|System: PS3, X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rocksteady||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos / Warner Bros.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 25, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
June 3, 2009 - Although the Batman franchise has been around for quite some time, it has been going through a transformation of late. While older Batman movies and TV shows were all about fantastic enemies and comical one-liners, since the advent of Batman Begins, we have borne witness to a much darker knight than ever before. This tradition continues with Batman: Arkham Asylum, which is coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this fall.
Batman: Arkham Asylum actually takes place in the halls of the fabled asylum, with all its insane inhabitants trawling its halls. The story is written by Paul Dini, who worked on Batman: The Animated Series. But, if you are worried about this title being on the light side, don't worry. The game begins with Batman apprehending Joker, but he is suspicious that it was a bit too easy this time. Of course, Batman brings Joker to the titular asylum, but once he gets there, the Joker locks him in! And to make matters worse, all the baddies he put away so long ago (like Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy) are now free and roaming the halls and out for blood; Bat blood!
The asylum itself is very dark and is punctuated by small floodlights in combat heavy areas. In the story mode, enemies come at you from every direction, and you'll have to fight them off using melee and strike moves. One of the biggest assets this game has is the combat system, which uses more than fifty different individual moves that can all be chained together. The combos that you can form are nearly limitless, which keeps the combat multi-dimensional and keeps it from getting boring. These combos are also heavily encouraged by the game, as chaining together as many moves as possible will eventually unlock explosive and brutal finishing sequences.
The finishing sequences themselves are actually quite vicious, and I was surprised at the level of violence in the game. Not that I'm complaining really, because this is the darker Batman that is consistent with the franchise's current status. But, if you are expecting bloodless kills, or soft action sequences, this game won't be for you.
One of the coolest features of Batman Arkham Asylum is the challenge rooms. These rooms have varying objectives and setups, and I got to try the stealth challenge room. The stage begins with Batman hanging from the ceiling and peering down at the armed inmates below. Your objective will be to take out all of the inmates as stealthily as possible, and the challenge ends when all the inmates have been eliminated.
Using your powers of perception, you are able to see what kind of weaponry they are packing, as well as their heart rate. The heart rate is important because, as you climb around the ceiling (cloaked in shadow), you can perform actions to scare them and elevate their heart rate. When an inmate's heart rate is elevated, their reflexes will slow, and they might even drop their weapon out of fear.
You can scare them by making noises or knocking out the lights, but the best way to scare the inmates is to do a very public killing. In the demo, I was able to watch as an inmate was quickly disposed of and then strung up to the wall. As the lights in the stage flickered, other inmates noticed their fallen comrade's displayed corpse, and rushed towards it. This was a great opportunity to exploit the inmates heightened fear (as well as their newly-refocused attention) and attack them from behind.
As for the visuals, Arkham Asylum really nails a very grim and moody look. There are plenty of spooky flickering lights and dark corners, and even though enemies rarely pop out of nowhere like they do in survival horror games, there is certainly a fear factor conveyed by the dark and haunting look of the game.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is really shaping up to be a must-have title for fans of the franchise this fall. The story mode looks awesome, and it seems like it will follow in the footsteps of the darker Batman media that has been popularized recently. Also, the challenge room modes look to round out the experience nicely. Just from playing the stealth mode, I am very confident that the challenge rooms will provide plenty of post-story hours of gameplay.
It has also been announced that there will be downloadable content for this title in the future, although we weren't given details as to what that may entail. Either way, Arkham Asylum is looking to be a great game, and its a title you can surely get lost in when it releases this fall. Just don't drive yourself crazy!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor