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Why Batman: Arkham Asylum is better than Splinter Cell, Metal Gear and Devil May Cry

As good as the combat was, it was when the full-on stealth kicked in that it really became apparent how different Batman is to his videogame rivals. Through gadgets, tactics and overall Batman-ness, he surpasses their slow and steady, sneak and survive approach, instead making complete use of his environment for total dominance. Batman doesn't just beat the odds. He owns them, as we were taught during our run through one of Arkham's cavernous treatment facilities.

Starting in a shower block off to the side, a quick scan with the Detective Mode visor tells us that a lone grunt is patrolling nearby. Easy pickings to warm up with. Stepping into the cover of a shower cubicle, we throw a sonic batarang into a nearby pillar and wait. Sure enough, the goon shuffles in to investigate the sound, like a big ugly moth to massively painful flame.

As he unwittingly turns his back on us to check out the source of the noise, we silently step out behind him, and one crunching sleeper hold later he's out of the game. One down, four to go. The rest don't even know he's missing yet. We carefully step out into the main room and use the fast and intuitive target lock to grapple soundlessly up to a gargoyle close to the ceiling.

There's an oblivious henchman guarding a nearby gantry below. As he gets closer, we're offered the context-sensitive option of a gliding kick and we take it, swooping down to clobber him in the back of the head and disappearing back into the ceiling a second later. He's down but not out, and everyone now knows that we're here. But this a good thing. They're noticeably scared, and scared people make mistakes. They begin grouping together, but we have ways of breaking up the party. Time to really start spinning the web.

The visor tells us that one of the small treatment rooms below has a structurally weak ceiling, so we swing over to set a trap, silently dropping onto the roof to lay some explosive gel. It's a good trap, but it needs bait, so we grapple further away to get a shallow throwing angle and put another sonic batarang in through the doorway. Sure enough, an unlucky goon takes the bait and breaks away from the pack to investigate. Click. Boom. He's down. But this is just layer number one of a great big cake o' pain.

Spotting a convenient gargoyle directly over the new hole in the ceiling, we get over to it and tap B to dangle upside down underneath, ready to drop on the next thug as he investigates the wreckage. Having dragged him back up into the shadows, knocked him out and strung him up under the gargoyle, we swing away for a better vantage point of our new pinata. Noticing that the increasingly shaky penultimate hood is walking over to check out where his buddy went, we're struck with an idea. Just to see if it will work, we wait for the new guy to walk underneath his stricken comrade, and throw a batarang at the rope suspending our previous victim, hoping that the game will allow us to cut him loose. Brilliantly, it does and the weighty slab of thug plummets to flatten his would-be helper.

With only one enemy left, we can afford to take our time. A visor scan tells us that his heart is racing, compounding the obvious visual clues that the poor guy is terrified out of his mind. Naturally, we decided to f*ck with him for a while, and spend the next couple of minutes dropping in and out of the room and throwing batarangs out of the shadows to freak him out. In his panic, he repeatedly blind-fires into dark corners of the ceiling we are no longer in. With a chuckle, we swoop in for the final takedown. Job done.

Except that the whole process was so addictive that we couldn't just leave it there. With so many options to explore, there were a stack of different approaches we could have taken. We could have used an air vent to creep around inside the walls, setting explosive gel to blow the brickwork back into the room. We could have detonated it from the rafters, taking out a passing psycho with the debris while nigh-simultaneously using the diversion of the blast to get the drop on his suddenly distracted partner. Just like with the fighting, the accessibility and number of options kept us going back to clear the room in every way we could concoct for over an hour, outsmarting both the AI and ourselves by reinventing our approach and trying to improve our clear time and efficiency.

Earlier, non-playable demos had given us fears that Arkham Asylum's gameplay was going to be rather too simplistic, pre-scripted and linear, the straightforward, context-sensitive controls in particular making us worry that it was all going to be a case of "Go here, press this, do this to progress". Thankfully, the truth is far from it. Arkham Asylum seems to be all about using simple tools to facilitate massive tactical freedom, all portrayed in as quintessentially Batman a manner as you could hope for. We're now very, very excited indeed about the prospect of playing through these elements in the more integrated environs of the main campaign, where we're promised we'll be even more free to experiment and mix things up on the fly. When we get to play more, we'll fill you in. Until then, same bat-time, same bat-channel.

