I have always considered myself a Batman fan. I have never really been sure if it because he is clever, disturbed or maybe I just liked his design. The thing that sticks out to me the most out of his character is probably his tenacity. His will to never give in to the sadistic streets of Gotham is something I wish I had even a fraction of in me. Sure it gets him beat up a lot sometimes but at least he still manages to look pretty good crawling off the floor. That came out weird. Okay moving on, the point is I enjoy the escapades of the Dark Knight. However, what was perhaps Batman’s biggest flaw, besides serious mental/emotional trauma, is that he didn’t have a decent videogame. Of course he wasn’t alone in this problem. The amount of decent superhero games we had when I was growing up could be counted on one hand. Batman was no exception to this rule, that is until 2009 when Batman: Arkham Asylum stepped on to the scene showing us that you can make good games with comic book characters. You just need to make sure the game is fun and to have Batman in it. I’m just kidding. I mean you can substitute Spider-Man for Batman and still have a good game. But what makes a good Batman game? Let’s talk about it.
First off the game looks really nice. I am usually not someone who obsesses over graphics, but man does this game look good. However, graphics themselves are not an indicator for whether or not a game is good. A good game can be enhanced by good graphics, but there are many games that have the highest quality graphics and yet the games themselves are mediocre at best. It’s nice that Batman: Arkham Asylum has good graphics, but that doesn’t really mean a lot in terms of performance. It definitely helps though. So what about combat then? Combat is definitely a key factor in many videogames and this game manages to pull it off pretty well. The combat encounters however, weren’t quite polished by this point. Batman: Arkham City would go on to address these issues, but I am getting ahead of myself here. The point is while the combat is fun, I can’t quite call it the highlight of the gameplay since while the combat itself is varied enough, the fights either consist of fighting a bunch of dudes or dodging some bigger dudes. By dudes of course I mean the inmates, not some random civilians lunging at you. Although I have to admit that might have mixed things up a bit.
I am not saying that Batman beating up a bunch of random thugs isn’t something a good Batman game would have in it. I am saying that combat is not the most exciting part of the game. Fun for sure, but being skilled in combat is not all there is to Batman. In my opinion, one of the things that sets Batman apart from most heroes is that he delivers fear to the hearts of his enemies no matter who they might be. You don’t really get that impression of fear when they are so willing to run into your fists. I won’t deny that it is helpful though. What really bring out that level of excitement is the stealth sections. You cannot tell me that it is not satisfying to pick off each individual baddie one by one while getting the tension levels to an all time high. There are many ways to be creative with ambushes although my personal favorite is waiting for someone to come underneath my perch so I can yank them up into the darkness. Combat is great and all, but I feel like at least in Batman: Arkham Asylum the stealth sections are meant to be the real challenges. It most certainly isn’t the boss fights. No, what we want from Batman is to watch the crooks confidence crumble as he silently picks them off and leaves them no form of retreat until they fall into the darkness… once Batman knocks them out of course.
Not only is the stealth satisfying to playthrough, but it also has a unique feel to it. In many stealth games the measure of how stealthy you can be is whether you can go through and finished your objective undetected. Getting detected makes the job more difficult and forces you to improvise or in some cases grants you an instant game over. The latter scenario is normally used when a stealth game is trash since no games aside from maybe platforming should have instant death as part of the game. Good stealth games make it so that you can hide away again and come back once your ready or give you an alternate way to finish your objective. What is funny about how Batman: Arkham Asylum works is that you can intentionally use things people discovering something is wrong to your advantage by force them to panic and change their movement patterns. You can even use other people as traps thanks to the handy explosion gel. It really does have a horror feel when you think about it since the enemies know that Batman is coming for them, but they are living in fear waiting for him to finally make the jump. And the more nervous they get, the more exciting the game becomes for us. The sad thing is that these guys are only getting in Batman’s way. Imagine how sad it is that these guys nearly die pissing themselves from fear and getting taken out from who knows where just they got between Batman and a door. And when I say sad I mean funny, because man that is hilarious. If you can think of something from Batman: Arkham Asylum that is remotely as entertaining as that image then let me know, but I think I have made my point about why stealth feels so satisfying. Although I will admit that taking down skeletons does look pretty weird. Yet strangely, it isn’t any less funny. I’m not sure what that says about me, but on that note I should probably end it here. See you next time.