Demo Daze – (I’M) Batman: Arkham Asylum

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Batman: Arkham Asylum has looked interesting ever since it was first announced. Clearly riding on the popularity of last year’s The Dark Knight, Batman: Arkham Asylum sets the adventure in you guessed it, Arkham Asylum. The story is being written by Paul Dini who worked on the excellent animated series of Batman back in the 90s and Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin all reprise their roles from the cartoon as Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn. That being said, the game is set in it’s own universe and has no connection to the animated series. That being said, just hearing Hamill’s Joker again is brilliant. Anyway, with the game out at the end of the month, Eidos have put up a demo for the game on 360, PS3 and PC and I’m here to give my impressions on the 360 version. I’m not the only whore who’s played some of the game though and you can read Nikmonroe’s impressions on it here. That being said, let’s get started. I’M BATMAN!

The demo starts at the beginning of the game and gives us a nice cocktease with a beautiful rendition of the buildings and streets of Gotham City as we see the Batmobile driving to Arkham Island. We then cut to our Dark Knight in the car with The Joker next to him, taunting him a bit as he drives. The two get to Arkham Asylum and are greeted by Commissioner Gordon and Batman hands The Joker over to the guards to put him back where he belongs. Batman’s suspicious though, as The Joker gave up all too easily. He was right to be suspicious as The Joker escapes and all hell breaks loose as he takes over the asylum’s security. So begins one night that Batman won’t forget in a hurry.

We’re then given control of  Batman as the first set of inmates surround him. If I’m honest, the combat is definitely nothing special. Rocksteady talk about it being a freeflow system but most of the time it’s just pressing X to kick the shit out of someone. You can also use Y to counter an opponent and pressing B seems to unleash bats but I wasn’t exactly sure. It’s not a bad system by any means and the times where it cuts to a different angle of Batman smacking someone in slow motion are pretty cool but don’t go in expecting a ground breaking combat system. That being said, not having to memorise combos gets a thumbs up from me. You can also use Batarangs by holding LT then aiming and releasing with RT, although they only really stunned enemies for a second or two. Perhaps there’s better uses for them later but they didn’t seem that useful in the demo.

So after dealing with the first group of inmates, The Joker opens the security field to let you move through. After dealing with two more thugs, Batman contacts Oracle about what’s going on and then finds Dhalism Zsasz holding a guard hostage. If you confront him directly, he’ll fry the guard, so you need to sneak around him and take him out from behind. At this point, detective mode comes into play and shows interesting objects which could you could use to your advantage as well as the conditions of everyone you can see. It makes it easier to sneak around, if a little too easy. That being said it’s helpful and is pretty cool later on in the demo when a thug’s condition drops from calm to nervous after you’ve taken out one of his buddies.

After moving from object to object to get behind Zsasz, you can either glide down and kick him by pressing X and then taking him down with RT+Y or you can get down silently to sneak up and perform a stealth takedown. This gives you a taster of the stealth options but more on that in a moment. So after saving the guard, Harley Quinn shows up on the screens and we see that she has the guy who runs the asylum. After this you make your way through some vents, taking down some guards silently along the way.

We then to get to the last part of the demo, which is there to show exactly how you can use your stealth. I didn’t realise it until I read someone else’s impressions but it’s very like the original Metal Gear Solid’s stealth, except with you being in the air of course. You really do have to be stealthy, as I soon learnt. I took down one guard with a glide kick and takedown after observing their patterns and quickly hookshot my way back onto a gargoyle while watching the remaining guards panic around their unconscious friend.

I then took down another guard by pulling him up onto the gargoyle before knocking him out and leaving him hanging. While I was distracted by how cool it was, the guards looked up at the hanging body and quickly started firing. I barely managed to get away, and I only got hit a few times. Your health doesn’t regenerate either, as you can only get health after eliminating threats, practically sticking two fingers up to gaming’s current obsession with regenerating health. Now that I’d learnt my lesson, I took out the rest of the guards and the demo ended.

While it was only a short demo, it did show off the potential it had to be a fun stealth game with brawling mixed in. I don’t know if I’m entirely convinced to buy it but I’m definitely more interested than I was before.

Other notes:

– I didn’t like Commissioner Gordon’s voice. Too macho man gruff.

– There are character bios that you can unlock which is pretty cool for a bit of extra information. Not being a massive fan of comics, I didn’t know who Zsasz was at first.

– As well as bios, there are also snippets of audio from interviews with The Joker as well as other stuff that is unlocked later on I imagine. There are also trophies like Resident Evil 4 and 5 which is pretty cool.

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