Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I love Batman.

There it is, it's in the room. I love Batman. If you asked me who my favourite superhero was of all time, I'd have to save it is most definitely the Caped Crusader. Of course though, before I answered, I'd in fact correct you that strictly speaking he isn't a superhero at all because he doesn't possess super-powers. I'd probably argue this at such length that you'd threaten to hit me, I'd keep banging on, you would hit me, we'd fall out and wouldn't speak for ages and it would just be awful. Lets never fight. It was silly. Honestly, I've forgotten what we were even fighting about now.

To this end I'm quite excited about the forthcoming video game Batman: Arkham Asylum (although to be quite honesty I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl about quite a lot of the releases over the next couple of months - Halo ODST, Beatles Rock Band and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2). I found that the demo of it was available on Sunday and dutifully downloaded it.

The premise is nothing new; Batman ends up a prisoner in the titular Asylum after bringing the Joker in yet again, and the madmen have clearly taken over this particular madhouse. It's a mixture of stealth and combat wrapped up in a lovely Unreal powered shell.

It's great. The voice cast from the Animated Series reprise their roles - (I still think Mark Hamill portrays one of the best Jokers that there has been ever been on the screen; Way better than the frankly overrated Jack Nicholson performance from the Tim Burton film - and Kevin Conroy, voice of Bats, almost outgruffs Christian Bale) - and best of all, it looks absolutely stunning. The combat feels spot-on - simple in execution, but it really gives the impression that Batman is one powerful guy - each punch and kick comes with a genuine weight behind it and he makes it look effortless. The first half of the demo seems to be standard scene-setting with a couple of fights and a simple puzzle to solve.

The latter half, however, is where it comes into its own. You're left in a large arena with several armed thugs, none of whom know where you are. It's a maze of rooms and platforms and they are truly at your mercy. Batman is far from invulnerable - a couple of good gun shots can take him out easily, but you have the darkness on your side. Swooping in and knocking a thug out and hiding above another one and dragging him up into the darkness, it's all tense stuff. A toggled "Detective mode" allows you to highlight points of interest and also gives Bats X-ray vision - you know where all the bad guys are, but after a few of them have been dispatched they begin to panic - shooting blindly at anything that moves, even each other - whilst all the time you can see their heart rates via the Detective mode showing that they're terrified. All proper comic book stuff.

I'm hoping that the full game (released 28th of August - think I'll be booking the day off) is as good - but based on the demo, it looks like it's going to be awesome.

Which is good, because I love Batman. I hope this small review gave that impression.

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