I am the bat!
There have been many shames along the walk of Batman history. To be fair, most of them were caused by Adam West. But the Batman films have had their moments of shame as well. I seem to recall a certain California Governor making an appearance in one of the poorer ones. While the last two movies have been much better, video games based off films have a way of being, shall we say, cursed. So why even bother trying to make a mediocre game in-cannon with the Dark Knight, especially when there's so much you can do with everything else? That's what the guys over at Rocksteady Studios thought too.
[image1]Instead of spewing out a half-assed title in the pursuit of film franchise exploitation, they've delivered a unique story and experience within the realm of Bat-mythology in the form of Arkhum Asylum. Arkhum is the home for the criminally insane of Gotham City. For some reason, they put people like Catwoman and The Riddler in there instead of throwing them in a maximum security prison... or just shooting them in the head.
One dark night, right after Bats delivers The Joker back to the crazy house, something goes terribly wrong. The Joker takes over the Asylum and lets all the locked up goons out to wreak havoc. Now it's up to you as Batman to take out every crazy ass criminal in a skin-tight leotard who's ever tried to blow him up, break his back, or feed him to sharks (thank goodness for bat-shark repellent).
You'll have to call upon all your skills as a detective and a crime fighter in order to restore order to the chaos. Things look to play out a lot like Syphon Filter, but because Batman thinks guns are for pussies, there will be more of an emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, rather than running and gunning. And since there's no brightly colored Robin to throw at the bad guys, you'll have to deal with the mobs of angry psychos all by yourself. In order to keep the action moving smoothly, they're incorporating a combat system called “FreeFlow”. It works similarly to the system used for The Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, in that there is an emphasis on timing and taking on large gangs.
[image2]From the small amount of hands-on time I had with the FreeFlow system, it seemed to run very fluidly, going from beating someone down to suddenly dodging out of the range of another thug and his flying 2x4, disarming him, then beating him down with the same 2x4. Your suit comes loaded with some impressive gadgets that you'll be able to upgrade along with your moves. And need I remind that this is Arkhum, where the baddest of the bad go? So on top of the generic tattooed hardened criminals, you'll also have to deal with folks like Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, and of course, the madman himself, The Joker.
So what's in the utility belt? Well, there's the classic Batarang along with some blast caps, X-ray specs... and a pheromone detector (?). I know the last one seems odd, but trust me, you're going to need it, because although Bat-kicking the living crap of criminals is part of your modus operandi, it's never been the key emphasis of your character. You're a sleuth at heart (Detective Comics ring a bell?) and that has not been forgotten. There will be investigations that take place in the form of in-game puzzles on top of all the physical action.
Along with the more intense fighting scenarios, there are also “Invisible Predator” levels. No, you don't pretend to be a 12-year old on the Internet luring perverts into a trap; instead, it will require you to use the darkness in order to pick off targets one by one [...ninja-style! ~Ed. Nick]. You can use the environment to set up blast traps or your grappling hook to get to higher ground and pounce down upon your victims. In fact, through most of the game if you can see it, you can reach it and interact with it.
[image3]This is looking to be a game made for the hardcore comic book guy audience. And not only in the gritty, DC Comics-inspired looks. They went as far as getting some of the talent from the distinguishably super awesome Batman: The Animated Series of the 1990s to reprise their roles. Paul Dini, who has worked as a writer for the cartoon, has penned the game's script, and Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamil once again provides the mad laughter of The Joker.
It's been a long time since there was a decent game featuring the man behind the mask with the pointy ears (I'm looking at you MK vs. DC). But Batman: Arkhum Asylum is looking to change things. Look for it to step out of the shadows this summer 2009 on the 360, PS3, and PC.