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