Games of the Generation: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Throughout this generation, developers were looking into ways to innovate their games and bring something new to the table. Amid these attempts at innovation, Rocksteady released what some consider not only the best Batman game ever made, but perhaps the best comic book game ever made.

In 2007, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Eidos Interactive approached a then little-known Rocksteady. After viewing a prototype and seeing a game concept, Warner Bros. gave Rocksteady the greenlight to begin production on Batman: Arkham Asylum.

The Joker: Welcome to the madhouse, Batman! I set a trap and you sprang it gloriously! Now let’s get this party started.

Not only did Rocksteady create a great Batman game, but they also created one of the best action-adventure games of the generation. From its fantastic and innovative combat system to its great stealth and exploration, Arkham Asylum elevated Rocksteady to new heights. Taking place in the titular madhouse, this PS3 adventure created a location that transcended mere level design to become a character in and of itself. With so many nooks and crannies, it’s hard not to explore the entirety of the asylum and try to learn all its dark secrets. Using Detective Mode, players could search the Aslyum to discover secrets about its creator and find hidden bits of information about how the Asylum grows and changes as the game progresses.

As a fan of Batman, it was great to see Arkham Asylum as the center point of the game as this is one of the first times fans got to see the Aslyum firsthand. Seeing the conditions and the cells where the most insane criminals lived really made me appreciate the thought process that Rocksteady put into the environment and showed that Batman may just belong in Arkham, just like his rogue gallery.

Of course, one of Arkham Asylum’s biggest selling points was its ability to make you feel like Batman. Rocksteady’s complex Free Flow combat system allowed you to play as detached or involved as you wanted. Highlighting Batman’s hand-to-hand training, Rocksteady often put the player against seven to eight enemies at the same time. Batman could jump and attack anyone in the environment and use his gadgets to create endless variations of combos. Utilizing a strong counter system, players could also effortlessly move from punching an enemy to grabbing another and breaking his arm.

Then again, as any fan of Batman would know, the Dark Knight prefers to move about the shadows rather then take on large groups of armed thugs head-on. The game’s great stealth mechanics allow Batman to move about the old gargoyles and rafters decorating the asylum’s architecture, stalking his enemies and preying on their fears as more and more of their friends get taken down stealthily by the player. There was scarcely a better feeling than swooping down on an enemy from a gargoyle, grabbing them and hanging them upside down, and instilling fear in nearby enemies.

But it’s not only in Arkham Asylum’s gameplay that Rocksteady succeeds. The sound design, from the ambient music exploring the world to the award-winning voice work, shines. Rocksteady didn’t leave any stone unturned, securing Mark Hamill to reprise his role as the Clown Prince of Crime and Kevin Conroy for his starring role as Batman (both roles made famous in 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series). Bringing in actors that a lot of people grew up listening to not only gave life to the characters but also showed that Rocksteady were serious about pleasing the hardcore fans. Both Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy have a chemistry that mirrors Batman and Joker’s relationship. Alongside the rest of the voice cast, Mark and Kevin contributed to a story and narrative that excited long-time fans of Batman and his criminal nemeses.

To top it all off, Batman: Arkham Asylum was critically praised. It averaged a 91/100 score on Metacritic, alongside with 27 award nominations (and eight wins), including Best Writing from the Game Developers Choice Awards, Best Game Design from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, and Studio of the Year from the Spike Video Game Awards.

In the years since Batman Returns launched on SNES and Genesis, I never thought I would get to play another good Batman game. But Rocksteady took one of the biggest licenses and turned it into one of the best action-adventure games of this generation.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is just ONE of such ‘games of the generation,’ so stay tuned to PSU as we showcase more of what rocked our world on PS3. If you agree or disagree that Arkham Asylum belongs on such a list, give us your thoughts in the forums or comments below.