Batman: Arkham Asylum - updated impressions

Whitman calls the combat "predatory." When the baddies are unarmed, he can take on big groups, but when they've got weapons, Batman must split them up and stalk them individually. In another attempt at the same area, Batman hid in a ventilation shaft underneath the floor while a second group of misfits patrolled above him. Unfortunately, he popped up a bit early and was spotted by an enemy, alerting others in the area to his presence. Within seconds, bullets were flying and Batman fell, giving way to a taunting Game Over message from the Joker. Though this attempt failed, it highlighted the potential of multiple ways of "solving" rooms in the game. Each area could act as a mini-sandbox, providing the player with the tools to bring down their opponents in numerous exciting ways.

Perhaps most exciting of all, those mini-sandboxes could change as the game progresses. Whitman bragged that Batman himself will become more grizzled throughout the course of the single night that the game takes place in, growing stubble and gathering tears in his cape and outfit, but the environments of Arkham will also transform. Though we didn't get any details yet, it was clear from the scenes we watched that Joker and his goons are successful in taking over parts (if not all) of the asylum. As their influence spreads, areas will become more twisted and dangerous, such as one room early in the game filled with Joker toxin where Batman must save struggling guards before figuring out how to ventilate the deadly gas.

Though the combat was the focus, Whitman couldn't help but show off some of the legendary Bat-villains players will be fighting in Arkham Asylum. Er, maybe not so legendary. Aside from Joker, the only major bad guys revealed so far are C-listers Victor Zsasz and Killer Croc and lone female Harley Quinn, who has been significantly sexed up despite her Animated Series origin. In fact, the whole game has some strange ties to the Batman: The Animated Series. Despite its more adult tone, Arkham Asylum shares writer Paul Dini and voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill with the cartoon. Whether or not these familiarities will prove comforting or confusing to Batfans remains to be seen, but they certainly can't hurt the potential for an entertaining story.

From what we've seen so far, potential really is the key word for describing Arkham Asylum. It has the potential to be the first Batman game that lives up to The Dark Knight's ass-kicking legacy. Everything we've seen is promising, but we've been burned plenty of times with this franchise, so we're trying to remain cautious. But when the Arkham Asylum launches this summer, we're hoping it will help us forget that anyone ever wanted a Dark Knight tie-in game.

Jan 30, 2009

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  • S3RIUS - July 21, 2009 10:45 p.m.

    dude i can't wait till i get this game
  • Samm - February 5, 2009 5:02 p.m.

    Im certain bane has to make an appearance, to satisfy us serious batman fans.
  • insertclevernamehere - February 3, 2009 9:55 p.m.

    Conroy and Hamill are great and all, but the fact Paul Dini is attached makes me giddy. He's the main reason the cartoon rocks and is THE reason I bother picking up Dective Comics every month.
  • iluvmyDS - February 2, 2009 6:56 p.m.

    Forgoing all caps and paragraphs. I have high hopes for this game. I just hope it doesn't pull an Afro Samurai on us all. Batman is a BAMF and should only be treated as such.
  • ChuckB - February 2, 2009 9:42 a.m.

    "Let's just hope that the ESRB decides not to rate it M. That would significantly reduce the game's audience."The reason I even mentioned it is because there was a little excerpt that it was going to be rated T. ...with all do respect, given the dark nature of the title (actually, you can say the same for The Dark Knight but then again, that was a movie), and given the complex design of the might just end up wasting their time. Even then, Batman's world would be so natural in that direction but the problem is that his world is also a childhood favorite so manly all the mainstream titles have been mostly safe, at least. But this isn't a mainstream Batman title so I really wish somebody would create some petition to have Rocksteady to take notice.
  • BishopofHippo93 - February 1, 2009 11:36 p.m.

    Let's just hope that the ESRB decides not to rate it M. That would significantly reduce the game's audience.
  • batman5273 - February 1, 2009 11:29 p.m.

  • Romination - February 1, 2009 5:45 p.m.

    i'm going to let myself get flamed for saying that Mark Hamill's Joker voice was what made the Joker what he was for the animated series, and he is better still than Heath Ledger. And I DID just go there
  • ChuckB - February 1, 2009 8:07 a.m.

    It's too bad it'll won't be gory and vulgar because this is the perfect time for Batman to enter M territory (seriously, how would you not see Killer Croc rip some guards in half or worst?)
  • Red - February 1, 2009 12:46 a.m.

    The idea of sandbox "rooms" sounds fun in theory, but how many possible scenarios can there possibly be? Eventually you're going to run out of new tricks to amuse yourself with as the game progresses. Pretty soon the only option you'll have left is to go about doing the same things over and over from different angles to keep things from getting stale.
  • tommyp923 - January 31, 2009 8:47 a.m.

    You rock Phil Kollar.
  • Z-man427 - January 31, 2009 7 a.m.

    i doubt this will be good. i just see an extremely boring and/or repetitive game captcha = Edith NOVELISTS. funny. my grandma, Edith is a published author
  • Kilr - January 31, 2009 5:14 a.m.

    It looks very promising, but its too easy to mess up a game like this. I have very high hopes that it lives up to the current hype that the new movies have given the batman series
  • sixboxes - January 31, 2009 5:04 a.m.

    The visuals already look to be a bit of a melding between live action and cartoon. The style alone has me hooked in, I just need solid gameplay to be completely sold. And I'm not one to usually do this, but recaptcha says: chasing society
  • Sebastian16 - January 31, 2009 4:57 a.m.

    I'm so happy Mark Hamill is voicing the Joker, his performance in the animated series (Complete DVD box set FTW!) was amazing. I will cherish this game even if by some crazy happening it turns out shit,
  • Dangeruss04 - January 31, 2009 1:58 a.m.

    this looks sick and it might be the first truly great superhero game
  • Stubbs7 - January 30, 2009 11:44 p.m.

    the fact that kevin conroy and mark hamill are doing the voices makes me want this game more i loved the animated series
  • RandyChimp - January 30, 2009 8:06 p.m.

    Sorry, but Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammil playing the main roles does nothing to denote the adult theme, as the cartoon was the only comic cartoon that featured real guns and violent death. It was technically the best thing to happen on television for kids, compared to, say, spiderman (laser guns and crappy villains). This game looks epic. Cant wait. But, first things first eh? Bring on Killzone 2 dammit!
  • MacGyver1138 - February 2, 2009 8:48 p.m.

    This game looks like it could be pretty good. If they get the controls down, and keep the game from getting repetitive, I think they'll have nailed it. Oh, and the two guys who typed in all caps with no punctuation, that is annoying. Type like normal people.
  • BishopofHippo93 - February 1, 2009 11:38 p.m.

    And did you guys really need to type in all caps to get your message across?