Batman: Arkham Asylum - Our original test of the Epic free promotion: Still one of the best comic games
Comic computer games are often decried as simple beating programs, the fun of which depends primarily on how much you like the main actor. In Batman: Arkham Asylum it's different. Even Batman skeptics will have to admit: It starts well, with a playable intro. In the role of the Dark Knight you accompany the Joker through the entrance area of Arkham and thus get a first, eerily beautiful picture of the institution and its inmates.
The contrast between the taciturn giant Batman and his adversary Joker couldn't be more blatant: Batman is as wide as a tree and muscled like He-Man, the Joker looks with his thin, lanky limbs and the too big head with smeared clown make-up like ... well, just like a cartoon character. Batman: Arkham Asylum does not take any reference to the new, pseudo-realistic Batman films with Christian Bale, but is based on the comic model and at least to some extent on the blatantly oversubscribed Batman works by Tim Burton.
This is exactly what a Batman game should look like. The latest unreal engine suits Rocksteady: The already slightly artificial look of the graphics engine fits Arkham Asylum like a fist on the eye.
Speaking of Faust: Okay, at its core Arkham Asylum is still a fighting game. The combat system seems quite simple at first. All you have to do is pound an attack button and steer from opponent to opponent, Batman does all the work himself.
The Dark Knight doesn't just box around, but also uses feet, knees and elbows fully automatically. The longer you run a series of attacks without interruption, the more experience points Batman receives for defeated opponents. These points not only unlock new fighting techniques, but are also credited to our hero as health points after the fight. Batman doesn't heal during a fight. Only when the last man in a group of enemies is on the ground does Batman's health bar regenerate.
Over time, the battles get trickier: you have to fend off shimmering blue enemies with a second attack button, the knives armed with knives are after all the toughest standard adversaries. Batman first has to hit his cloak in the face with a third button. Only then do the guys stumble back, dazed, and the Dark Knight can pursue. This is how demanding, chic choreographed mass brawls arise.
When it comes to camera work, Rocksteady uses an unusual system. When there is a knock, Batman is in the middle of the screen, as it should be. After the end of the fight, the camera slides closer to our hero and slightly to the right, so that Batman is always in the left half of the screen. This makes for a very cinematic staging. The fluid change between the numerous cut scenes in the game graphics as well as the pre-rendered videos and the actual game works perfectly, at no point are you torn from the dense atmosphere of Batman: Arkham Asylum .
Arkham consists not only of dreary cell blocks, but of several individual buildings, each of which looks completely different.
A few hundred meters from the Gothic-style mansion with its magnificent chandeliers and bookshelves, for example, there is the Art Nouveau greenhouse, which exudes a completely different atmosphere. It is wonderful how much attention to detail Rocksteady has modeled the entire facility with. You can also see everywhere that there has been a riot here: the greater part of Arkham has been devastated, with destroyed furniture and injured guards lying around everywhere. Owners of modern Geforce graphics cards are also happy about the chic PhysX effects that make loose files swirl around or turn cobwebs into moving objects. Batman fans will also find numerous details from the comics. For example, only one person can sit in the completely frozen cell in the high-security wing: Mr. Freeze.
The ice cream man (once played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) does not appear in Batman: Arkham Asylum , but you will meet other super villains of the Batman universe: Killer Croc, Bane or the beautiful Poison Ivy.
These characters stand in your way as boss opponents, who always have to be defeated in different ways. Bane, for example, storms towards Batman like a mad bull and can only be stopped from crushing our hero by a quick batarang in the face. Which brings us to the Dark Knight's special equipment. Batman wouldn't be Batman if he didn't carry a lot of tech gadgets with him. First and foremost, of course, is the batarang, his favorite projectile. With that he can only knock down opponents briefly (or in the case of Banes: unsettle them), then he has to let his fists speak again.
With the experience points you have accumulated, you can unlock new batarangs. The sonic batarang attracts opponents, the multiple batarang knocks down two or even three enemies at the same time, and you can remotely control the dirigible batarang in slow motion. These things are not decisive for the war, but they are fun and add variety to the game.
Equipment and AI
In the course of Batman: Arkham Asylum , Batman receives more and more equipment such as climbing ropes or a hacking device with which he can reach new areas in the asylum or fight Joker's henchmen better.
Because often simple beating is not enough: The inmates gradually arm themselves with rifles, a fist duel would now be suicide. So we have to plan our approach very carefully, much like in the Hitman games. In Arkham's infirmary, for example, several villains are patrolling around a few hostages. We climb a gargoyle high under the ceiling of the hall with Batman's throwing rope to get an overview. With the help of our »detective view« we can spot all enemies in the immediate vicinity, even through walls. Some of these walls are fragile. Here we apply Batman's explosive gel, which tears down the wall at the push of a button and sends all enemies in the area of effect to the land of dreams (Batman does not kill!). When two of the rascals are standing right next to the prepared wall, we press the shutter release - rumble! Two men on the ground. While the joker barks instructions over the loudspeaker system, the other rascals see what is going on.
The AI is very convincing: If someone finds one of Batman's victims, he calls his comrades over. They then stand around the unconscious colleague, still trying to nurse him back up, and then go back in search of Batman. That seems very coherent, but the skills of the Joker assistants are limited to precisely this work routine. Don't expect big chases, and as soon as Batman jumps from gargoyle to gargoyle two or three times, the rascals lose sight of him again.
When the situation has calmed down a bit (the detective mode even shows the heartbeat of the characters and thus their nervousness), we button the next opponent out of the shadows: Our Batclaw, a gripping claw on a rope, digs into it the crook's jacket, we unceremoniously pull him over a railing into the (non-fatal) depth. The last remaining Joker fellow breaks out in a panic, yells around, shoots here and there at moving objects in the game world, for example hissing steam valves, and finally crouches right under our gargoyles. With an upgrade, we bought the ability to catch enemies below us and silently pull them on a rope towards us into the darkness. That's exactly what we're doing now. The infirmary is pacified, the hostages are safe, and we had fun with Batman: Arkham Asylum . Perfect!
The operation of Batman: Arkham Asylum is not that perfect. We can only assign the keys outside of the game. Quick changes are not possible this way.
The mouse speed cannot be adjusted at all in the game and does not depend on the Windows settings. To make matters worse, the mouse is very responsive. According to the publisher Eidos, this should be improved by a patch. Our wish to the developers: If you take the opportunity, please add free storage. Arkham Asylum has so many great scenes that we'd love to see again, but no: once over, always over. Otherwise we could hardly find any technical flaws in the game. Gamepad lovers won't find much to complain about. If you don't want to go to the Arkham Asylum after all, you have to be pretty crazy.