Home > 1, Video Games (Main) > Thoughts on the Demo for Batman: Arkham Asylum

Thoughts on the Demo for Batman: Arkham Asylum

This is one of those games I was hoping would turn out well.  You have Batman, one of my favorite batman-arkham-asylum-boxartfranchises, but not presented in the surreal, neon Joel Schumacher kind of way but the gritty, thin line between good and evil way we all know and love from the comics and the latest movies.  Batman:  Arkham Asylum captures that mood and vibe perfectly and with this character I believe that’s half the battle.  All of the characters and plot possibilities are there for the taking but for some reason a lot of times people mess up the aesthetics of Gotham City.  

In the brief demo recently made available on Xbox Live it doesn’t take long for things to get in motion.  Batman hauls in the Joker for the umpteenth time and dumps him off at Arkham Asylum for the umpteenth time.  For those that don’t know this is where all of Gotham’s high end criminals and loons are kept.  On a side note:  If you really want to get on the same page with the feel of this game’s story then run, don’t walk to your local bookstore and purchase the graphic novel  “Arkham Asylum” by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean.  You’ll be blown away and at the same time get familiar with the idea that while Arkham keeps everyone on the outside safe, it’s a breeding pit of insanity and filth on the inside.  

Once the Joker is taken into captivity he already has a quasi escape plan.  With the help of Harley Quinn he’s able to quickly escape from the authorities and into the depths of Arkham.  His plan is not to fully escape but to set up a funhouse-type death trap for Batman within the walls of the asylum.  This is an open invitation for the developers to introduce a lot of great villains in the Batman cannon.  After knocking around a few easy grunts the “fun” begins for Batman, making his way through the asylum and stealthing past/through hired goons and running into fan favorites like Killer Croc, Zsasz and many more.  

The game is dark and gritty as it should be.  The graphics are well above average and some of the nicest I’ve seen in awhile.  They’re moody but any bright or shiny colors and effects are represented accurately.  During sections of the game that don’t take place in large rooms the camera is too close to Batman’s back for my taste.  It’s at about waist level and Batman always occupies about a third of the screen.  It makes it hard to have any kind of scope when taking inventory of a room.  Also, the combat is average.  I have to remind myself that this is only a demo and you only fight generic enemies in the early going but fighting really amounted to simply pressing X constantly and Batman did the rest.  You can counter and throw batarangs as well but I found that mashing the attack button did just fine.  Hopefully as the game progresses there will be a little more depth to the combat.

The Joker's at it again, this time inside the walls of Arkham

The Joker's at it again, this time inside the walls of Arkham

One aspect that seems to be very prevalent in the game is stealth.  Using the bat hook you’re able to reach high areas and survey the scene below, which usually means studying patrols routes of enemies.  It’s very Splinter Cell-ish but it’s not Splinter Cell obviously so there’s something left to be desired.  In the demo there always seemed to be a ton of stone gargoyles high on the walls for you to conveniently stay out of sight.  I just hope they don’t give in to the temptation of placing gargoyles all over the game.  The demo wasn’t enough for me to determine how refined the stealth aspect of the game was, which isn’t a criticism just a fact.  It seemed at times that you couldn’t swoop down and knock out an enemy without others being privy to it, sometimes it seemed like you could incapacitate one of them and swing back to safety unnoticed.  I would definitely give this part of the gameplay more of a vote of confidence if it didn’t combine with the camera for some awkward moments.  At one point there is a section with four small rooms filled with clutter and guards patrolling in and around them.  I would’ve liked to snoop around and see what there was to be seen but with the tight camera you risk getting snuck up on.

When you do come to points where you can look for clues and such there is a detective mode you can enter by pressing LB.  The screen will turn a shade of electric blue similar to Batman’s vision at the end of The Dark Knight movie.  This enables you to have clues highlighted for you, areas that are able to be reached and also shows you the state of mind of each enemy in the room (normal, terrified, unconscious, etc.).  It’s a really nice addition that spices up the simple run, then beat someone up formula.  I didn’t care for the fact that it highlights every secret area for you but that’s just me.

After you’ve fought a little bit and gotten stealthy a little bit the demo ends, right at the cusp of a confrontation with a member of Batman’s vast rogue’s gallery (I’ll leave it to you to find out who).  All in all the demo was perfect and fully accomplished what it set out to do:  leave me wanting more as a Batman fan.  From what I’ve seen so far the gameplay isn’t anything earth shattering but a lot of people like me won’t mind when the full version comes out because frankly the aesthetics are wonderful and there are a ton of characters we all know and love.  These elements are all tied together by a very promising storyline which is something that is pretty much an after thought in most games today.  In short, sometimes it’s not the steak but the sizzle that sells you.  That can certainly be said of Batman:  Arkham Asylum.

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