This latest installment to the Batman franchise does convincingly what no other effort (besides the comics) could achieve. It creates a viable argument that the Dark Knight is no less insane than the prisoners he captures and incarcerates: A central theme that separates "Batman" from the Dark Knight stories. Developer Rocksteady Studios then expounds on that idea with unprecedented actions and pacing that elevates it so far above any previous comic book game, you will need an oxygen mask to take it all in.
Do not judge this game by it's demo. While the demo felt heavy handed and disjointed leaving me titillated and yet strangely confused, the actual release is flawless in it's presentation and execution. This 3rd person game seamlessly mixes action, stealth and exploration in a large environment. The combat is a throwback to the original Prince of Persia, in other words, an eloquent button masher. But the moves are varied enough to keep your interest. Inflicting justice via punishment is rarely this much fun. The camera tracks the action perfectly as you slam wave after wave of Joker's henchman. Plus you get health, armor and Batarang upgrades throughout the game.
The standouts in the game include:
- They perfectly balance the action as they incorporate Batman from the cerebral detective to the hard nosed fighter.
- The use of an emotional AI with the henchman; As their reaction and moves are directly influenced by the fear you invoke.
- No load screens! No break in the action, yeah!
- Gadgets and upgrades acquired can be used in new and inventive ways to topple the bad guys.
- They employ the classic: easy to play but hard to master strategy in their challenge modes.
And while most games would have just dumped Batman into Arkham's cell blocks, Rocksteady really put the extra work into creating the entire island for you to explore and gives you a rich history of the fabled prison from it's roots to the present day.
The story mode alone along with The Riddler's challenges will take you 15-20 hours and be prepared for some good old fashioned Boss battles.
Like in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the team did not skip out on the talent and the voice acting is paramount to this games success. Reprising their animated roles, Mark Hamill is the Joker, Kevin Conroy is Batman, and Arleen Sorkin is Harley Quinn. The score is meticulous and stays clearly on Batman and his trials on this, his longest night. Bravo!
You can tell these guys and gals did their homework. Of course Batman looks magnificent, but Arkham is the real show stopper here. A modern day Alcatraz. The attention given to the architecture is exceptional. It really gives you the feeling of this once magnificent east coast estate that has fallen into decades of disrepair and ruin. Throughout the facility you can see influences that range from Gothic to Victorian. And then building on that, there are terminals and state-of-the-art containment grids and contraptions that really add to the illusion that this place has had a long history of occupation and chaos.
Also, pay attention to the cape. I could watch that tattered material for hours.
I must first express my extreme disappointment in the Collectors Edition. The Batarang was plastic, with worn (battle damaged) marks and there wasn't even a bat symbol on it. 14 inches of Chinese plastic. (Blech!) Go online and find a respectable substitute. The patient diary doesn't contain anymore information you could get by completing the game and the bonus disc is something they could have posted online. All that aside, the game is great enough for me to dismiss them all. The main story and challenge modes are enough to satisfy the most die hard Bat enthusiast.
This game is the David that swallowed Goliath. They challenged themselves to take on a big, scary, corporate franchise and they not only took it to town, they gave it drinks and called it their bride. A monumental example of what can be accomplished when researching the material really means something, as opposed to simply tacking it on a press release. They take the best of the series creators and contributors (special note to acknowledge Neal Adams and Frank Miller and of course, Bob Kane) and make it their own.
Easily, Game of the Year material.