File:Arkham Asylum.jpg
Developer(s)Rocksteady Studios
Publisher(s)Eidos Interactive
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/DC Entertainment
Square Enix (Japan)[5]
Writer(s)Paul Dini[6]
SeriesBatman
EngineUnreal Engine 3.5
PhysX (PC only)[3]
Platform(s)PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows[7]
ReleasePlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Microsoft Windows
Genre(s)Action-adventure, beat 'em up, stealth
Mode(s)Single-player

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an action-adventure stealth video game based on DC Comics' Batman for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive in conjunction with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Comics. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game were released on August 25, 2009 in North America and August 28, 2009 in Europe, and the PC version was released on September 15 in North America and on September 18 in Europe.

Arkham Asylum, written by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini, is based on the long-running comic book mythos, as opposed to most other Batman games which are adaptations of the character in other media besides the source material. The Joker, Batman's arch enemy, has instigated an elaborate plot from within Arkham Asylum where many of Batman's other villains have been incarcerated. Batman investigates and comes to learn that the Joker is trying to create an army of Bane-like creatures that threaten Gotham City, and is forced to put a stop to the Joker's plans. The game's main characters are voiced by the actors from the DC Animated Universe, namely Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin reprise their roles as Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn, respectively. The game is played as a third-person perspective action-adventure game with a primary focus on Batman's combat abilities, his stealth and detective skills, and an arsenal of gadgets that can be used in both combat and exploration.

The game received extremely high praise from critics, earning a 92% average on Game Rankings, a game aggregator. The game also holds a Guinness World Record for 'Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever', with an average score of 91.67 from reviewers. Several awards were given to Arkham Asylum, including a Spike Video Game Award. A sequel, presently unnamed, was announced at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards.

Gameplay

Batman uses detective mode to solve puzzles and follow enemies otherwise unseen throughout the game.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game.[9][10] The player controls Batman as the masked vigilante makes his way around the island and structures of Arkham Asylum. In addition to running, jumping and crouching, Batman is also able to glide from heights using his cape, and use his grapple gun to ascend short heights or escape and hide from foes on gargoyle statues. In order to track Joker and other enemies, the player can switch in and out of "detective mode," which activates special visors in Batman's Cowl.[11] In this mode, most of the game world is rendered in darker colors, but objects of interest and people are highlighted, including limited x-ray ability to detect the location of people. Special objects with which Batman can interact, either directly or using various gadgets gained over the course of the game, are also highlighted. In some sections of the game, the detective mode is augmented to detect compounds, fingerprints, and other clues, which are used to direct the player to the next location to explore.[12]

Gadgets include the batarang, an explosive compound sprayer and detonator, grappling gun, and a frequency scanner that can be used to overload security panels.[12] Some of these can be used both during normal exploration of the game world as well as in combat. The game world, though presented in a linear path, allows for exploration at any time, and recently-acquired gadgets can often be used to access areas that were previously inaccessible. Exploration of the world is prompted by items and clues left by The Riddler for Batman to find; in addition to objects to be collected, some of the Riddler's riddles require the player to seek the item in that area that is the answer to a riddle and scan it with Batman's visor.[9] Solving these riddles unlocks special content for the game, including challenge levels that tests the player's skill at the game's free-form and "predatory" combat system, as well as character bios, patient interviews and detailed character trophies. Riddles, as well as defeating foes, also lead to experience points, which can then be spent on several possible upgrades to Batman's arsenal, as well as his health and moveset, at any time.

The game uses a "Freeflow" combat system,[12] accomplished by using three primary buttons: attack, stun and counter[10] to emphasize the primarily-physical system of combat that Batman employs. Additionally, Batman is able to use Batarangs and his Bat-Claw as supplemental combat tools which can help to extend combos. Countering opponent's attacks can also extend this combo; a brief indicator is shown when playing at lower difficulties to indicate when an opponent is ready to attack. By chaining regular and counter-attacks in combos, the player can build up a special experience point multiplier, which increases further if timed well. When this surpasses a specific threshold, the player then has access to an additional special attack that can quickly take down a single foe. Batman can take damage from his foes, and can be knocked out or killed should it fall too low; when combat is completed, Batman regains a portion of his health related to the experience earned in combat. As the game progresses, Batman will come up against opponents with knives and stun prods that require different tactics to deal with, as well as Titans that can be ridden on to attack other enemies. Certain enemies will also try to get their hands on weapons, requiring Batman to stop them from doing so.

