Batman Arkham Asylum on PS3

Just finished playing this and for a long time I was loving it but towards the end it just degenerated into one Boss battle after another. Now, I hate Boss battles for several reasons. One being that I am not very good at them and invariably have to spend ages repeating and replaying that section before eventually getting through it. It has not been unknown for me to fail to beat the Boss and thus, if there are no cheats available, that is the end of the game for me which is hugely annoying. The other reason is that to me they are very mid 90’s and in this day and age, seem a bit predictable and an easy fill up part of the game excuse for developers. The last part of Batman basically throws three consecutive boss fights at you in a row. I got through them but did not enjoy the gaming experience. It also spoiled the whole game experience  for me a bit, up to the last section I had been enjoying the game hugely and in particular the variety of challenges which is a bit ironic given the mundane predictability of the end part.

If the Boss battles had allowed you to employ different attack strategies then it would have been more interesting but in all cases it was a question  of running around like an arse, flinging the batarang in a vain attempt to stun baddies, leaping from left to right trying to avoid projectiles and all done in a finger strain inducing, button bashing stupor. Not much fun and at odds with the rest of the game’s basic gameplay set up.

Arkham_AsylumThe whole experience was not what I expected at all. Often you get a vision of how you expect the game to play and look but this one surprised me. It kept reminding me of BioShock, the whole Arkham Asylum setting was like parts of Rapture, dark, quiet and spooky and you were never quite sure what to expect around the corner. Some of the in game sounds and music extended that BioShock similarity even further. I sort of expected the whole game to take place in the Asylum part, as the name suggests, but that is the name for what in fact is a huge complex and the gameplay moves from area to area.

At no point does Batman have any weapons…no guns or nowt and any fighting, in fact there is lots of fighting (which can get repetitive) and you need to use your hand to hand skills. Luckily Batman is pretty nifty with his hands and feet and with the upgrade system you can power up his “combos” and items such as the trusty Batarang. Annoyingly, the Batarang is of limited use, it stuns enemies but only for about 0.012 of a millisecond and will never render an attacker immobile. Thus, take outs form afar are a no go and old Bats has to sneak up to get up close and personal for combat action. By about half way through the game I began to dread the rather mindless button bashing that was needed to overcome groups of Jokers henchmen.

A la BioShock and which is seemingly de rigeur nowadays, Batman goes for the upgrade path and in an attempt to add a little extra, you have various very mini side quests like solving Riddler’s ahem…riddles and finding his abandoned “?’s” which are randomly scattered throughout. In fact there are apparantly 240 of them.

There are a few annoying things over and above the repetitive fighting sequences. When you get hit it takes an eternity to get back up on your feet and before you can actually move away from a danger zone, Often, you will find yourself sandwiched between two baddies or a boss creature and badman and will end up getting repeatedly thumped (with big subsequent health loss) as you frantically and unsuccessfully try to jump out of the way. It would have been nice to have had some way of taking out baddies with the batarang from distance to reward good stealth approaches too.

Overall, I’d give it a 7.5 out of 10. Had the last section not been so damn hectic and irritating it would have been an 8.5 job. The graphics though are superb, the controls and camera positioning are super smooth and there are some genuinely great moments in there. The story is also well paced, by and large, and involving enough to make you feel part of the plot.

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