At a Sony event earlier this week, I was the Joker on the PlayStation 3. This was no laughing matter.
For no cost, PS3 purchasers of next month's Batman: Arkham Asylum will be able to download some bonus challenge rooms that will let them pit the Joker against swarms of enemies. These are ethically-flipped versions of Arkham Asylum's Batman-based challenge rooms, which are brawling stages set apart from the game's campaign.
Batman beats up prison crooks. The Joker fights prison guards.
Representatives from Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment let me take control of the clown prince of crime earlier this week. The game's reps said that the Joker's moves are his own, that he's not just a re-skinned Batman. What I played bore that out. The gangly Joker leapfrogged his enemies, and sprayed green poison gas in their faces.
Similar to how Batman controls, I could press one face button rhythmically to punch and kick enemies, another, timed well, to counter attack and another to leapfrog over one guard so I could punch another. The game's brawling system is designed to encourage players to chain their moves into one fluid, limb-crunching battle. It's no surprise to see Batman pull this off and overcome a gang. It's a little weird to see the Joker manhandle a swarm of guards, but what I played as the Joker — or as Batman — was smooth and fun, full of strong hits and dramatic close-ups that highlight some crushing counter-attacks.
The brawls happen in confined maps, the one I played set in part of Akrham Island's prison. The eight PS3-exclusive maps need to be unlocked through the course of gameplay. They will be downloadable for free download through the PlayStation Network when Batman: Arkham Asylum is released late next month. There are no comparable downloadable maps announced for the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game.