The player can also employ "Predator"-type tactics through stealth to improve the odds in their favor. This includes silent takedowns by sneaking up on foes, dropping from overhead perches and snatching a foe into mid-air, or using the explosive compound on destructible objects to knock foes off their feet. Some areas feature sections that require the player to employ these tactics to avoid alerting Joker's henchmen and failing to meet an objective. Harder areas, such as the Extreme challenge maps, put explosives on gargoyles generally used to escape out of sight, requiring players to be more stealthy and cautious of their surroundings.

Plot

The Joker attacks Gotham City's Mayor's office but is foiled by Batman, who escorts him to Arkham Asylum. Due to a recent fire at Gotham City's Blackgate Prison, a large number of sane prisoners have been temporarily relocated to Arkham, many of whom are in the Joker's gang. As Batman accompanies the guards taking the Joker inside, the asylum's security is overridden by Harley Quinn, allowing the Joker to escape and take control of the facility as he enlists the Blackgate prisoners as well as other rogue characters imprisoned at the asylum. Batman quickly realizes that these events, including the Blackgate fire, have all been part of Joker's plan and that the Joker had bribed a security guard to help him escape. The Joker threatens to detonate bombs scattered around Gotham City should anyone attempt to enter Arkham, forcing Batman to work alone; however, Batman is able to rely on Commissioner Gordon and other loyal guards after Batman is able to free them. Additionally, Oracle is able to guide him through the Asylum over the radio. Batman is able to gain access to an adjunct of the Batcave he had set up years ago on the island and is able to use his sleuthing skills to learn of Joker's plan.

It is eventually revealed that the Joker is seeking a chemical called Titan that is being produced at the asylum. The compound is based on Venom, the chemical that gives Bane his super strength, though the Titan formula is much more potent. The Joker plans to use the Titan formula on the various Blackgate inmates to create an unstoppable army, as well as on Poison Ivy's plants, which mutate and take over the island. He also plans to dump the Titan-production waste product into Gotham's water supply, which could have disastrous effects on the city.

Batman, after defeating several of his arch enemies, is able to return to the Batcave to create an antidote to Titan, but only has enough time to synthesize one dose before Poison Ivy's Titan-infused plants destroy the Batcave's computer. After destroying the mutated plant life and defeating Ivy, the Joker invites Batman to his "party", where Batman sees Joker holding and manipulating Scarface and sitting upon a throne of mannequins. Joker then reveals that he has recaptured Gordon and attempts to shoot Gordon with a Titan-filled dart. Batman jumps in front of it, taking the injection himself. When Batman attempts to resist the change, Joker feels defeated, so he shoots himself with the Titan gun and becomes a massive monster. In his massive new form, Joker tells Batman to stop resisting and accept the transformation, until Batman uses his one dose of antidote on himself. Ridiculing Batman for this decision, Joker proudly displays himself to news choppers before Batman defeats him in a final battle. As he transforms back to normal and is taken back to his cell, armed Gotham police officers regain control of the asylum. Batman then hears over a police radio that Two-Face is robbing the Second National Bank of Gotham, so he summons the Batwing and flies back to Gotham.

Following the credits a metal box stamped with the word Titan is seen floating in the water of the Gotham Harbor, and the hand of another villain rises from the water and grabs the box.

Characters

File:Batman stalk.png
Batman performs a glide kick on Victor Zsasz.

Batman,[13] along with allies Oracle[13] and Commissioner Gordon[13] appear in the game. In addition to the Joker, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy,[14] Also, Jack Ryder can be heard reporting about the Arkham crisis.

