Why Batman’s Arkham series represent’s the BEST of Videogames
How the Arkham series is one of the best game franchises of all time.
If you’ve ever played videogames then you’ll be aware of the Arkham series, however even then you may not have played them, and that’s what I hope to change with this article. Even if you just have a passing interest in games, I’d still recommend you play them. There is (in my opinion – which is why you are here I presume??) no better games series out there! That includes even the Call of Duty series, Mario, Metal Gear Solid, you name them, this is still better, by miles.
By the end of playing the series this will feel true, sadly without the billionaire’s money!
The series mainly consists of 4 games Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Origins (a prequel), and finally Arkham Knight. There is a ton of material, from novels, comics, and mobile phone games that fills in the gaps between games and explores what certain characters are up to ‘off screen’ in the games. However, the 4 mentioned above titles form the main spine of the series, and the main story is told across them.
The remastered trailer, giving the original game's graphics an overhaul
The first game (in chronological order of release) was 2009’s Arkham Asylum. It focuses on Batman trying to survive on Arkham island, being caught up in The Jokers scheme to defeat the caped crusader, by trapping him in the Asylum and releasing the rogue’s gallery of villains against him. The asylum itself is just as interesting as any character in the Batman universe, and we discover its history, along with why it might be involved in (and the main reason for) the continued evolution and creation of some of Batman’s famous villains over the years.
In 2011 the 2nd installment in the series, Arkham City (strong contender for best in series) escalates the first game's situation, with a whole region of the slums in Gotham City being walled in, and all inmates of the original asylum free to populate the area. Batman decides to deal with the criminals from the inside, while simultaneously uncovering the plot of the less than magnanimous Hugo Strange. Along the way Batman is helped and hindered by some classic characters, all while dealing out his one-man army style of justice. We also learn how deeply linked himself and Bruce Wayne are to the city of Gotham itself, from its inhabitants to its rich and deeply dark complex history.
Arkham Origins, a prequel to Arkham Asylum was released in 2013. It shows Batman still in his rookie early days, hunted by Gotham City Police Department, his brand of vigilantism and justice still not accepted. Gotham’s main kingpin Black Mask decides to place a bounty on the caped crusader, attracting villains from far and wide attempting to claim the prize. In this game we see Gotham City before it becomes twisted and warped by the rife appearance of villains in later Arkham installments, as well as explore the relationships and first encounters between Batman’s most defining characters such as Joker, Bane, Mister Freeze, Catwoman and Jim Gordon.
This trailer excellently shows the gameplay, and graphics present in the series
The final game in the series, 2015’s Arkham Knight (if you only play one, make it this one!) sees our hero at his most desperate and low, suffering the affects of the last game’s revelations both physically and mentally. Scarecrow causes a citywide evacuation, holding it to ransom with his fear toxin. The only people left, are the villains who’ve united under Scarecrow, along with the mysterious Arkham Knight himself and his militia. The Arkham Knight himself seemingly having an unknown link and history to Batman himself, with a score to settle (there’s always someone eh?). As a pushed to the edge Batman fights to defend his city again, in his continued one-man war on crime and villainy, it will take everything he has, as well as potentially everyone he knows to overcome. The characters rich history, and story to this point across the series, comes to a stunning conclusion that requires our hero to face his past, as well as relationships with those around him in a climatic finale. Get strapped in for the twists and turns, this one will stay with you long after it’s complete!
As rich and compelling as the story is across the series, it’s not the only reason I’d cite for it being a must play for all gamers. The gameplay itself is outrageously enjoyable being continually refined and fine-tuned across installments. With what can only be described as a mash-up between combat elements from the Assassins Creed series, a dance game, elements of Metal Gear Solid stealth sprinkled in, and GTA sandbox play that by Arkham Knight allows you to roll and boost around Gotham City in the Batmobile dolling out justice. The detective elements, as well as the gadget employment, also serve to keep the play fresh, and stop it sliding into repetitiveness. As each game progresses you unlock gadgets that help in your fight against crime, but also help to unlock easter eggs about the comic book history along the way (You’ll be on Mastermind in no time, answering questions about how many Robin’s there have been, along with their names). This coupled with the role-play elements, will also allow you to upgrade Batman and his gadgets. This over time produce’s a synergy between all the above elements, to create an incredibly unique gaming experience, that many games now a days attempt to emulate.
The Batmobi…Tank, its basically a tank, but fun as hell to cruise around and swoop into
There really isn’t any more satisfaction to be had, than tossing a batarang, to drawing 2 goons’ over, swoop down knocking one of them out, before pulling a button combination that causes you to backflip over the other goon’s oncoming punch, kick his legs away from him before an almighty elbow drop onto his skull causes a mini-cinematic close-up of the moment of impact. It’s these small moments of combat that give the impression of being the genuine menacing powerful force of nature Batman is. The gameplay becomes addictive as you attempt to chain all the combat together, in a style reminiscent of early Tony Hawk’s games, and beat’em up’s like Tekken, as you take down a whole room of thugs in this freeflow style. Similarly, all boss battles across the series are unique and memorable, not just a case of continually pounding them until a health bar disappears. One notable battle for example in Arkham City involves taking down Mr Freeze in the police lab, using a combination of combat and gadgetry. But every time you use a punch combination or lay a proximity mine for example you can’t repeat it again, so instead have mix up your play style to defeat him.
The graphics are also very impressive, especially in Arkham Knight (although the return to Arkham HD remasters do a good job on the PS3/Xbox 360 versions of the original 3 games, letting them stand up against Arkham Knight in comparison), with the Unreal engine. Although not quite giving life-like graphics, they do give facial animations and body motions real weight, and genuine detail, similar in style to the Gears of War series. This detail can be seen in the world Batman operates in, with the dirt, steam, and background noises all coalescing to give the sense of being in a genuine living breathing city. The attention to detail as well littered into corners of game, helps grow the backstory, and the added incentive of XP for finding the easter eggs across the series, help to give a sense of heightened realism, as well as rich history.
You’ll feel the need for a good scrub after swopping and rolling around in this city.
The individual stories of each game, along with the overall story of the series, has been crafted by the likes of John Geoff and Paul Dini, both famous for their work in the comic book industry, as well as Batman animation projects. The latter detail being important too, as both respective voice actors in the game for Batman and Joker, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (yes that Mark, might have heard of him from a small thing called Star Wars), voiced the same characters in the 90’s Batman The Animated Series. Although each game can be played stand alone, and each does have its own self-contained storyline, the narrative over the 4 games is brilliant. The main storyline of Batman himself, is excellently told across all 4 titles, from his loose and unrefined rookie approach in Arkham Origins, a classic encounter with The Joker in Arkham Asylum, to a seasoned crime fighter in Arkham City, and finally a pushed to the brink and somewhat shattered character by Arkham Knight’s conclusion.
Overall, I can’t praise this series of games enough. To go into any more detail would spoil the storyline and ruin some of the memorable moments of the series. However, if I still haven’t convinced you yet, look at the amount of awards these games have won. Arkham Asylum held the Guinness World Record for most critically acclaimed game, with a Metacritic score of 92, until it was replaced by its sequel Arkham City with a score of 96. They have, and continue to appear on numerous best games lists of all descriptions, best of the decade, century, all-time etc. In short if you haven’t played them, then go do so! You won’t be disappointed, and if you are, then I think you must ask yourself, do you even like videogames?? Go on, get them now!!!!