Batman. Arguably the biggest comic book character, undeniably the most popular superhero, and a franchise with a varied and mixed mythology, with interpretations as many as there are different psychologies.
There is something that makes serious comic book authors indulge in their most psychologically out there fantasies when they write the bat. After all, aren’t they all answering the eternal question: what makes batman, Batman?
To me, Batman is defined by his acute neuroses, and the mad-attract-the-mad world he lives in. His inner demons make him relentlessly put the cape on and impersonate a bat – his outer ones won’t let him quit that cycle.
If being Batman means relentlessly pursued by the insanity of The Joker that makes you feel that everything is a trap, if it means knowing that the Scarecrow won’t rest until he has pervaded your mind, if it means you are sure of your physical prowess, and have fought the fight in your head even before it starts, if it means using the dark as your friend – not a stealth maneuver but a weapon of choice – until you have methodically taken out whatever thugs pose as obstacle between you and your ultimate prey, if it means being a panther like predator, and always being prepared, if being Batman means all those things, the new Arkham Asylum game from rocksteady has nailed it.
I am Batman.
The masterful voice acting by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill starts you off in writer Paul Dini’s what they puport to be Batman’s Worst Night. The setting means you fight Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Bane, Poison Ivy, Clayface and the Clown Prince of Crime one after the other, interspersed with some detective work. Being a detective, by the way is not only the only way to progress (following Gordon’s Cigar smell is your only pathfinder), it is also actively encouraged by The Riddler who keeps pissing in you ear about these riddles, the solution of which is usually a quick thorough scan of the environment away.
Then there’s the combat. There are no insane combos to remember or hajaar buttons to press. It’s all timing and direction, which gives enough depth, but also takes away the frustration. That it looks fantastic and the music is channeling Zimmer and Howard’s masterful score from the Nolan films is something you notice only when the game lets you stop for a breather, which is never often.
rocksteady has made the definitive Batman game, as well as the best comic book superhero game. Equal parts Metroid and Bioshock in its gameplay inspiration, this on stands out as one of the best gaming experiences I have had this year. Anyone who is a fan of anything should be playing this game.