Batman: Arkham Asylum Preview
In a way, the seemingly unfortunate delay of Batman: Arkham Asylum may have been a blessing in disguise. Originally slated to hit store shelves in the month of June, it has recently been pushed a couple months to the end of August, which instantly caused widespread disappointment. After all, the hype has been building all year and action fans were anxiously anticipating what could very well be the best superhero video game ever. But the excellent inFamous launched last week and coming up this week, we get Red Faction: Guerilla, only to be followed by the promising Prototype. If Arkham Asylum had actually come out in June, who would've had all the money and time to complete the slew of great titles? See, we always try to look at the bright side of things. We also get a chance to round up all the latest information and details for you, and from FreeFlow combat to Detective mode (and a little stealth in between), this is one game thats gonna grab 100% of your attention.
FreeFlow fighting is perhaps the focal point of Batman; it consists of a series of spontaneous, fully controllable and customizable blows that can be strung together in a variety of deadly sequences. If you've seen or played the demo you understand what were talking about, but if not, just take solace in the fact that fluidity will be a major highlight of this particular combat style. Even if you're surrounded by a horde of baddies, the Caped Crusader can unleash a flurry of attacks that can strike every corner of the circle, provided your finger dexterity has reached veteran gamer status. However, we don't wish to imply that FreeFlow combat is difficult; in fact, from what we've seen, it should be highly accessible to just about all types of gamers. You won't be faced with a lot of limitations or restrictions, either: if the enemies have weapons, you can wrench them from their grasp or disarm them if you're so inclined. If they rush you, there are numerous options available to you (as well there should be, if you're a big bad superhero). If you're hemmed in, you can deftly work free by executing a few up-close-and-personal maneuvers designed to damage and incapacitate.
Then, when the dust settles, you may have to switch to a more passive form of civilian defense. This is when Batman engages a mode that allows him to see remnants or trails of the recently departed; the screen will turn blue and you'll be able to pick out points of interest that will...uh...point you in the right direction. We're not quite sure how often well be using this, or what kind of extra depth we're talking about, but its mere existence adds a whole new dimension to the game. We do know that while in Detective Mode, he can examine certain aspects about his opponents, like the weaponry they may be concealing. We'll even be able to assess their fear level while in Detective Mode; are they aggressive and unafraid or are they seconds away from cowering in a corner? Batman is indeed trying to help the police and if he's going to be an honorary boy in blue - to some extent - he's going to have to utilize similar crime-fighting techniques. But when all else fails, he can always rely on his strength and amazing gadgetry. Sonic Batarangs, anyone?
As if that's not enough, there's a third aspect of the gameplay that's bound to appeal to stealth aficionados. It's called Invisible Predator, and if you want a great example of that, we already have a very cool video. Just think to yourself, "what might a human bat do?" Well, he'll hang above unsuspecting baddies and snatch them away in the blink of an eye. He'll hide in the shadows and toss something nasty at you; all you'll feel is the thud of metal when it smacks into your neck. Or maybe he'll just sneak up behind you and smash you into a wall when you least suspect it. Oh, the options may be almost limitless and we really can't wait to get our hands on this bad boy. Perhaps we'll get a chance to choose often between the two mechanics: FreeFlow Combat and Invisible Predator. We get the feeling that the flow of this game will make the choice for us, but if we ever get the opportunity to strategically select on our own...well, that'll open up even more doors. As is, you're already looking at one of the most diverse action titles we've seen in quite some time.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is scheduled to arrive on August 25 in the US and three days later in Europe. If everything comes together as it should, and if Rocksteady Studios really has prepared an absolute gem as we're all assuming this will be, we should all be in for a very big treat.
5/30/2009 Ben Dutka