Friday, May 25, 2012

Top 50 Video Game Moments: Number 9

Today's moment comes to us from the great game Batman: Arkham Asylum. It's not really a spoiler, but the fun of the moment is a lot more visceral if you don't know it's coming.

Batman is - at least in all of his recent incarnations - a superhero that lends himself to some pretty dark places. Arkham Asylum isn't any different, and so it makes sense that the best part of the game is one that puts a shiver down your back.

There are very few things in video games that are better than when a subtle sense of dread is done well. Too few games capitalize on this. Games like Doom 3, which should be cultivating the creepiness of the whole thing, seem to trade it away for cheap jump scares and loud, clanging bad guys with no motivation. With how cinematic games have gotten, it should be easier than ever to accomplish that cold feeling that something awful is about to happen.

This is a long way of getting to the point that Arkham Asylum pulls off this feeling like few others.

Not altogether too long into the game, things start getting weird. Commissioner Gordon shows up dead, bugs start pouring from the walls, things start happening in the morgue that... really, really shouldn't. Then you open three body bags.

If you thought uncovering your long-dead parents was unpleasant, wait til you see what's behind door number 3...
Suddenly your transported to Scarecrow's realm. The fight is unique and interesting all three times it happens, but what really gets you is the scenes leading up to each of them. The morgue is creepy, but later the fear gas has you playing yourself as a child Bruce Wayne watching his parents get gunned down, and even later, the game throws you the curveball of acting as if it's reset.

The game starts coming back up, showing the opening cutscene, only the Batman and Joker roles are reversed. It's a glorious bit of fourth wall breaking that cements Scarecrow's status as best villain of the game. He gets the most interesting boss fight, he's gets the creepiest dialog, and he certainly gets the best death sequences. He's just awesome.

Madness takes you forever? Sounds... charming...

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