Batman encounters other foes, including being forced to defend himself from an enraged Bane,[15] sneak up on Zsasz before he can harm innocent guards and doctors,[11] battle his way through hallucinogen-induced nightmares brought about by the Scarecrow,[11][16][17] and silently collect samples from Poison Ivy's plants located in Killer Croc's lair without disturbing Croc.[18] The Riddler does not appear in the game, but communicates to Batman to challenge him to find the hidden clues he has placed around the island.[13][9] Other Batman allies and enemies are presented in the game as character information that can be unlocked from finding the Riddler's clues, often by finding objects or areas based on that character such as a collection of umbrellas (representing The Penguin) or posters revolving around Two-Face. Though not visible himself, Mr. Freeze's special frozen cell can be found in-game, with previous mentions to his escape from the asylum; similar cells can be found for characters such as Two-Face and Calendar Man. Clayface also makes a small cameo, but never in his true form as he is seen pacing around his cell disguised as other characters while trying to trick the player into releasing him. The body of Ra's al Ghul can be seen in the Arkham Asylum morgue. If the player returns to the morgue after the game is completed, the body is gone.

Several voice actors reprised their roles from the DC Animated Universe TV shows. In particular, Batman is voiced by Kevin Conroy,[11] the Joker by Mark Hamill,[19] and Harley Quinn by Arleen Sorkin,[11] who voiced these parts in Batman: The Animated Series. Additionally, veteran voice actors Steven Blum, Tom Kane, Dino Andrade, Tasia Valenza, Wally Wingert, Fred Tatasciore, and James Horan provide voice work for Killer Croc, Commissioner Gordon, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Bane, and Jack Ryder respectively.[13]

Development and marketing

Official system requirements
Minimum Recommended
Windows[20]
Operating system Windows XP with Service Pack 2 , Windows Vista or Windows 7
CPU Intel single core 3 GHz or AMD equivalentPentium Dual-Core 2.8GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (Dual core)
Memory 1 GB (Windows XP) ; 2 GB (Windows Vista)2 GB (Windows XP) ; 3 GB (Windows Vista)
Graphics hardware Shader Model 3 NVidia 6600 or ATI 1300 or higherNVidia 9800 GT/ ATI HD 4770 or higher

The story was co-written by Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Detective Comics)[11] while Wildstorm crafted the appearances of the characters.[11] In developing the game combat, Rocksteady originally formed it as a full rhythm action game. It was later set in 2D, which involved colored circles crashing into each other whenever there was a fight; the final system was based on this 2D model.[21] The game is based on the 70-year Batman franchise as a whole rather than being tied to any particular media adaptation. Arkham Asylum runs on Epic Games Unreal Engine 3.[22][23][24] The Windows version makes use of Microsoft's Windows Live service, allowing players to earn gamerscore, as well as the nVidia PhysX engine for improved physics.[7] In April 2009 ads began appearing in the PlayStation Network service advertising the ability to play as the Joker.[25] IGN later confirmed that the Joker would be available for the PS3 as a free download from PlayStation Store,[26] but would only be playable in the challenge maps.[26][27] PlayStation 3 players can unlock the "Batman: Arkham Asylum Batcave Outpost" personal apartment with displays of Batman's suit, gadgets, the Batmobile, and the Batwing for PlayStation Home.[28] A demo of the game was released on the PlayStation Store on August 6, 2009 and Xbox Live and PC on August 7, 2009.[29] The first DLC is the 'Insane Night' Map Pack, which features the 'Totally Insane' FreeFlow Combat map and the 'Nocturnal Hunter' Predator map. The second free pack, 'Prey In The Darkness', was released on September 23, 2009 for PS3 in the North America, and both consoles in the EU.[30]

A Collector's Edition was released by GameStop. The package features a 14 inch Batarang in the style of the game, a 50 page character journal, a bonus disc which includes interviews with the voice actors, an exclusive Crime Alley challenge map, and a Batarang Box Set. Additionally, an exclusive preorder challenge map from GameStop was announced called Dem Bones. It places Batman under the influence of Scarecrow's 'fear toxin' causing him to hallucinate and all the enemies to be seen as skeletons.[31] A digital comic called The Road to Arkham was released along with the game as a pre-order bonus. It was written Alan Burnett with illustrations by Carlos D'Anda.[32]

