight

All of this feeling of power does come at a very slight price however and if there’s one complaint we’d have to level at Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PC then it’s that it often feels a bit too easy.

Things improve as you go through the game obviously and by the time you come to the inevitable fights with some of the bigger supervillains, like Bane, the game is starting to get a bit more taxing – but the difficulty curve definitely feels like it takes a while to build up.

A lot of this is down to the incredibly streamlined control system, which is obviously based on a pretty direct port from the Xbox 360 version judging by the default key config. Pretty much everything you need to do in the game is done through just two or three buttons and almost everything is context sensitive. Run, jump and glide are all on the space bar for example, while combat is only a two-button clickfest at best and you can get through most fights by just mashing the mouse and relying on Batman’s ability to counter nearly all attacks.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review Batman: Arkham Asylum Review - Gameplay
The Purple Knight descends!

Similar sentiments hold true with the detective mode too, which forms the bulk of the non-combat gameplay. Like the Predator, Batman can switch quickly between a series of different view modes that he can use to scan crime scenes for evidence. The crime scenes themselves are really little more than interactive cutscenes, with you hunting around for the stray clue you need to scan to advance the story – and while that may sound boring, it is wonderfully done. Following a trail of alcohol vapour or tobacco breadcrumb trail may sound linear and boring, but it’s another one of those things which helps to conjure the feeling of being The World’s Greatest Detective.

The detective mode isn’t just handy for completing these obligatory objectives either and can be used to help you out in combat by highlighting enemies through walls or revealing hidden areas and collectibles. It’s these collectibles which form one of the most rewarding parts of the game, brilliantly contrasting the ease of the earlier brawls by providing an oft overwhelming number of secondary objectives.

There are trophies to collect, interview tapes to listen to, secret rooms, hostages to rescue, challenges to complete, mysterious runes to decipher and even riddles for you to crack that the The Riddler poses to you over the radio. And that’s just skimming the surface – there’s so much exploration to be done that on top of the obvious comparisons to Chronicles of Riddick, Batman also feels a bit like Castlevania or Metroid at times.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review Batman: Arkham Asylum Review - Gameplay
Somehow, Batman would find the whoever stole his packed lunch

Underpinning all of this is the RPG system that sits so snugly in the middle of it all. It’s not a truly expansive and in-depth character builder, but it does the job brilliantly and allows Bruce to expand on his arsenal of moves, gadgets and abilities by beating on thugs and solving riddles posed by Edward Nigma. It beautifully complements the other genres which have all been blurred together here – the stealth of having to move undetected and avoid killing your foes, the action of jumping into the fight with no guns, the adventure of analysing crime scenes and chatting to NPCs.

Its genre mishmash fits together perfectly and, even though there are parts of the game which feel like the suffer a bit from catering to the gamepad instead of the keyboard, it isn’t something which ever detracts from the fun of the game. Sure, the controls might be simplified and easy – but gliding from watchtowers and besting giant crocodiles is de rigueur for Batman, so it should be easy for him.

There’s bound to be a vocal group of fans who’ll still scream about consolificiation, bringing up the annoying and unhelpful PC delay as proof, but the simple fact is that the game still plays wonderfully and smoothly on the PC.