Batman: Arkham Asylum - Xbox 360

Game Description:Arkham Asylum. An island hospital holding Gotham's criminally insane. Home to some of the city's most notorious supervillians, including Harley Quinn, Victor Zsasz and Killer Crod. Not exactly an island paradise - unless, of course, you're Batman. Follow the Caped Crusader into the mouth of madness in this quest to foil an evil plot hatched by the Joker. Explore the dark depths of Arkham as you unravel the mystery and dispatch Bat-themed vigilante justice. Use fingerprint scanners, your sonar resonator, Batarangs and other high-tech toys and weapons to investigate and take out bad guys. Batmobile not included. 
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Batman: Arkham Asylum Preview

Batman: Arkham Asylum Preview

By Adam Sessler - Posted Aug 07, 2009

The arrival of a preview build of Batman: Arkham Asylum on my desk brought a sense of elation.  Firstly, because I finally had something new to play, albeit truncated. Secondly, in my mind, this game signals the conclusion to yet another long, dry summer of gaming.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Preview


Of course for the game to actually herald a sense of reprieve it also needs to overcome a legacy of 15 years worth of appalling interactive adaptations of the Dark Knight. Given the amount of game available on the disk (the first 25% of the game clocking in at around 6-7 hours), I’m confident to say that Arkham Asylum is not only on track to be a solid game but may very well reset the bar on what to expect from a superhero title.

The game starts with Batman hauling in The Joker to Arkham Asylum, already suspicious that something’s amiss. Within moments his suspicious are justified and Joker frees himself and sets up camp inside the hospital to unleash an unknown plan, the least of which involves the inevitable capture of Commissioner Gordon.  From that point it’s rather remarkable what is stuffed into the playthrough: the introduction of several marquee villains (including King Croc, Zsasz, Poison Ivy, Bane and Harley Quinn), the acquisition of three gadgets, six upgrades to Batman and the exploration of several of the Map’s areas.  What’s more impressive than the amount of content, is how organically it is woven into the game.

Much of this cohesion can be attributed to the story. It actually feels like a proper Batman tale, with a start and finish that seem designed from the beginning and not a series of contrivances that act as excuses for gameplay scenarios. Gordon gets captured, which leads Batman to a Boss Battle, which introduces Joker’s plan which makes Batman search for the others behind it, and so-on. All the gameplay seems lead by the narrative, which keeps the mechanics fresh and engaging as opposed to the pro-forma approach of so many licensed games.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Preview

Three’s Company

The gameplay itself is comprised of the trifecta that has been well celebrated at many press events: combat, stealth and detective work. What felt missing in those demonstrations, though, was how these elements played in concert with one another. Each time, I left with the feeling that these were discrete elements that played themselves out in an obligatory fashion. From what I have played, I’m happy to be proven wrong. These scenarios don’t come at a predictable rate and don’t play out in a reliable fashion each time. In particular the stealth sequences, which can so easily descend into a slow-moving multiple-choice quiz, can be approached in numerous ways, which only got more engaging the more goodies I acquired.

In fact the upgrading of Batman and how it opens up the game each time he finds a gadget or you purchase upgrades though experience points, makes Arkham Asylum feel reminiscent of the best elements of the Metroid Prime series. There’s a sense of mystery and discovery that drove to me to find hidden areas for extra experience to enhance how I interacted with the game. Once you are allowed access to a new region of the hospital you can go back at any time, and certain secrets can only be accessed later on and I definitely felt the dangerous pull of completism in the limited playtime.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Preview

Yes, but can I beat it?

One thing the game thankfully doesn’t borrow from Metroid is the loss of powers at the beginning of the game.  Batman begins as the powerful crime-fighter he is and the upgrades only make his abilities more dynamic, you don’t feel limited in your prowess, which is evident from the first time you throw a punch.

The Combat in Arkham Asylum is quite impressive.  Using limited buttons, the game seems to be emulating the reactive qualities of Assassin’s Creed’s combat style with a fair amount of attention paid to its limitations.  Fluidity is clearly the goal here and at that it definitely succeeds. The animations link perfectly and would appear to have an astonishing variety that truly present a sense of brute physical force, in no small part enhanced by some bone-shattering sound design. 

What felt overly simple in the earliest encounters of the game became significantly more challenging as enemies became more numerous and varied.  You need to read the situation and make smart decisions quickly. Stringing together combos opens up special moves like throws (assuming they’ve been unlocked) and counters, which are key to survival.  This still may aggravate those who want the complexity of a God of War-esque system, but if this is what it takes to make Batman finally play like Batman, I’ll take it.

It’s safe to say that Batman: Arkham Asylum has piqued my interest and definitely more so than in previous encounters.  Nonetheless, this was the beginning of the game and the real test is how these strong, well-developed, gameplay devices can be kept fresh throughout.  My hopes are up, though, and at the very least, there’s some light at the end of the summer.

Want more Batman: Arkham Asylum? Check out this video of Director Sefton Hill discussing the game at Comic-Con '09!



Comments are Closed

  • Gamer2553

    This game is awesome. I played the demo like 5 times. I just hope its not like 5 hours long.

    Posted: August 10, 2009 2:23 PM
  • harusing

    played the demo about 10 times finding different ways to do the last five enemies

    Posted: August 10, 2009 7:57 AM
  • mastercolmn

    LOLZ at comparison to god of war

    Posted: August 9, 2009 4:49 PM
  • Towipo

    Yeah you would like the fighting, it is really easy. Just push the square button a bunch of times, throw a triangle in there once in a while. I could fight 20 or more dudes at a time with this system and not get hit once. Way too easy. That will get boring so fast. Using stealth to take out armed guards one at a time will prove way more fun, trust me. It's not The God of War, it's the Dark Knight, bassmaster.

    Posted: August 8, 2009 4:29 PM
  • MasterNoble6

    This game is GOD OF WAR fun and the grafix are Unreal plus the storyline and villains are straight out of the comic books. --BANE-- Everyone get the demo if you dont believe it. towipo, straight fights are way more fun than "invisible predator" sneakin around mode does god of war sneak? no. dont worry therll be just enough hiding in the shadows...

    Posted: August 8, 2009 1:15 PM
  • me2freak

    my brother is going to play that like theres no 2morrow

    Posted: August 8, 2009 12:11 PM
  • RobbyMac217

    This not only looks like a great comic book game, but it looks like a great game in general.

    Posted: August 7, 2009 8:55 PM
  • Towipo

    Enjoyed the demo. I just hope the game has more of the "invisible predator" mode stuff, and not so much of the straight fighting. The all out brawls seem to be too easy and just a lot of button mashing. Will be playing Batman when it comes out, I just hope it will hold me over until Modern Warfare 2 comes out.

    Posted: August 7, 2009 5:17 PM
  • ManGamer79

    is it long enough to justify 60 bucks and replay value, if not then its a rent

    Posted: August 7, 2009 3:05 PM
  • bubers

    Looks like it could be good.. but i will wait and see before i get to excited...

    Posted: August 7, 2009 2:57 PM