By Dusty Overby
on 9.8.09

batman1When it released two weeks ago, there were tons of previews decrying Batman: Arkham Asylum as the best console game released so far this year. Ever the skeptics, we wanted to take our time in pronouncing judgment on the Dark Knight’s latest interactive adventure. Having savored said time, we’re hard pressed to find flaw with the game or with the claim that it is an absolute must-play title.

In fact, Batman: Arkham Asylum is everything that we (and maybe, you) love in a game. Even better, you needn’t be a Batman fan to be blown away. You’ll be sold on its jaw-dropping graphics, atmospheric music and effects, an engaging engrossing storyline, tight controls, and a great gameplay flow. Having now lauded the title with relatively generic praise, we’ll dig into the specifics. Hit the jump to get our detailed take.

If you’ve played what seems like a million disappointing Batman games (not that we have or anything, ahem), Arkham Asylum will handily right all those wrongs. The game begins with an eerie cinematic sequence and eases you into the gameplay, first demonstrating the engine’s graphical prowess and an art style that’s sure to please. The confines of the asylum recall the spooky layout of Rapture (from Bioshock), if not a bit more detailed. In the moments before the action starts, it’s clear that the plot and story have been carefully crafted, even if their beginnings are somewhat convenient. The title owes its story credit to Paul Dini, who IMBD buffs will know as a 5-time Emmy Award winner who has written for LOST, as well as on the revered Batman: The Animated Series.

batman2Once the niceties are over, you are eased into the game’s combat system, which seems balanced well enough to satisfy button-mashers and more precise players alike. Basically, the game relies heavily on sneaking and detective work, with bouts of combo-driven goon-thumping interspersed. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. As for the title’s stealth focus, Batman: Arkham Asylum succeeds in improving on the well-worn formula of games from the Splinter Cell and Metal Gear series. Not to denigrate these great franchises, but the Batman of Arkham moves fluidly and responsively; his bevy of Utility Belt gadgets and context-sensitive moves seem natural and owe to an intuitive control scheme. The Dark Knight is a comfortable denizen of the shadows but when he emerges, it is to devastating results.

The bottom line is that Batman: Arkham Asylum has been the recipient of a lot of buzz because it is well-deserving of praise. Gear Patrol chimes in, giving the game our strong recommendation, as well. Finally, here is an excellent game that makes use of a licensed character, rather than one that takes a license and turns it into a crap game. Now excuse us, it would seem that Commissioner Gordan is on the line.

Cost: $53

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