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35 comments

  • Perfect_Insanity - May 28, 2009 12:36 p.m.

    FINALLY! Someone else who knows that Batman can beat Superman!! (GamesradarDavidHoughton)
  • KatamariLovesSpock - May 17, 2009 5:24 p.m.

    This game looks incredible. Finally, a Batman game the does the Dark Knight justice. I really think that Rocksteady took a creative jump off of a 100 story building and landed without a scratch. I'm truly happy with the direction that this game is taking the Dark Knight as far as gaming is concerned...considering that the only good Batman games (atleast to me...) have been side-scroller beat-em-up's. I've been looking foward to this game for months, I really hope it doesn't dissapoint.
  • RebornKusabi - April 7, 2009 10:39 p.m.

    I will be buying this when it releases regardless of overall quality- I will be buying this because it really seems to show that the development team are at least TRYING to recreate the source material in this game.
  • boxmeizter - April 2, 2009 8:05 p.m.

    I AM SO EXITED ABOUT THIS GAME!
  • TheFeAr - March 31, 2009 8:17 p.m.

    This game is gonna b so F*****g awsome i hate when i F****n find out its not gonna be out until F****n june
  • deathrebellion - March 31, 2009 9:43 a.m.

    i definitly agree that Batty i gonna be better than Spinter Cell and MGS in terms on stealth but i doubt if it'll pass DMC asskickin standards... but this game is gonna do WONDERS...
  • Superwes - March 29, 2009 5:08 p.m.

    This game looks awesome, but they could put in co-op by adding Robin. Or maybe even Nightwing (which would be irrelevant)
  • MoonPig - March 29, 2009 4:57 p.m.

    Dinna, Dinna, Dinna, Dinna, Batman!!!!!!!
  • Phantasmagorical - March 29, 2009 4:08 p.m.

    My friend is going to go batshit over this news..
  • oryandymackie - March 29, 2009 10:36 a.m.

    I think you must have been imagining things when you talked about your stealth combat. I mean, that's gone farther than any game has. What next, put some explosive gel on a NPC's car, swing it on your bat-rope thingy and swing it into a thug?
  • Perfect_Insanity - March 29, 2009 8:43 a.m.

    This looks incredible, I must buy it, being a huge Batman fan, and by the way, no one can kick Batman's ass. :)
  • DawgsFan117 - March 29, 2009 1:51 a.m.

    I might play but wont buy. Probly cause its batman and its all about a middleaged guy in a bat costume. Also Snake would kick batmans ass. Let the angry comments begin.
  • clever123 - March 28, 2009 7:21 p.m.

    This game sounds awesome
  • Mittenz - March 28, 2009 12:29 a.m.

    Reminds me of my custom predator gametype from halo, while most people just go around killing everyone, mine was all about scaring the crap out of every one. Bit like that thing were you threw the batarang out of the darkness. LOVE EVERY MOMENT!!! reCAPTCHA: midget that
  • iKOemos - March 27, 2009 10:36 p.m.

    This is so gonna make up for us not getting a Dark Knight game
  • NelosAngelos - March 27, 2009 10 p.m.

    Very pretty. I need to read more about this, it's got me all hopped up now.
  • cart00n - March 27, 2009 9:26 p.m.

    Must have. Sounds amazing. How come it's taken this long to make a good Batman game - "Lego Batman" not-withstanding? To tell the truth, I'd pretty much already figured I'd be putting this on my Goozex list on the strength of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy reprising their roles. Now I'm out the door to pre-order it from Game Crazy! And how awesome is it that it's being released in June? An A-list title being released in summer? Dude!
  • SwampRock - May 22, 2009 9:38 p.m.

    and this comes out on my birthday just like prototype? or prototype is supposed to.
  • SwampRock - May 22, 2009 9:37 p.m.

    sounds to be great, but i wonder what other equipment there will be?
  • laughinggravy - April 22, 2009 10:19 a.m.

    oh yeeeaaahhh!

Showing 1-20 of 35 comments

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