During the late 2000s, Batman made a glorious resurgence into the mainstream media with blockbuster hit after blockbuster hit. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the Dark Knight Trilogy made you a fan of the bat whether or not you’ve ever taken the time to read a single comic book.
It was a true Renaissance for the caped vigilante and it was emphasized even further with the release of the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum. The gaming world was long overdue for a proper Batman game for the ages and the team at Rocksteady delivered in full force.
With the original writer of the Batman: Animated Series on board, it’s no surprise that they were able to craft a unique experience within the realm of the Dark Knight while staying incredibly faithful to the rich source material as well. But, now that it’s been almost a decade since we were first introduced to this winning formula, just how good is the return to Arkham?
Well, the current Xbox Summer Sale is in full effect and I managed to get my hands on the entire trilogy with the first two games remastered just to answer that very question. So, without further ado, I stepped into the shoes of Gotham’s savior once again to see if Batman: Arkham Asylum is still good in 2021.
BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM
So, What’s It All About?
Batman has just captured the Joker after a clumsy assault on Gotham City Hall and is on his way to personally deliver his greatest adversary to the guards at Arkham Asylum, Gotham’s home for the criminally insane. All seems well but Batman is suspicious. The Joker gave up almost too easily and he seems a little too excited to be back in confinement.
His suspicions are proved to be correct as The Joker manages to break free as soon as he’s alone with the guards and reveals to Batman that he’s been cooking up another crazy scheme to unleash on the people of Gotham. Only this time, Batman is trapped on the island with him and all the other crazy inmates that have been waiting for their revenge. Cut off from all the help and support he’s used to, it’s up to Batman to find out what the joker is up to and put a stop to it before the night is over.
Arkham Island is the main location for the game with the Asylum being reimagined as a sprawling estate with gothic-inspired mansions being connected by wide open gardens and narrower passageways. The entire island is open to you once you make it out of the first area with certain areas only being accessible with the right tool or ability.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) July 26, 2021
Combat & Gadgets
Batman is famous for his utility belt full of amazing gadgets to aid him and there is plenty to get your hands on here. It opens up so many avenues and lets your imagination run wild when it comes time to stalk enemies from above or below and take them out silently one by one.
Combat in Arkham Asylum is simple yet full of depth as it allows you to take on multiple foes at once with less effort than usual but still gives you an extreme sense of satisfaction as you take down enemy after enemy. It’s designed around a simple block-counter-attack system with various moves thrown in to spice things up.
Batman also has his trust Detective Mode that tints the game blue and highlights enemies and other interactable objects in your immediate area. You also get to use it to do some serious CSI work scanning fingerprints and following trails left behind by certain characters.
Then, What’s Good About It?
Without any doubt, the star of the show has to be the combat system that they developed for this game. Free flow combat is a fluid mechanic that combines hard-hitting action with graceful movements as Batman moves from one enemy to another, chaining all these combos together, and effortlessly taking everybody down.
Batman is meant to be this opposing force that strikes fear into his enemies and should always be the most powerful person in a room full of common thugs and you feel that sense of superiority as they struggle to land a hit. It’s a simple system to understand but mastering it opens up the combat and lets you dish out justice in ways only the Dark Knight can.
Even stealthier sections were fresh and interesting every time as you’re given new enemies and new methods to take them out silently using either your gadgets and the environment itself. It’s a fun change of pace being able to stalk and hunt your prey in the dark instead of just running in and punching everybody in the face.
The map and level design of Arkham stands out as you see the island evolve over time when you’re able to access new areas and new villains emerge to spread their influence across the scenery. Especially in the new areas that come with a new musical score to add to the urgency and suspense.
It’s amazing how little backtracking the game asks you to do considering how small the island is and, even when the game required me to go through an area a second time, it felt like a different experience because of certain story beats that occurred or world-changing events.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) July 28, 2021
And, What’s Bad About It?
In reality, there’s not a lot to fault with a game like this. I’d have to get extremely nitpicky and point out that the color palette at times felt a bit bland and even made it a bit difficult to see enemies at times, especially in the boss fight with Poison Ivy. Combine those muddy greens with an awkward camera angle and I found myself taking more hits than I would have liked.
Something else that seemed to consistently break my immersion is the fact that most of the “guards” on patrol aren’t that alert at times and there were unrealistic moments where I would make a significant amount of noise with my movements and still wouldn’t get detected. Even on Hard Mode. It made the A.I. feel less human and not that big of a threat if you have to stand directly in front of them to be seen
Should I Play It?
Batman: Arkham Asylum was revolutionary for its time and is still the best example of freeflow combat to date. It’s so well designed that I found myself jumping into challenge mode once or twice every time I booted up the game just so I can warm up and kick as much henchmen butt as I can before jumping into the campaign.
Plus, with the extraordinary amount of secrets and collectibles that there are to discover around the map. This is truly a game that can keep you occupied for hours and is still one of the best superhero experiences in gaming to date. Batman: Arkham Asylum is definitely still good in 2021.
Have you played Batman: Arkham Asylum? What did you think of Batman’s first entry in the Arkham franchise? Let me know in the comments below.