Friday, January 1, 2010

Game of the Year 2009 // Batman: Arkham Asylum

I don't think it's possible to truly convey how obsessed I was with this game. If I wasn't playing it, I was thinking about it. I skipped meals; I lost sleep. I remember starting a session as the sun was just starting to set and ending it because I noticed the sun was just starting to rise. My roommates would loudly discuss whether to give me an intervention or just kick me out and replace me with someone less nerdy.

So what is it that made this game so addictive?

It Had The Best Combat

Punching dudes in the face in Arkham Asylum feels as polished and satisfying as jumping in Super Mario Bros. or shooting in Modern Warfare. It's in the way Batman leaps to your next target to keep combat flowing seamlessly and quickly. It's how responsive the whole system is, allowing you to counter incoming hits even if you're mid-combo. It's how those combos are based around reflexes and intuition rather than rote memorization. It's how Batman's boot sounds as it smashes into somebody's teeth.

Even though Batman can't shoot electricity out of his hands or turn his arm into a tentacle blade or even kill two guys at once with hidden blades, he still ended up feeling like 2009's most powerful character.

It Reinvented Stealth

I'm usually a bigger fan of the idea of stealth in games rather than the execution. There's something supremely rewarding about taking everybody out without being seen, but most stealth games are just so boring or make you feel so weak or are so shoddily put together that it's usually not even worth it. But Batman does stealth in a way that other games don't: You are the aggressor. You are the predator. You aren't hiding because you have to; you're hiding because it scares your enemies that they don't know where you are.

I'm completely confident in saying that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best stealth game ever made.

It Created The Best World

Every year, we get one virtual world that stands head and shoulders above the rest, embedding so much life and history into the very walls themselves that they become a fully realized character. In 2007, it was BioShock's Rapture; in 2008, it was Dead Space's USG Ishimura. Now it's Arkham Asylum.

It's a world that feels like it existed before you got there. It feels like Arkham Asylum. You can see Wayne Enterprises off in the distance. There are old passageways only Batman knows about. There are patient interviews and biographies littered everywhere. There's evidence of almost every villain having been there at some point. My reaction upon stumbling across Calendar Man's cell? Pure joy.

Not even Renaissance Italy felt this real, and that place was real.

It Was An Awesome Batman Story

Oh, man. There were so many great moments in this game. Remember when Batman tells Bane he's going to break him this time? Or when you find out that Batman made a second Batcave? Or the party that Joker throws for Batman? Or the Scarecrow stuff? Dude, the Scarecrow stuff.

To top it all off, the stars aligned with the voice cast to remind us how amazing the Kevin Conroy vs. Mark Hamill matchup is. And boy, is it.

It Was The Most Fun

I played it, then I played it again. I perfected all the challenges, then created new challenges for myself. I solved all the riddles and found all the Riddler trophies. I played the extra Joker content and the free DLC maps. I earned that Platinum Trophy. I have seen and done everything that game has to offer, and yet, I still want to go back and play it all over again.

No other game put a stupid grin on my face like Batman: Arkham Asylum did, and that's why it's my Game of the Year for 2009.

9 comments:

  1. Good game, but I've only played 5% of the way through it :P

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  2. It only gets better as it goes. If it's not already apparent, I totally recommend that game.

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  3. I've played it several times through and I bought it on 360 AND PC -- the latter so I could experience it with PhysX. And hey, it's always good to have several copies of the best game of 2009.

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  4. What effect does PhysX have on it? And have you gotten into some of the custom costumes people have made? Some are pretty amazing. Dark Knight replica suit, Captain America, etc.

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  5. Having played over half of the game, I honestly can't pin-point why I gave it up. My memory just doesn't propose a quality reason for quitting...

    My GOTY winner doesn't coincide with yours, but anyone would have to be crazy to not at least grant it a nomination.

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  6. May just not have clicked with you. What was your GOTY?

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  7. I was really heavily invested into the challenge rooms, insanely so. I couldn't rest knowing I had been hit and having that drop my score, so I'd try, and I'd try, then I'd try some more. The actual campaign was really fun, and I honestly love stealth games; I just let it fall by the wayside I suppose.

    My GOTY is... um... I don't really know. It's a difficult choice for me, because I feel I might have overlooked some games from early '09. inFAMOUS was great, at least story-wise, and Plants vs. Zombies is great, and Machinarium... and Demon's Souls. Along with some various other titles that I absolutely adore.

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  8. Ha, oh yes, the obsessive compulsion to go flawless through the challenge rooms; I can identify only too well with that. Eventually I learned that I needed to resist the urge to restart immediately after being hit once and try to salvage the round.

    That's a really cool list you've got there though; lots of left-field choices that I haven't seen most people consider.

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