Batman: Arkham series still holds up today

The games provide a breathtaking experience even today.

I’ve never played any game more enjoyable than the Batman: Arkham series. The combat, the story, the characters, the atmosphere, all combine to form a breathtaking experience, even 10 years after the release of the final game in the series. With the recent release of “Gotham Knights,” an (unworthy) spiritual successor and a semi-sequel featuring the Suicide Squad set to be released in the near future, the series has been back in the spotlight recently.

The first game in the series, “Arkham Asylum,” revolutionized the superhero game concept upon its release in 2009, just a year after “The Dark Knight” was released in theaters. After capturing Joker and imprisoning him in the titular asylum, he breaks out and frees all of the other inmates and Batman must defeat an array of supervillains and thugs to restore control. The combat is exactly how you’d expect the Batman to fight, while stealth sections require you to plan attacks on enemies in a realistic way. The map has a deeply sinister atmosphere and is perfectly designed for both the story and the gameplay. The plotline is perfectly crafted, and while there are many supervillains to defeat, the game isn’t weighed down by backstory upon backstory due to the interview tapes and bios scattered around the map. The voice cast is perfect, as many of the actors are transposed from “Batman: The Animated Series” where they’ve been honing their roles for years. And even today, the graphics hold up remarkably well. The only major complaint from the otherwise perfect first game is the boss fights, which are often repetitive and require you to use the same attacks and patterns over and over. In addition, the map isn’t designed to allow Batman to glide around easily, which is a key part of the Batman experience.

The second installment of the series, “Arkham City,” improves on the highs of the first game while dispensing with the lows. After Bruce Wayne is imprisoned in Arkham City, a section of Gotham that has been walled off to create a new prison but where the inmates and villains can roam free, he must discover the new warden’s reason for building the place, while solving crimes inside the walls and fighting the warring gangs. The map has been expanded with tall buildings to allow the player to glide around easier, and the areas truly feel like you’ve stumbled upon an abandoned, criminally overrun city. The boss fights, the weakest point of the last game, are incredible here, with the fight against Mr. Freeze still ranked among one of the best in game history. The gadgets have been expanded, with a highlight being the Disruptor which allows you to strategically disable enemy weapons. Combat has been improved, and the Critical Strike feature discourages button-mashing combat. The Catwoman stories are fun and require you to learn a character who fights differently than Batman. In addition, side missions have been added, and the ability to use different Batsuits is a fun update.

A prequel, “Arkham Origins,” was released in 2013, but having not played the game yet, I cannot provide an opinion on it. However, the game was critically reviewed very well.

The final installment, “Arkham Knight,” is arguably the best game in the series. After Scarecrow empties Gotham with the threat of his new fear toxin, a militia occupation led by the mysterious Arkham Knight invades the city. Allowing the player to explore a huge, open Gotham is an incredible choice, especially with the addition of the Batmobile. The scope of the story is massive, and the new depiction of Scarecrow is far more menacing than his last appearance in Arkham Asylum. More side missions have been added, and while some are short and unsatisfying, others are multilayered and just as fun as the main story. The combat is improved with the Fear Takedowns, and the stealth requires even more thought as the militia will adapt to your attacks by placing mines and sentry guns. Arkham Episodes, short missions expanding on characters both before and after the main story, are fun despite their short length. The plot provides a satisfying end to Batman’s story in the Arkhamverse.

Overall, the games hold up incredibly well, even 14 years since the first game was released. The plots are consistently incredible, combat and stealth improve each game, and the characters are well-drawn and deep. This game is a must play for any superhero or video game fans.