15 Minutes With Batman: Arkham Asylum

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So, the Batman: Arkham Asylum demo is out. Have you played it yet? I sure have!

As I’ve said before, I generally try to avoid demos as much as possible, but I’ve been so excited for Batman: Arkham Asylum for so long that I just couldn’t resist. So last night I downloaded it onto my PS3, played it through once — which took me right around 15 minutes — and shut it off. That’s all I played. I didn’t want to play it to death, potentially lessening the impact of playing through the full game here in a couple weeks. I wanted to jump in and jump out just to get an idea of how the game handles.

Obviously, I didn’t play enough to sit here and write some in-depth impressions piece. Instead, I’m simply going to list off what I liked and disliked about the game, a glorified pros/cons list if you will. Feel free to compare notes in the comments.

What I Liked:

  • Immersion — When I turned the demo on, I immediately felt immersed in the Batman universe. Arkham Asylum has a decayed, lived-in atmosphere that sucked me in from the jump. Graphically, the game is rich with detail, and aurally the ambiance and voice acting are superb. From this early bit, I also enjoyed what I saw of Rocksteady’s storytelling techniques — The Joker likes to pop up on security monitors and chat with Batman, and this drives the plot forward without pulling you out of the experience with frequent cut-scenes.
  • Combat — The much-ballyhooed Free Flow combat system works as advertised. Obviously there wasn’t enough time in the demo for me to gauge how the combat will hold up to extended play and evolve over time, but from the moment I picked up the controller and started pounding on The Joker’s henchmen I was amazed at how smooth and free-flowing (guess that’s why they call it Free Flow Combat!) the combat was. Batman can punch, stun-whip enemies with his cape, pounce on fallen enemies for quick finishers and, with proper timing, counterattack, and pulling off these moves was incredibly intuitive and responsive.
  • Stealth — I was also pleased with what I saw of the game’s stealth mechanics. I could enter “Detective Mode” at the push of a button, enabling Batman to see through walls, monitor enemy vitals and positions, and pinpoint grapple points. The game also seemed open to a lot of experimentation. I could climb up high, glide kick a wandering thug and then quickly grapple out of danger, hang down from a ledge and silently snatch up an unsuspecting enemy walking below, sneak up from behind for basic stealth takedowns and so on. I did feel like an “Invisible Predator.”
  • What I Didn’t Like:

  • Linearity Concerns — Rocksteady clearly put a ton of work into making Arkham Asylum come alive with detail, but I was a bit disappointed with some of the uninspired level design elements. Batman’s grapple points were limited to those the developers scripted into the environment — it’d be cooler if you could grapple and climb up onto anything you see. And I know it’s a stealth game, but crawling through a bunch of ventilation shafts to reach the next area is kinda lame at this point. I’m optimistic that the environments will open up past what’s shown in the demo — the last part of the demo was a larger room open to more experimentation — but I am somewhat concerned about how much freedom of exploration there will really be.
  • Possibly Dumb AI? — There was one part in the demo where three thugs were on guard waiting for Batman’s arrival, all three huddled up fairly close together. This section played out like a tutorial on how to perform stealth kills, so it could have been set up to be infallible on purpose and therefore I don’t want to rush to judgment here, but I did think it was a bit silly that I could take each thug out one by one without the others seeing or hearing anything.
  • About the Author

    Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!