Batman: Arkham Asylum Review (PC)

As Batman: Arkham Asylum has already been carving huge Joker smiles on every console gamersí face, youíll be well aware that Rocksteadyís sublime foray into the realm of the iconic comic book hero is an unmitigated success. But as a PC gamer, you might still be left wondering what all the fuss is about.

Firstly, a lot of PC owners have been put off by the prospect of potentially complicated DRM issues. Frankly we had no problems with any of this, although we didnít attempt to install the game on multiple machines. Otherwise, starting the game is very much a standard procedure that we encountered no real problems with whatsoever.

Bats gets a bit steamy. Youíll be wanting PhysX for the volumetric smoke stuff, but the game looks just fine without it.
Swooping down on villains from up on high never gets old. Itís all part of being Batman. Awesome cape physics help too.

The game itself is identical to the console version, although if youíre fortunate enough to be running it on a high spec rig, then the resolution and visual quality is obviously far beyond anything both the Xbox 360 and PS3 can muster. So all of the edges are smoothly anti-aliased, incidental details suddenly stand out and the entire presentation is uniformly slick. You may have had to wait a little longer, but lucky PC gamers have bagged themselves the tastiest version of the game money can buy. And with developer Rocksteady extending free DLC support, expect new Challenge packs in the very near future to add even more value to the game.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is undoubtedly the finest comic book game to ever see the light of day, succeeding in not only treating the source material with the respect it so clearly deserves, but also in crafting one of the most playable third-person combat titles ever conceived. Working equally well with either mouse and keys or a controller (personally we prefer the latter), Arkham Asylumís fighting mechanics may initially seem like a relentless bout of button bashing (or mouse clicking), when in fact further play and experimentation reveals it to be a deeply refined and incredibly intuitive system that rewards careful timing and skill.

Making Bats look impossibly powerful and cool, the combat enables you to seamlessly link freeflow combos with a growing repertoire of moves that makes you a force to be reckoned with. Punches, kicks and counters soon evolve to incorporate throws, takedowns and quick batarangs as you upgrade Batmanís abilities, the game unlocking more and more of the Dark Knightís innate fighting prowess as you develop.

The Dark Knight fights a Titan-enhanced henchman. This happy camper will throw boulders and bodies at you as well as knocking you halfway across a room if youíre too slow to avoid him.
Batmanís a stealth master, so naturally he has a range of sneaky moves at his disposal, including the ability to go into corner cover as shown here.

Adopting a Metroid-like system whereby youíre unable to progress until youíve discovered certain abilities ensures that thereís plenty to keep you playing as you explore the grounds of the titular facility. Whether itís new skills or gadgets, youíll see areas that are unreachable at first, but can be returned to once youíve gained a particular Bat-gizmo. This may involve traipsing through locations youíve already been to before, but certain events occur that shift and change the environment, keeping it fresh and interesting, so exploration is never a chore.

Riddles manage to keep you constantly occupied too, actually asking that you engage your brain and actively search your surroundings for solutions to The Riddlerís fiendish wordplay puzzles, rather than mindlessly wandering around looking for collectible gubbins - although there are still numerous trophies to collect. Uncovering all of the teasers actually becomes something of an obsession too, unlocking a handful of Games for Windows achievements as well as the entire series of score-based Challenge arenas, which offer extended stealth and combat stages to attempt after youíve finished the story-based portion of the game. Online leaderboards ensure that these too are endlessly compulsive as you chase a higher ranking in the table.

Both engaging and compelling, Arkham Asylum can also be enjoyed in 3D with added graphical enhancements courtesy of Nvidia and their newly fangled PhysX graphics cards. If youíre the proud owner of a 3D monitor, 3D glasses and the requisite graphics card then you can take advantage of the 3D support, which is now extended to hundreds of recent PC titles, if youíre interested. The tech layers extra depth to the scenery and makes Batsí detective mode really pop out - but otherwise itís largely superfluous since the game looks stunning enough through a standard monitor. Still, itís nice to have options. PhysX support also means that floor tiles shatter, sparks bounce around and volumetric smoke fills certain parts of the asylum corridors, which is all very nice, but not exactly essential. If you can afford to shell out and play Batman at itís best with all the kit though, then lucky you. Itís all very impressive indeed.

More stirring though is the added support for Dolbyís new Pro Logic IIz, which allows you to experience the game in 9.1 surround sound, adding two extra height channels to the soundtrack. We went along to Dolbyís London HQ to check out how good the game looked and sounded when combined with Nvidiaís 3D PhysX stuff and Dolbyís Pro Logic IIz kit, and the whole set up really is utterly stunning. Well worth considering if youíre feeling flush.

The bone-crunching combat really does have hidden depths. Just donít mash the buttons or the mouse like a two-year old and youíll be fine.
Thereís a reason why The Joker is Batmanís greatest villain Ė heís a charismatic psycho. Mark Hamillís voice work as the green-haired reprobate is fantastic.

Enough about the extra PC exclusive support - all you need to know is that Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PC is every bit as fantastic as its console counterpart. Which is really no surprise when it is essentially the same game. The enhancements to the PC version are really only of significance when played on a high end machine however, but the playing at a lower spec takes nothing away from the gameís pure quality.

Forget any reservations you might have about Arkham Asylum on the PC - itís unreservedly brilliant. In retrospect, we may have got a bit carried away in awarding the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions a whopping 9.5 out of 10, but then repeated play has failed to dim the gameís appeal any. For that reason alone, the PC version is genuinely worthy of the very same score. Weíve said it once, weíll say it again - truly this is the Batman game that everyone has been waiting for. Itís genius.

Top game moment: There might be a lot of backtracking throughout Arkham Asylum, but the entire game is an absolute pleasure to play. Pick your own moment Ė theyíre all good.

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By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2009
It is not so much the game I have any reservations against - it is how it is deliverd, how to install and how to own the thing that prevents me from buying it. I don't support the kind of DRM/CP they use so I will skip it all together.

Sure there are pirates out there who don't pay for themselves, but to shit on the paying customers won't get these pirates to suddenly start paying up...
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2009
this game is good , and i do mean Really good . the Challenges are cool if you get bored and also the Riddles are Epic!
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2009
I have no doubt about that BoneArc, but the choice to go with limited activations is too good to keep me away - even if this would be the first real-feel-touch-smell-your-way-through-the-Playboy-mansion-and-Play bunnies, I still would pass even though I would be cursing the nights away, simply because I have drawn the line, and I still stand for the reasons as to why I drew that line.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Sep 20, 2009
I read about the activations being 4 per month, can anyone who owns this for the PC please tell me how it works? If it is not too stupid, I will get this since Batman is THE coolest superhero and this games looks like it rocks - also - I may have to swallow principles just for another principle - support PC gaming unless we have only console games left :S Bloody tough decisions....