Sunday, August 9, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum


I’ve recently spent some time with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Months ago there were a slew of preview articles that hit pretty much all of the major gaming magazines, and ever since then I’ve been waiting in anticipation for this game. As soon as I heard that there was a demo available I hopped onto my 360 dashboard and snagged it. (1.5 gigs! I had to delete a bunch of crap to make room. I’ve GOT to upgrade my HDD!)

During the intro video I paid close attention to the character and environmental detailing, I knew right away it would most likely be one of my favorite parts of the game. I wasn’t stunned by the graphics for I had seen plenty of still images from previous articles so I knew what I was getting into. In full motion though, I was really impressed. The introduction is pretty much Batman hauling The Joker into the Asylum, and as soon as The Joker is separated from the Dark Knight’s close watch he frees himself from the guards and runs off deeper into Arkham.

Soon after Joker runs off, Batman of course follows… right into a trap. Oh no! Henchmen! Combat tutorial commences. The tutorial was simple… Aim Bruce in the direction of a bad guy and then mash the X button. Batman will automatically chain attacks and perform combos all on his own, all while managing only one button. After you drop a few thugs, you learn that you can press Y just before an oncoming attack and perform some pretty awesome counter attacks. Combat flowed really well, it looked great and wasn’t overly complicated. To top it all, the game treats you with an occasional “slo mo” zoomed in killing blow effect, and that happens all on it’s own as well. Very cool addition.

After the combat, you learn the next important mechanic: Stealth. You will learn quickly that this isn’t the type of game where you can take barrage after barrage of machine gun fire and be fine. You NEED to be strategic about combat in this game; pick and choose your battles. You have a few options and tools available that make being undetected a lot easier. First off, by holding down one of the buttons it allows you to crouch and slow your movements. The grapple gun seems like it’ll be a huge part going about undetected. This isn’t Spiderman, so you can’t just grapple onto anything; there are certain “grapple-able” objects on the ceiling that allow you to pull yourself up to. Then once you are up there you can watch over your prey and attack from above as you one-by-one dispatch Bruce’s foes.

Detective Vision is a feature in the game you can toggle on and off, very similar to the recent Metroid games. While detective vision is active, all sorts of notes will pop on the HUD like info on allies, enemies, “grapple-able” objects, items, and secret areas. Definitely a tool you’ll that’ll help you out when you seem to get stuck in the game.

One mechanic that they didn’t cover in the demo, from what I experienced, was using fear as a weapon. In detective mode you can see an enemy’s heart rate and I guess that comes into play later as you can try to freak out bad guys and make them, in turn, put themselves into a more “manageable” situation.

The demo ends, of course, just before a big boss fight. They showed you how you can fight several thugs at once and I’m really curious to see how combating one guy would be like, especially the hulking brute that they leave off at. I could even see them having different play mechanics for each boss in the game. I guess I’ll have to wait and see when I pick up the game after release. I highly recommend checking out the demo, it’s short but very satisfying.

Have you played Batman: Arkham Asylum yet? Let me know what you thought about it.