Multiple references to the 1989 graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth were included.[33] As in the graphic novel, the asylum is depicted as a mansion, with a beetle used as a prominent visual motif. The character Amadeus Arkham's spirit haunts the mansion, with the cell in which he inscribed his name in the floor also discoverable. Also, at one point in the game, Quincy Sharp calls the Joker "filthy degenerate", just as Batman does in the graphic novel.[33]

Reception

Arkham Asylum has received acclaim from most critics, and holds a 92% at both GameRankings.[45] and Metacritic.[46] GameStats currently holds the game at 9.1/10.[47] The game also holds a Guinness World Record for 'Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever'. It broke the record in this category by achieving the highest average score of 91.67 from reviews around the world.[48] The previous record holder, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 had an average of 90.0.

The first review of the game was published by GamesMaster. The magazine awarded Arkham Asylum a 96%.[51] Electric Playground declared that the game "simultaneously breaks the Batman videogame curse, and gets on track to become one of the best games of the year."[52] Game Informer praised the game, stating "Batman: Arkham Asylum is this year's "BioShock," not just from the connection established with the world, but from its ability to innovate where new ideas are needed, and moreover, deliver an adventure unlike any other." It was rated 9.5/10.[38] OPM gave Arkham Asylum a 9/10, citing "Arkham Asylum is comfortably the best comic book game that PlayStation's ever had, and is up there with the system's best actioners, full stop." OPM summarized the game as "a class act".[53] Xbox World 360 scored Arkham Asylum 95%, stating "a massively impressive licensed game."[54] IGN's Greg Miller gave the game a 9.3 out of 10, praising the voice acting, the story and overall gameplay and called it "the greatest Comic Book game of all time."[41] Eurogamer also praised the game, stating "this isn't just the best grown-up Batman game, it's the best superhero game, bar none", and scoring Arkham Asylum with a 9/10.[35] 1UP.com's Thierry Nguyen gave the game an A-, stating that developer Rocksteady "manages to combine combat, stealth, storytelling, and cartoon voices into the best digital Batman simulator we've seen to date."[34] GameTrailers praised the game's "little details that truly bring Arkham Asylum to life", and that consumers should "know that this is a game worth playing", giving Arkham Asylum a 9.0/10.[55]

Two million copies of the game were sold in the first three weeks after release on consoles.[55] To combat copyright infringement in the Windows version of the game, developers implemented a piracy measure that disables Batman's glide ability and causes other bugs, thus preventing a player using a pirated game from progressing beyond a certain point.[56] Although not the first game to implement such countermeasures, Arkham Asylum received media coverage, as it was seen as a novel method of copy protection.[57]

Awards

Arkham Asylum won several awards along with its commercial and critical success, including multiple Game Of The Year awards. GameSpot awarded Arkham Best Atmosphere and Best Use of a Creative License in their Best Games of 2009 Awards. British game critic Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of The Escapist named Arkham Asylum Game of the Year, and also awarded it the Golden Dog Biscuit Award for Genuinely Best Game of 2009 in his weekly episodic video blog, Zero Punctuation.[58] Game Informer named Arkham Asylum "Game of the Month" in its September 2009 issue. Giant Bomb awarded Arkham Asylum their Multiplatform Game of the Year 2009.[59] Games Radar awarded Arkham Asylum the Game of the Year award, narrowly defeating Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Additionally, developer Rocksteady Studios won Studio of the Year at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards. The game won the "Outstanding Character Performance" (for the Joker), "Outstanding Achievement in Game Design", and "Outstanding Achievement in Adapted Story" awards for the 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, and was nominated for "Outstanding Achievement in Animation", "Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition", "Adventure Game of the Year", "Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction", and "Overall Game of the Year".[60][61] Batman: Arkham Asylum was also nominated for several Game Developers Choice Awards including "Best Game Design", "Best Writing", and "Game of the Year".[62]

Sequel

A sequel to Arkham Asylum was officially announced during the beginning of the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards. A teaser trailer was released, and featured a battered Joker being nursed by Harley Quinn, all the while Gotham descends into chaos.[63] In February 2010, Rocksteady Studios was acquired through majority shares by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.[64]

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