Batman: Arkham Asylum - hands-on

Batman also has to use his ‘genius level intellect’ (as read in his character bio, of which there is one for almost every character in the game) to solve dastardly clues left by The Riddler. Every area in the game (and we mean every area – from the smallest corridor to the largest outdoor area) has a clever riddle attached to it that Batman must solve. To do so you have to ‘scan’ the answer in Detective Mode – which earns you a heap of experience points to spend on new moves, like bone-breaking combos.

Above: From the PS3 exclusive Joker maps

Yes, Batman can be upgraded. “This was difficult for us because we wanted Batman to feel fully-featured out of the box.” says Hill.“But we also wanted him to improve as the story went on. The idea is that you can choose how you want to upgrade.” Almost everything you do has an experience reward – from solving riddles and finding clues to defeating enemies. When you reach a certain amount you earn an upgrade that you can use to power up an ability.

Some are simple like improved armor or new combos, but others are more outlandish like remote control batarangs and the ability to hang upside down from the rafters and grab hapless guards from above. The genius of the experience system is that it makes you really explore your environment. You’ll become obsessed with solving every riddle, finding every set of joke teeth and locating every interview tape because it makes a tangible difference to your character.

We’ve played about six or seven hours of the main game, – from the interactive intro where Joker takes over the asylum, to rescuing a guard from the demented Victor Zsaz, to Commissioner Gordon being kidnapped, to a boss fight with [deleted] and another with Bane, whose ‘Venom’ tubes you need to violently yank out of his head. The Bane fight is the only disappointment of our entire playthrough. It’s firmly rooted in traditional game design and sees you tricking Bane into charging into walls, and attacking as he’s stunned. In the context, mind, it’s churlish to grumble after five or so hours of constant surprises and excitement.

Above: From the PS3 exclusive Joker maps

Arkham Asylum is so well designed, so polished and of such quality that we almost can’t believe it. Licensed superhero games notoriously never live up to their potential, a tradition Rocksteady have boldly defied. With grey corridors and indistinguishable jungles dominating games, it’s refreshing to see a world so full of detail and history and to control a character that so perfectly captures its essence. You are Batman. “We’re really proud of Arkham Asylum”, says Hill. “This is the game we’ve always wanted to make.”

Jul 31, 2009