Arkham Asylyum Video: Will I Become A Bat?

By Kieron Gillen on December 10th, 2008 at 6:55 pm.

Batman expresses his annoyance over Grant's recent questionable plotting.

A new trailer of Rocksteady’s forthcoming Batman Arkham Asylum has gone live. You’ll find it beneath the cut, and see a lot of criminals being a cowardly and superstitious lot. The last time we posted about it, a lot of people seemed a little bewildered about what the game’s about. I’ve actually seen it a couple of times, so you’ll some thoughts on exactly what this Arkham Aslyum creature is, as well as the aforementioned video of punchitude.

Go punchitude!

Okay – for any Comics readers, put the “Arkham Asylum” you’re thinking of out of mind. It’s not based on the densely symbolic Grant Morrison/Dave McKean. Which is probably a good thing – it’s probably best to concentrate on just making a good Batman game before we do a deconstruction of Batman.

What’s most notable about Arkham Asylum is how it is an attempt to do a Batman game. It looks at what Batman does, and rolls with it. This leads to a game which, if it pulls off, should have its own distinct flavour. That’s the fun of licensing – it forces developers to do things they’d have unlikely ever done for themselves. Look at the Spiderman games. Would a developer have ever spent so much effort on the ability to swing gracefully across the city if they didn’t know they had to do it otherwise the game will fail. In the same way, the chances a developer would make a hybrid Final-Fight/Splinter-Cell/Graphic Adventure if they didn’t want to make a Batman game are kinda minimal. A designer trying to justify why it’d be awesome if the game stopped here for someone to look at fingerprints is going to get people with money laughing at him. If he can say “But that’s what Batman does, so we’re trying to best realise the fantasy of the IP. And – er – Branding. Yeah?” they’ve got a chance.

So the game has three main parts. They’re not neatly subdivided into stages or anything – it’s more tools which you bring to bear on a given situation – but basically it’s punching, sneaking and thinking. The first part happens when you face enemies armed with melee weapons, and is all about chaining blows and stunning people with knives and whatever. If they have guns, it gets trickier. You can pile in, but you tend to get cut to pieces. Far better is to stalk your prey, and generally shit them up before doing the old something-tells-me-to-stop-at-the-arm-I-don’t-listen-to-it. It’s worth noting that it’s a game based around power rather than weakness. Rather than Thief-esque insecurity, your targets are the ones who are petrified at the thing in the shadows. Normally you use your bat-rope-thing to get to the gargoyles above, and then manouvere around, picking off enemy stragglers and laughing as they start getting spooked and firing blindly at shadows. Finally, there’s the investigative part, where you go into an alternative vision mode where possible clues are revealed. What I’ve seen is simple puzzle solving – like working out which set of fingerprints in a crime-scene would belong to someone you’re after, and then using that evidence-trail to lead to another location.

That’s the core of it. There’s a bit more – the gothic nature of Arkham brings to mind Bioshock quickly, there’s some subtle RPG elements to improve your various abilities, there’s quite a heavy story focus, there’s some puzzle-solving larger set-piece things – but basically it’s about you being the Batman in a place where the inmates have taken over the Asyl… oh, never mind. It’s up to you to prove – as another masked vigilante put it – “I’m not trapped in here with you – you’re trapped in here with me”.

In short, my initial impressions are better than I suspect most of RPS’ readers will be expecting. You may be expecting a cheap-cash-in on the Dark Knight’s success, but this is a serious attempt to make a serious Batman game. Clearly, this is impressions rather than actually playing the thing, but it’s the first Batman game I can remember which seems to have even the loosest handle on the character.

Not that only having a tenuous grip on the character actually stopped some previous Batman game being awesome.

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32 Comments »

  1. phil says:

    I hope to God they don’t try to incorporate the current continuity – unless they suggest the whole son of batman sequence is just a delusion of one of the inmates.

  2. Quater says:

    I think the chances of a Batman game having any relevance to the comic’s canon are slim to none at this point, as a huge proportion of the market for a batman game right now will be simply people who’ve seen the movies and would be simply bewildered at the complexity of the current story arcs, rather than actual comic book readers who’d have a chance to get their heads around all the weirdness.

    I wasn’t aware there was an investigative aspect to the game though – do we know if it’s well implemented, or just a simplified Condemned-esque “press A to do forensics” thing?

