As slick as it is, the game would soon grow tiresome if every corridor and hallway was filled with dozens of foes to pummel into submission. This isn't the armoured tank version of Batman made popular in the movies, so armed enemies require a more subtle approach. Periodically, you'll reach an area populated by gun-toting goons on patrol. Foolishly, they always seem to choose areas rich in stealth opportunities, and you're well equipped to take full advantage.

Your grapple will let you zip up to high vantage points, then glide down and boot bad guys in the mush, while grates in the floor can allow you to travel underneath an enemy then pop up behind them. You can use corners for cover, and throw batarangs to stun enemies from hiding, and as with the melee combat there are also upgrades to your abilities to purchase with your accumulated XP. Other gadgets can play a part as well. Explosive gel can be sprayed on weakened walls, and then used to drop rubble on unsuspecting villains. Sonic batarangs can be used to lure enemies wearing special monitoring collars, then detonated in a pulse to knock them out.

Dropping down from a gargoyle and stringing up an enemy by his feet is undeniably fun. Even more fun is swinging away to a different spot, then dropping the poor sap on his friends when they come to investigate, and then watching in Detective Mode as their heart rate rockets and panic sets in. It's just a shame that their AI isn't as acute as their emotional state. Enemies either have enormous blind spots, large enough for them to run straight past you, or they're ruthlessly efficient. It never really feels like you're outwitting them, more that you're working out the gaps in their virtual routine and taking advantage.

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As the game progresses, cuts and rips start to appear on Batman's costume and cape. Another nice touch.

Stealth is therefore never quite as engaging as straight combat. When it works, it's fantastic, but controlling Batman in close quarters can be a fumble - especially when you need him to vault over a railing, and he decides to do an evasive roll instead - and as the stealth sections get harder, they can be frustrating. One particularly taxing segment puts you up against seven armed enemies, each wearing collars that will alert the others should they be taken down. Your usual lofty vantage points have been booby-trapped by Joker, so you're forced to creep and roll on the ground, a task that pushes the game's stealth features to the limit.

When you don't have to be too careful about being spotted, control isn't an issue. Batman sprints at the push of a button, and will automatically jump across gaps and grab ledges. He can glide on his cape, so dropping from any height isn't a problem, and his grapple gun has fantastic range. Should you tumble off the map into a hole, or into poison gas, he simply grapples to safety again. Rare are the occasions where you'll find yourself holding back because you don't want to get stuck. Wherever you are, Batman is agile enough to get out again.

He's a good-looking fellow as well, a large and convincing character with genuine weight and presence that seems to favour Jim Lee's take on the Dark Knight. All dialogue is lip-synched during gameplay, and along with the impressive animation, it totally sells the idea that this is a living, breathing superhero, able to take punishment as well as dish it out. Perhaps most impressive for fans, though, is that this is a game that remembers Batman is a detective. You won't need his brains quite as much as his brawn, but simply by acknowledging that the Dark Knight defeats his foes using his intellect the experience already feels richer.

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The game doesn't overuse Batman's villain roster, but there are references galore for fans to savour.

Detective Mode is where most of this thinking happens. This infra-red vision can be used to locate and identify other people - whether they're enemies, terrified Arkham staff or even unconscious or dead - but it also highlights environmental features. Destructible walls and removable grates are the obvious subjects, but there are also several sequences where you have to track someone down.

This involves scanning a scene for some sort of clue - the first one, for example, is a whisky flask. Batman's cool computer then isolates and identifies the exact brand, and calibrates his cowl vision to highlight forensic traces of the stuff in the air. Really, all you're doing is following a linear series of dots to the next objective, but it's here that character comes into play. You're not just following dots. You're Batman, hot on the trail of the kidnapped Jim Gordon, with an arsenal of investigative technology at your command.

If this isn't enough like real detective work, then The Riddler is on hand to supply more brainteasers. He's hacked into your communication channel, and will pop up with cryptic clues in each area of the map. Some are incredibly easy, others are surprisingly clever or require knowledge of Batman's vast mythos. Even after the story is completed, these teasers are compelling enough to lure you back to the map to crack them all.

About the author

Dan Whitehead

Dan Whitehead

Senior Contributor, Eurogamer.net

Dan has been writing for Eurogamer since 2006 and specialises in RPGs, shooters and games for children. His bestest game ever is Julian Gollop's Chaos.