If you were crestfallen when you heard that Batman: Arkham Asylum wasn't getting released until the end of summer when it was originally set to come out in June, imagine my disappointment when I showed up for a pre-E3 Warner Brothers event and discovered I wouldn't be allowed to play the game.
Still, I did get to see some new Batman stuff and I'm happy to pass along impressions. In case you missed IGN's coverage of the title, Rocksteady's focusing on three things with this game -- being an Invisible Predator, FreeFlow Combat and detective work. The short but sweet demo I got to see drove all three of those themes home.
We began with the Dark Knight busting out of the Intensive Treatment wing -- the place where all the previews before this one have taken place. After tapping a button to kick out a grate that was blocking his path, Batman was on the outside of the building again. He grappled up to a higher vantage point and we were treated to a breathtaking view of the Gotham City skyline -- with the main wing of Arkham in front of us, Wayne Tower was reaching into the moonlit sky in the background -- while the orchestral score swelled to enhance the iconic scene. From there, Batman used his cape to glide on down to the area in front of the building, check in with some police officers and then talk to Oracle about Commissioner Gordon getting kidnapped.
Seems the commish got taken while hanging around the Batmobile at the main entrance of the insane asylum and it just so happens that a bunch of the Joker's men are over there dinging up the car. Batman heads over there, enters with a glide kick and generally beats the hell out of everyone through a series of fluid punches, kicks and grapples that make up the oft-written about FreeFlow combat. As usual, the moves looked brutal, fluid, and easy to pull off seeing as how you're using the simple controls to pull off and chain together different moves in 360 degrees.
With the baddies down, Batman switched over to his Detective Mode -- a view that drops a set of lenses in the cowl, turns the screen blue and highlights points of interest -- and discovered that the old sea dog Gordon had left a trail of pipe tobacco on the ground so that Batman could find where the Joker had carried him off to. The cancer-causing breadcrumbs led Bats to a sealed door for Arkham West, so the hero sprayed some explosive gel on the side wall, blew it up and made his way in to end this section of the demo.
From there, we jumped to an Invisible Predator segment. Again, I've written about this a lot and you've actually seen it in action before, so I won't bore you with the blow by blow mechanics. Basically, Joker's men have Arkham Guard Aaron Cash tied to a chair and are beating his head in while looking for information -- "Tell us where the bitch went," one thug screams between punches. Batman stumbles upon the scene and quickly ascends to the gargoyles high above the action below. Batman begins throwing sonic batarangs, zipping from one gargoyle to another and grabbing guys from the ground floor and hanging them by their feet from above. As he's picking off these foes one by one, Batman can slip into Detective Mode and see how many guys are left as well as what weapons they are packing and how scared they currently are.
Finally, the demo ended with an in-game FreeFlow challenge. Again, you should know the nuts and bolts of this from the write-ups about it and the videos about it here on IGN, but the idea is that Batman gets trapped in a confined area, a bunch of bad guys come at him and you can't move on until everyone's unconscious. Here, Batman was caught in a circular room with a bunch of doors lining the curved walls. Every so often, a door would open and Batman would have a number of thugs to take out. He could grab the weapons from their hands and use the 2x4s and what have you against their previous owners, take people out with spinning flips and basically just pwn anyone that got in his way. However, things got interesting when a Doomsday-like beast entered the field of play.
IGN fans will remember when Hil and I discussed the first appearance of this spiked, green, shorts-wearing guy in the teaser trailer for Arkham Asylum. Although this character didn't have the full-grown spikes of the character that killed Superman, the thing in the trailer really looked like Doomsday and made me guess that there's some kind of cloning experiment going on in Arkham and that the creature was a baby that hadn't had enough time in the oven. Anyway, this giant showed up and dwarfed both Batman and his normal enemies. The beast would rush Bats, the Dark Knight would leap onto its back and strike with a sleeper hold and the mini-Doomsday would freak out and start running around and thrashing its arms wildly, which took out the remaining thugs.
I won't spoil the whole fight for you, but the less-than-full-powered Doomsday eventually fell and looked like he was wearing clown makeup. I presented all of this to the Rocksteady developer on hand, but he would only give me a solid "no comment" look and grin. Bastard.
Although I wish I could've actually picked up the controller and played Batman: Arkham Asylum, these specific examples did little to quell my excitement for the game. I was a bit disappointed to see Batman's cape clipping through his back while he rode mini-Doomsday or whatever the hell that thing is, but hopefully the delay we're all suffering through can fix that problem. For more on Batman: Arkham Asylum, keep it here on IGN, and for more on E3 as it happens, check out the IGN E3 hub, bub.
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