  3. Ian says:

    This game is aiming to be almost my dream Batman game. I really hope it comes off. :)

  4. Pags says:

    I love to punch and think, but sneaking can be a bastard if it isn’t done well. I’m glad to see it’s moving more in the “you’re a badass in the shadows” rather than the “quick! hide!” variety of sneaking, because frankly the latter never did much for me.

  5. egg says:

    I’ll only be satisfied when someone makes a Batman game with a somewhat Max Payne atmosphere, incorporating much of the Dark Knight Returns comicbook’s plot, and having you beating the crap out of Superman at a certain point.

    I used to dream with DKR being filmed and having Clint Eastwood as Bruce Wayne – because it just so totally makes sense too.

    And I still think it’s not that much to ask, really.

  6. I don't understand this comment system says:

    The cynic in me says this is going to suck. But I would LOVE a decent a batman game.

  7. I don't understand this comment system says:

    Also
    It’s worth noting that it’s a game based around power rather than weakness.

    Are you suggesting that Garrett isn’t a badass? Because I just can’t agree with that.

  8. Rath says:

    I had to look for this on reading “superstitious cowardly lot”;

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ebI8H5nq5L4

    Ha. Anyway, I was thinking how awesome a co-op mode would be in this, the second player taking on the role of either Robin or Nightwing. (Unlockable characters?)

    @Phil & Quater:
    Agreed, anybody who’s only familiar with the recent movies or the campy old series isn’t going to have a clue what’s going on if they start noticing “Zur En Arrh” daubed on the asylum walls, or other such Grant Morrison excess.

  9. James T says:

    “In short, my initial impressions are better than I suspect most of RPS’ readers will be expecting.”

    Indeed — what you describe sounds like some good fun. Time for a Riddick-style ‘never-mind-the-license’ attitude, perhaps.

  10. Simon Jones says:

    I used to dream with DKR being filmed and having Clint Eastwood as Bruce Wayne – because it just so totally makes sense too.

    Dear god. Wow, that’d be astonishing. Can’t believe I’d never thought of that bit of casting! Wowsers.

    I also have a weird kind of desire for them to make follow-ups to the Spider-Man films, but in 40 years time. Still with Tobey Maguire, but with Spidey as a much older character. Be really interesting. Though the whole ‘getting old’ theme would work vastly better with Bats, as it’s already been covered in the comics.

    This game is looking intriguing – I’m definitely getting hints of Riddick, both in terms of the setting and license and in terms of the general approach and quality. However, I’m not keen on the general “lots of monsters showing off their muscle flexing animations” nature of this trailer.

    The shot of Batman on the roof of the Asylum and the batmobile shooting past at the start are great, though. :)

  11. Angel Dust says:

    Clint Eastwood as Batman in a film version of DKR was an actual idea that was thrown around in the time between Batman & Robin and Batman Returns.

    Anyway this game suddenly looks a hell of a lot better. Kind of give me a Riddick vibe, which is certainly no bad thing and a game whose melee mechanics I always thought would be perfect for a Batman game. In fact my perfect Batman game formula was Riddick + Thief + GTA. 2 out of 3 certainly aint bad at all.

  12. skizelo says:

    Any game which prominently features Killer Croc, a villain so lame that even Joel Schumacher wouldn’t put him in a film, pleases the comic-nerd in me.
    Also, James T the Batman licence is so nebulous that it cannot subvert (or even ignore) it. I’m just happy that it’s not a game-of-the-movie, which is what kills a lot of these things.

  13. Kitt Basch says:

    Yay for detecting bits. I’ve always felt Batman is best when he’s being the World’s Greatest Detective(TM). Or I might just be saying that because I was watching Brick the other day.

    I’m wondering how they’ll handle the fact that Batman hates guns. It tends to bother me in other games when I can’t pick up someone’s gun after I just knocked them out.

  14. Quater says:

    @ skizelo: There are no lame characters, only lame writers. Seriously, look at Identity Crisis. It may be a shameless “Women in refrigerators”-fest but I never thought anyone could convince me that characters like Green Arrow, Elastic Man, Dr. Light or – for pete’s sake – Captain Boomerang were cool or even vaguely useable characters in anything but the campiest nonsense. If you don’t think Killer Croc is a good villain, maybe you haven’t read Arkham Asylum?

