Retro Review: Batman: Arkham Games

by Philip Clark
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The Batman: Arkham series are some the best superhero video games to have come out in the last decade, in fact they’re arguably the best representation of Batman’s world in a video game. I have had the pleasure of playing all four titles that span this universe; Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight. I completed the first three in the series, but unfortunately have yet to complete Arkham Knight.

Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and Joker respectively from the incredible Batman: The Animated Series throughout the games. Adding the talents of Tara Strong, Troy Baker, Nolan North, Fred Tatasciore and other talented voice over artists really help with their authentic feel. The games themselves flow naturally in both storytelling and playability, making them feel like live action, interactive comic books.

Be The Batman

The games do a fantastic job of capturing how being Batman would actually feel. The combat style in the games allows for multiple combo moves, truly making you feel like the Bat beating down on the criminal scum of Gotham. It’s not all about the free-flowing martial arts, however.  As we all know, Batman is the world’s greatest detective. Adding in something like Detective Mode, which allows you to see enemies and hostages alike, through walls or other solid objects allows you assess the situation in true Bat fashion.

Over the course of the games, you unlock certain abilities and gadgets that Batman owns, giving you access to playing in a style that suits you; whether it be endless combos while throwing Batarangs, or laying Explosive Gel in the middle of fights. Alternatively, you could stealth your way through the game, using Detective Mode using the environment around you to your advantage, striking from the darkness and vanishing just as quickly.

Dive Into The Games

Arkham Asylum, the first instalment of the series is an excellent start. It gives you enough of both play styles for you to sink your teeth into. The game also introduces you to all the classic Batman villains; Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Bane and Joker, but also touching on some of the lesser known ones like Calendar Man and Maxi Zeus. The game takes place in, you guessed it, Arkham Asylum. The Joker escapes after you deliver him and takes over the island. As the Bat you must confront the Asylum’s residents, save the staff and stop the madman before he completes whatever nefarious plan he has concocted. Playing the game as it came out, I would have given it a solid 9/10 rating. However, with the release of the newer games, it gets a good 7/10 rating.

Arkham City, the second instalment of the series delivers everything that Arkham Asylum didn’t, plus so much more. The map opens up to a much larger section of Gotham, a part of the city that has been sectioned off in order to hold some of the more high profile criminals, while they rebuild the Asylum after the events of the last game. This chapter also offers an additional playable character through some of the story missions, as you take control of Catwoman as she tries to find a way out of the dubbed ‘Arkham City’. Bouncing off the success that Arkham Asylum received, Arkham City takes being Batman to a whole new level. With a story that has intrigue and mystery right up until the final act. By far, the best game of the series, a solid 10/10 rating.

Arkham Origins, the third instalment, unfortunately leaves a little to be desired, though the premise of the game is absolutely fantastic. In an attempt to rid the streets of Gotham City of Batman, Black Mask hires assassins to take him out. Still in the early stages of his crime fighting career, the Caped Crusader must take down each of these assassins, while trying to piece together a complicated puzzle laid out by Black Mask. The story was one of the only things the game had going for it, but the combat fell flat, the stealth element in the game was stale and the game in general didn’t meet the high expectations set by the previous two. The biggest let down of the series, scoring a 6/10 rating.

Arkham Knight, the fourth, and currently final, instalment of the series has impressed me with what I have played thus far. Now able to roam freely around the entirety of Gotham City, the game gives you access to almost the full range of Batman’s gadgets and toys, including the Batmobile. Yes, that’s right, you can now drive the Batmobile around Gotham. Do you need any other reason to play the game? Didn’t think so. From what I have played, the story seems to be as much of a mystery as the last games, making you feel like you are unravelling the mystery, much like Batman. I have yet to finish this game, so I can’t give a rating for the entire game. However, what I have played has been fantastic. A good 7/10 rating.

The Future Of Arkham

This video game series has been one of the few, in recent history, that has made me feel like I am a part of the game. Keeping me interested in the main story, without overloading me with information. Releasing it bit by bit, similar to the way a comic would do. Rocksteady has done a fantastic job with these games and the lore surrounding them.

As I stated in the opening paragraph, I have yet to finish the latest instalment of the series, so I’m not sure how the game ends. That being said however, I would love for Rocksteady to release another game, allowing me to put on the boots of the Bat once again.

Overall, the Batman: Arkham series gets a solid 8/10 rating.

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