Batman: Arkham Asylum – Challenge Room Impressions

by on July 23, 2009

As mentioned in the previous couple of articles a few of us from the GodisaGeek team attended a special event (this is the last you will hear of it, we swear!) hosted by Eidos where they were showing off the upcoming Batman: Arkham Asylum game. We have already brought you some gameplay footage and impressions of the story mode demo but luckily for you we have managed to squeeze out one last article. The story mode demo was not the only thing that was being shown off, the games challenge rooms were also on display for us to get our gaming mitts on.

On display were three challenge rooms in all, obviously the full game will boast many more. The first two rooms were beat’em up style challenges where the objective was to beat down as many criminals as possible, sort of like the old Streets of Rage games from the beloved 16-bit generation. The first of which was held in what appeared to be a medical ward of Arkham and presented the player with a normal difficulty level consisting of four rounds. While this particular room was relatively easy due to the very limited amount of enemies in each round the real challenge came from getting the really big scores by maintaining a healthy string of combos to the very end. This is all made possible by the simple (deceptively so) but surprisingly intuitive combat system. A simple press of the X button (square on PS3) while inputting a direction on the controller will execute a string of punches and kicks. The combos themselves didn’t seem to have any sort of limit (I got to around x23 I think) so as long  as there are enough enemies on screen you can keep a chain going.  Stringing together a long chain of combos not only felt good but looks fantastic. Watching Batman transition from one attack to another is a thing of beauty, the animations are superb.

Of course more often than not you are going to get attacked by multiple enemies and this is what really puts the challenge in “challenge rooms”. If a foe tries to hit you while you are in the midst of attack you are given the ability to counter with the Y button (triangle on PS3). On normal difficulty the player is notified of this chance to counter by a flashing icon above the enemies head but we were told this indicator is omitted in for the hard difficulty setting to make it more of a challenge for the “hardcore” gamers out there (that would be us then surely?!). Enemies can also be countered using the throw command by pressing Y and B (triangle and circle on the PS3), this is also nice way to give you some respite if you get surrounded by too many thugs! Batman can also dodge attack with the press of the A button (X on PS3) and he can throw his batarang if you press the left trigger (L2 on PS3), this is extremely useful if you want to keep a long combo going. Last but not least Batman has the ability to finish off his grounded enemies with a combination of Y and right trigger (triangle and R2 on PS3) but from what I saw there seemed to be only a couple animations for this. The basic idea is to use these varying abilities to “mix it up” with your attacks as the more variety you have the higher bonus you will receive at the end of each round. Each successive hit will add to your combo multiplier netting you more points and, of course, a bigger e-penis. 😉

The second version of the “brawler” challenge rooms was set in a sewer setting, presumably taking place underneath Arkham Asylum. This room was aptly named “extreme” as the number of enemies in each round drastically increases. This of course allows you to go for bigger scores but decreases your chances of actually finishing all four rounds. The developers also saw fit to added a bigger variety of enemies (variety is the spice of life after all) that will pose much more of a threat in the extreme versions of the “brawler” rooms. While attempting to not get my ass handed to me I spotted a few types of enemies some of which would try to knife you or introduce your face to a nice baseball bat, others would have better defensive abilities meaning they could not be hit unless you counter them. Towards the later rounds you are introduced to enemies that will pick up items around the room and attempt to throw them at you while you a dealing with the less lethal goons. Then finally just to make things even more interesting some enemies will come out with guns for short periods of time giving the challenge room a light sense of strategy as you attempt to prioritize which enemy needs to be taken out first. At first I was very skeptical about these “brawler” challenge rooms and how long they would keep people entertained however I was pleasantly surprised as I myself kept returning back to the booth in an attempt to beat my previous score.

The third room was less “brawler” and more stealth oriented, challenging you to investigate and take out the patrolling criminals in the area without being spotted. This challenge type is the most closely associated with the main story mode and is definitely what I found the most enjoyable. As stated in our story mode impressions Batman has a wide range of abilities in his arsenal to accomplish such a goal but by no means is this an easy task. Enemies run pretty tight patrols and you will need to use all of the abilities at Batman’s disposal to achieve your goals. On the whole these stealth challenge rooms are great fun and really make you feel like you are the Dark Knights himself. Be it an inverted takedown or a glide kick followed by a swift “execution”, you feel like you have earned every single takedown.

The challenge rooms are also where  we see the Joker makes his gameplay appearance. Despite quite a few probing questions we were told that the Clown Prince is exclusive to the PS3 and there are no plans to have him as DLC for the Xbox 360 (hmm). Gameplay wise, although the controls remain largely the same, the Joker is a slightly faster prospect and what he lacks in the martial arts department he makes up for with sheer comedic value. His animations are predictably outlandish and wild, you have to see them in action! He is even equipped with exploding false teeth as a “ranged” weapon, truly hilarious. Whether this is worth purchasing the PS3 version over the Xbox 360 version is debatable and really comes down to how much you really want to play as the Joker.

Overall the challenge rooms were a pleasant experience and if Rocksteady can keep the rooms packed with variety, they could be onto a winner here. I can already see the Xbox Live and PSN leaderboards filled with outlandish scores, not to mention I am pretty sure there will be achievements and trophies attached to many of the challenge rooms which is sure to get gamers motivated. 🙂

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