(sharon) #1

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By this point
we’ve all heard
the expression
countless times:
“Rocksteady’s
Arkham series
actually makes
you feel like Batman.” Hyperbolic
sentiments like this is something the
videogame hype cycle has naturally
taught me to be sceptical of; you’d
expect to see it splattered across
billboards, TV ads and spoken at
press junkets, for instance. Yet
nobody warned me that there was
the smallest likelihood of such lofty
developer promises coming true.
2019 marks the tenth anniversary
of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and
jumping back into it as part of 2016’s
super-charged Batman: Return To
Arkham collection only highlights the
dedication Rocksteady spent getting
the mythology of DC’s caped crusader
exactly right. It’s even more impressive
when you consider that this depiction
doesn’t stay slavish to any version
that came before it, instead cherry-
picking from all the best elements of
prior incarnations to help newcomers
and Bat-veterans alike be equally
catered for. It’s what gives Arkham
Asylum and its 2012 open-world
sequel Arkham City (also remastered in
this collection) a timeless quality.
It had been a while since I’d played
Rocksteady’s original Batman outing,
but falling back into its satisfying
blend of rhythmic brawling, predator
stealth and inventive exploration was
just like tucking into mum’s famous
apple pie. Stick with me here. As far
as desserts go, there might not be
anything surprising about apple pie
(you’ve tried it before, why would there
be?), yet before you’ve learned enough
to fully appreciate what’s happening,
you already find yourself many scoops
in asking, “How did I get by before
this?” Being Batman in Arkham Asylum
works in much the same way, because
only mere seconds after mechanics
like perch takedowns are introduced,
you’re already stringing up thugs
like it’s your job – which is perfect,
because it is part of Batman’s.

Villains like Poison Ivy, Bane and
even Scarecrow are all given fresh
design overhauls that stay true to the
spirit of what came before, all while
having them fit a coherent style that
does well to make you believe they
exist alongside one another. Joker,
Harley Quinn and Batman are really
the only characters reprised by their
voice actors from the fan-favourite
Batman: The Animated Series, but
looking back now it’s clear that this
was done to assure disbelievers that
Arkham Asylum would be something
special compared to other licensed
superhero games. Thank heavens they
were right!
Arkham Asylum always was a
more linear affair compared to its

successors, but this focus is a
refreshing change of pace to revisit
when compared to the sprawling epics
of 2019. As a set-up it works perfectly
to help you hone the Dark Knight’s
abilities in a way that prepares you
for the creative combat and stealth
scenarios to come. The asylum’s
interconnected nature remains one
of the game’s strongest assets, and
always keeps me on my toes each
time I step into a new area that has
succumbed to Joker’s takeover.

Scare-show
Contrary to this enjoyment, however,
is just how funnelled the Scarecrow
sections feel upon replaying them.
Occurring roughly two or three times

extra


Revisiting the standard set for superhero games ten years on


in Rocksteady’s Batman: Return To Arkham AARON POTTER


PUBLISHER WARNER BROS / DEVELOPER ROCKSTEADY, VIRTUOS / FORMAT XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE OCTOBER 2016

096 THE OFFICIAL XBOX MAGAZINE