Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Release Date: June 2009
The Batman movie franchise has received quite the kick in the pants with "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," but up to this point, the video games haven't really bothered to follow a similar path. That's about to change as we prepare for the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum this summer, a title set to bring the full bat experience right to your fingertips.
While we didn't get to check out any of the game's story mode during our time at GDC, we did get to take on a couple of bonus areas featuring the title's two major fighting styles: Silent Predator and FreeFlow. The Silent Predator sequences are bits of stealth-based combat, where Batman must take out a room full of goons while he is heavily outnumbered and outgunned. Of course, this is where the trusty utility belt comes in handy, as the masked vigilante has a whole slew of gadgets that help turn the tide in his favor. There is also the trusty Batarang, which in this game has a sonic variation that can lure enemies to it and then detonate, taking them out without our hero ever getting in harm's way. Batman also has explosive foam that can blow out certain walls and a grappling hook that will allow him to disappear into the dark rooftops, out of sight of his foes.
Those are but a few of the numerous gadgets available, and players will definitely need all of them, as the Silent Predator segments are quite challenging. These baddies carry guns, and Batman can only take four to five blasts before he's nothing but a memory. Also, if players are spotted during a takedown, it can be pretty tough to shake the pursuing baddies, as they'll follow you for as long as they can keep you in sight. Silent Predator is easily one of the game's toughest mechanics, and impatient players might find themselves easily frustrated by the challenge. There is something quite satisfying about luring a foe into a darkened room away from prying eyes and promptly incapacitating him.
For the more action-oriented gamer, Arkham Asylum will feature what the developers have dubbed "FreeFlow" combat, which allows Batman to smoothly transition from one attack to the next, bouncing among foes with the aplomb of a true kung fu master. Light and heavy attacks are obviously available, as are throws and counters. I personally found the countering system to be the most fun because as soon as one foe sneaks up from behind, thinking he has the drop on you, all it takes is a quick jab of the counter button to put him in so much pain that he'll wish he'd never been born. It's ultimately a very fun mechanic and, as the name implies, allows for some truly fluid combat.
While it feels a bit weird having a Batman game come out that isn't tied directly to a movie, that freedom will likely prove to be a godsend when Batman: Arkham Asylum is finally launched. It's abundantly clear that the devs have put a lot of time and effort into the title, and it stands to easily be one of the most polished and fun Batman games ever. My only fear is that the Silent Predator segments may prove to be a bit too much for some gamers, but chances are it's just a matter of me being too impatient to do those bits of the game correctly. You'll be able to judge for yourself when the game launches in June, but I get the feeling there will be a lot of folks singing its praises.
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