Latest news
Demo Impressions: Batman Arkham Asylum
by Joey Núñez

Ever since this game was announced I’ve been waiting on pins and needles for a chance to get my hands on it. Now that a playable demo has been released on the PSN and Xbox Live, I finally did. I know curious Bat-Fans want to know; was it worth the wait? You can bet your green Robin speedos it was! Even though the demo only gave me a little taste of what to expect of Arkham Asylum, I’m going to go ahead and say that this game brings you the Dark Knight at his finest.

The demo begins with Batman bringing the Joker into Arkham Asylum, the home away from home for Gotham City’s criminally insane. All hell breaks loose when the Joker escapes custody inside the Asylum’s walls, and Batman soon discovers he’s walked into a trap. The inmates are running the Asylum and you’ve just delivered them Gotham’s Crowned Prince of Crime to help them run the show. Of course, now that everything is going to hell the game lets you take control of things.

Moments after his escape the Joker sets loose a few random goons on you, and this is your first sample of the game’s combat: the much hyped 'Free Flow Combat System'. On the Playstation 3, square will activate quick attacks (which can be chained together for some wicked looking combo animations); circle activates cape hits, which stun your enemies; and triangle will counter incoming enemy strikes, this will normally make the camera zoom in and the action will slow down, letting Batman impress you with some killer finishing moves.

Now, even though the system works well and is definitely fun, I have to say that the combat was probably what I liked least about the demo. Sure, Batman looks amazing while letting loose those oh so flashy moves, but even though the fights look hard-hitting, they don’t feel hard-hitting. All in all I found the combat to be more style than substance, which wasn’t helped at all by the fact that the enemies were extremely easy to take down (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hit once). Hopefully the difficulty was watered down for the demo, and extra combat options in the final game (by way of combos) will help spice things up.

The rest of the scenarios the demo set up were far more interesting to me, with a strong emphasis on stealth, strategy and resourcefulness. The best example of this is the last area of the demo, a wide open space being patrolled by four of the Joker’s henchmen. Armed henchmen + direct approach = lifeless Bat - hence, its time to put your thinking cap on. And think you shall, because the great thing about the game is that there are tons of different ways to take this challenge on, and each time I played through I took a different approach.

Here’s just one example: As I walk into the area (carefully avoiding stepping on my cape, mind you) I notice gargoyles set up on the walls surrounding the room. I quickly grapple on to the nearest one and survey the room. I dispatch the first guard quickly enough by glide kicking off the gargoyle. Having found his companion down, the next henchman arrives to inspect the area, I’m hanging upside down from the gargoyle waiting for him of course and quickly zip down, grab the unsuspecting b**tard, and leave him hanging off the gargoyle from his ankles (I had a little geek-gasm right there).

I taunt the two remaining henchmen by throwing a few batarangs their way while perched high above them on the gargoyles. By now these baddies are completely terrified, so much so that they begin to shoot at inoffensive cauldrons just because they made a noise. No joke. The henchmen were scared out of their minds, because of me, Batman. One word: Awesome. With the baddies in such a state it was fairly simple to glide down from the gargoyles and pull off stealth knockouts from behind the jittery goons. It was somewhere between perching up on the first gargoyle and hanging the second henchman from said gargoyle that I realized it: this will most likely be the best Batman game ever made. And here’s why: I felt like Batman. For a few minutes, I was Batman.

Making you feel like Batman is accomplished not only by making you a complete badass, but also by giving you access to all of the Dark Knight’s nifty gadgets. A great example is the cowl’s detective vision, which tints the screen blue, identifies enemies and friendlies as red and blue skeletons respectively (comes equipped with x-ray vision, as expected), and gives you an insane amount of information about your surroundings. Want to know if your opponents are calm, nervous or terrified? The cowl will measure their heart beats and let you know. Do you need to know that the security box controlling the doors was designed by Wayne Industries and programmed by Lucious Fox? Well, no, but the cowl gives you this information anyway, and the fact that the developers took the time to put such an incredible amount of detail into the game is just astounding, and comic fans, like yours truly, are sure to appreciate it.

As for the game's graphics - well, lets just say the developers had “an attention to detail” fetish apparently. Simply put, character models in the game are extremely well done. Batman, Joker and Commisioner Gordon all look great in the Demo, and truth of the matter is that even the random goons are sporting an impressive amount of detail. Yup, the graphics of the game don’t disappoint, as the developers made sure to create characters and environments that feel ultra-realistic with a comic world feel (think Watchmen). If I’m going to nitpick I do have to say that I found the character animations during the cutscenes a bit stiff, but just a bit, and it was nothing I couldn’t easily overlook, given how gorgeous Batman looks in motion during gameplay - I could spend hours looking at the cape flutter in the air. Well, maybe not hours but a good solid 5 minutes for sure.

I’ll leave it at this. The demo is impressive, really impressive. I’m excited about the game and have extremely high hopes for the finished product; however, although it might seem like it, I am not 100% sold. There are two reasons for this: Easy combat can be a huge problem for an action game, and can sink a lengthy adventure into the black hole that is repetitive gameplay; and there's the 'Comic-Book-Game Curse' - this isn’t the first time comic nerds around the world have gone into a collective frenzy of anticipation for a game, just to have their hopes crushed. What will be the final verdict on Arkham Asylum? I guess we won’t know just how good Batman’s latest venture into the videogame world will be until August 25th, but one thing I can tell you for sure, when Batman goes through those Asylum gates, I’ll be going along for the ride. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Labels: , ,

- Joey Núñez

Discuss this article in our friendly forums

Sign up to our community today and discuss our articles, debate over upcoming games and organise matches and playsessions with like-minded people just like you.

Liked this? Spread the word - share with your friends!

Done? You might also enjoy these!

All comments are subject to our commenting policy

GGTL Classics
Some of the very best articles dug out from deep in the GGTL archives, written by some of our past and present wordsmiths alike.
Your continued use of this website and/or any others owned by Gamer's Guide to represents your acceptance and indicates your full understanding of all of our legal policies and terms. Our legal policies and terms are legally binding. If you in any way disagree with or refuse to be bound by any part of said legal policies and terms, you are advised to leave this website immediately.