Batman Arkham Asylum Preview: The Challenge Modes

Batman video games have not, traditionally, enjoyed the same success as Batman movies.

Despite the long line of titles based on the caped crusader dating back to the mid 80s, few video games have managed to deliver an enjoyable Batman experience.

In Batman: Arkham Asylum gamers take control of a brutal Batman as he fights and explores his way across the notorious insane asylum. But the game isn't just about the single player campaign, it also has hundreds of unlockables, including some challenge modes designed to be played over and over again after you've beaten the game.

What It Is
The third-person brawler loads up Batman with an arsenal of bat gadgets and lethal moves. The game is due out this summer for the PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

What We Saw
I played two of the game's challenge modes on the Xbox 360. The challenge modes are replayable stages unlocked in the campaign that are broken down into two types. In the combat challenges you use Batman's free flowing combat to decimate a crowd of bad guys. Extra points for style. In the predator challenges, you try to quietly take down a group of enemies without being spotted.

How Far Along Is it?
Batman: Arkham Asylum is due out in June and the developers tell me they are in the "tail end of production" for the game.

What Needs Improvement?
Diversity: As much as I enjoyed the challenge modes, it would have been nice for the game to include more types of challenges to increase replayability.

Mix: The combat is fun, but can get a bit repetitive at times. It would be nice to see a few more animations for the take downs.

What Needs to Stay the Same?
Free Flow: The free flow combat is brutal, fun and addictive. Slapping down targets and ping-ponging between enemies as they crowd around you never seems to get old. The combat has its own rhythm which makes the huge battles seem more like one fight rather than a bunch of individual encounters.

Dialog: The things people say... when they're a homicidal clown or trapped in a darkened asylum with Batman. The sharp writing and excellent voice work go a long way, even in these brief encounters.

Weapons: I checked out the batarang, the claw, explosive gel and sonar resonator and they all provided interesting ways to set thugs up for a take down or cool direct attacks.

Graphics: The game looks amazing, this is one Batman I wouldn't want to mess with. One of the many neat little touches is that Batman's riveted body armor will begin to show wear and tear as you play the game. Batman himself will also star to show the business end of a pummeling if you take one to many to the head.

Leaderboard: The challenge modes track your scores and you can upload them to leaderboards once you're done, making the already moreish gameplay that much harder to put down.

Final Thoughts
The challenge modes are a nice addition to what I hope will be a robust single-player campaign. Everything I saw in these modes made me want to play the game more. In particular, I really enjoyed the game's flow of combat.