  15. Quater says:

    …p.s. @ Kitt: they’ll handle Batman hating guns by… making him hate guns. You just won’t be able to pick them up (except perhaps as evidence or somesuch?)

  16. Pags says:

    Quater does indeed have a point. Killer Croc might be a pretty lame cliché in the hands of a bad writer and/or artist, but he’s been made workable. Just look at the Gotham Knight anime they did recently.

  17. Swimsuit Places says:

    Additional points won for Rorschach quote, sirs.

  18. manintheshack says:

    Gotta admit it’s pretty exciting to dream that this game could actually be any good. The atmosphere seems spot on and if they get it right, who the hell wouldn’t want to kick ass as Batman? i don’t want a thoughtless action game though. I want to be engrossed the character and play intelligently. Riddick would be the perfect example. Dumb violence with an atmosphere that will knock your balls off.

    That said, if there’s no Shark-Repellent Bat Spray then I ain’t playin’ it.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=k_B_n-Rbros

  19. D says:

    There was a Batman Begins game for Xbox (classic?) that was quite stellar in my experience, even just being a straight movie story to game deal.

    The bat-tank driving sequence had the speed and control of burnout gameplay, no small feat considering it was maybe 10 minutes of the entire game.

    This sounds like it will be better, but in the same lines. Yay for games.

  20. pilouuuu says:

    I have a good feeling about this. It looks like Bioshock plus Riddick as has been mentioned and that’s very good in my book.

    The only decent Batman game I remember having played is the 8-bit isometric version and it must have some 20 years ago!

  21. James Tao says:

    Wow, this could actually work. If they can finally make a Batman game that *feels* like a Batman game, they’ll certainly have earned my money. Fingers crossed for this one.

    And for bonus points, it looks like it could be genuinely atmospheric and psychological, meaning plenty of chance for a scare or two. I keep getting flashes of a Joker-driven Fort Frolic sort of level, an idea which is A) Unsettling and B) Awesome.

  22. Morph says:

    Must. Not. Get. Too. Excited.

  23. Kieron Gillen says:

    The Riddick comparison people are making strikes me as a good one actually.

    KG

  24. nabeel says:

    I’m a hopeless Batman fan, so I’m doomed to be excited.

    nabeel

  25. Fringe says:

    Agh! I hate you Gillen for reminding me of that old Batman on Spectrum. It was bloody impossible, I’ll be having nightmares about it now.

    Besides, Head over Heels was clevererer.

  26. R. says:

    The Riddler heads that homed in and followed your every move…fuck those guys.

    Jon Ritman’s Batman was both a work of genius and pure, unadulturated evil. Think the best I ever managed was 3 pieces plus being in a room with another yet having no clue how on earth I could possibly get it.

  27. Adam T says:

    I loves me some batman, but I want you all to know that I had the Dark Knight Returns idea with Clint Eastwood in it first. AND just to prove it I’ll let you know that Mick Jagger should play the joker. Not that Mick can act, but cover him in makeup and tell him to act crazy – I think he could manage it with good direction.

    That trailer looked less than awesome to me, but hearing KG talk it up is making me excited in my pants.

  28. egg says:

    @Angel Dust: Clint Eastwood as Batman in a film version of DKR was an actual idea that was thrown around in the time between Batman & Robin and Batman Returns.

    Really? I always thought it was just some stupid idea of mine people would laugh about. The idea remain stupid though, if you think of Eastwood dressed up as the Batman, with the mask, the belt and the cape. Anyway, hooray for me then.

    And Adam T, I think that could work, but Jagger would really need to step up to beat Heath Ledger.

  29. David Kaye says:

    I had that Spectrum Batman game – it was fucking brutal. Oddly enough, I never once wondered what the all the cakes and disembodied floating heads had to do with Batman.

  30. Chris L says:

    Jagger as Joker = bad idea.
    Hugh Laurie as Joker = insanely awesome idea.

  31. The Shed says:

    Do you have any idea who this game’s about? The Goddamn Batman.

    @Ian: What’s it missing? For me the Batman Fangasm-Ultimate game would be if it was free roaming (obviously), like Spiderman 2 but smaller scale, more detailed. That’s always part of my Fangasm-Ultimate scenario though.

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