By Andrew Shin
Last Friday the demo for Batman: Arkham Asylum was made available for download on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Like many of you out there in the gaming world, I have and continue to anxiously await its release later this month on August 25th (North American release). Everything I've seen and read about this game thus far seem to indicate a very promising title.
So last night I downloaded the demo on my Xbox 360 and took the game for a nice test drive. After going through the entire demo, I have only three words: Holy Batacular Goodness! If that doesn't spell it out for ya, let me re-state it. Batman: Arkham Asylum looks very good. I was completely engaged and impressed by what I experienced in the demo. The graphics are incredible (obviously the use of the Unreal Engine 3 helps here) - both characters and environments are highly detailed. The superb lighting and environmental effects add a great level of realism to the game. Controls were quick and easy to master. The demo provided a good range of combat and special moves to execute. That said, they were limited but that goes without saying in terms of a demo. I'm sure there will be plenty more to experience in the full game. I also enjoyed using Batman's grappling hook to pull myself onto wall mounted gargoyle structures and prepare for a sneak attack on unsuspecting enemies. So much fun.
Hand to hand combat is just as satisfying with the game's Free Flow system. It's quite intuitive and simple to string together combos for taking out one or a group of enemies. There is also a counter attack, finish and throw move available to add variety to combat. All work well together to emphasize Batman's aptitude for kicking ass big time. That said, stealth and sneak attacks also have their rightful place in the game. There are some instances where the ability to quietly surprise your opponent with a silent take down is the more effective approach. One thing I will nit pick about is that at times, it felt too easy to eliminate the AI. I hope this is indicative of the demo and not the full game.
Another thing that caught my attention immediately was the voice acting. It's very well done. Batman for me, was spot on what I'd imagine him to sound like. Confident and forceful without the overkill...yes, I'm taking a small shot at Christian Bale's exaggerated interpretation. But more importantly, Mark Hamill rocks as the Joker. For those of you who don't know, Mark Hamill is a very accomplished voice actor aside from his notoriety as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy. Mark has voiced the Joker in a number of past Batman animated tv shows and movies. So for me it was great to hear Mark put his efforts behind the Joker. Let's face it, a bad Joker just 'kills' everything...no pun intended.
If you haven't had the opportunity to demo Batman: Arkham Asylum, then I would suggest you do so now. You won't regret it. And with only a few weeks away from its launch, you'll have what appears to be a very good summer video game to look forward to.