Batman: Arkham Asylum Updated Hands-On

Batman's hunt for the Joker continues in the halls of Arkham mansion.

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When we last left Batman, the caped-crusader finished pummeling Bane and found out that Dr. Young performed strange experiments on the big brute. Batman then told Commissioner Gordon to head back to the mainland and take care of bomb threats issued by the Joker, so he could investigate these experiments and ultimately track down Dr. Young.

This new section of the game places Batman just inside Arkham mansion--the original residence of the asylum's founder, Amadeus Arkham--as he attempts to find notes about Dr. Young's experiments, but it appears that the Joker is one step ahead of him. Just inside the main foyer, the Joker's goons are already trashing the place looking for the very same notes. This presents an opportunity to become a little more familiar with Batman's attack strategy because this particular group doesn't have any weapons. By grappling up toward one of the several gargoyles surrounding the entry way, you can get a bird's-eye view of where enemies are located without notifying them of your arrival. Once there, you can then figure out how to pick off enemies. Because these guys don't pose any particular threat, though, you can just as easily swoop down and perform a glide kick to one enemy and then take care of the rest the old-fashioned way.

The very next room presents a similar scenario for Batman, but it contains much stronger enemies that are equipped with shotguns and assault rifles. Running in with fists pumping won't do you any good, so like before, you have to grapple up toward one of the gargoyles and watch how enemies move through the room. If you spot one that eventually gets isolated from the others (or at the very least, you see an opportunity to take an enemy out without the others spotting you), you can glide down, take him out, and then grapple back toward the ceiling. This alerts the other bad guys in the room, causing them to huddle around their fallen comrade, which forces you to wait until they separate again. If you happen to get spotted, you can always try to take out a few of the thugs, but the best option is to seek safety at higher altitudes and continue grappling amongst the gargoyles until they lose sight of you.

Later situations require a little more craftiness when the Joker's minions, smartly, don't disperse. In such a situation, you can rely more on some of Batman's gadgets, as well as their upgrades that you can unlock throughout the course of the game. When presented with this very scenario, we go to Batman's remote-controlled batarang (one of the batarang upgrades) and manually glide it toward two enemies. With these two goons knocked out, we gamble and jump down from our perch to take out the remaining two. Fortunately, it pays off, but not without a good bit of damage--if we hadn't already upgraded Batman's suit, we wouldn't have been so lucky.

As our adventure within Arkham mansion continues, we learn that Dr. Young ran to her office, presumably to protect her notes on the experiments. Batman eventually makes his way to the office and sees that it has already been raided and that Dr. Young is nowhere to be found. Being the great detective that he is, Batman figures out that Dr. Young stole her own notes and attempted to hide them somewhere. By switching to Detective mode, Batman can find a piece of evidence in the environment that lets him track the signature of a specific person--in this case, the signature is Dr. Young's own handprints. With a little bit of technical wizardry, Batman can limit his view to only the freshest handprints, which ultimately leads him toward the notes. Of course, it's not that simple. There are plenty of ambushes and traps along the way. One such trap places a couple of guards near a bomb, both of which just happen to be out of arm's reach. Batman not only has to find a way to get to the guards, but he also has to do so in quick fashion before the bomb explodes, killing the guards.

Eventually, Joker tells Batman that Dr. Young is being held hostage by Zsasz--the knife-wielding sicko from the earlier portion of the game. When Batman confronts him, Zsasz says not to get too close or he'll kill the doctor. And he means it--if you make one step over the line, you'll get the game over screen. Naturally, you have to find some other way to knock him out, and if you have the right gadgets, one solution should present itself rather quickly. However, it seems there may be multiple avenues toward the same goal.

This can't be good.
This can't be good.

It's here that things get even dicier. After some additional events transpire, Batman finds out that he needs the help of Arkham Asylum's warden, but as luck would have it, Batman gets ambushed in the warden's office by the Joker's deranged sidekick, Harley Quinn. Quinn then kidnaps the warden and takes him to a different part of Arkham where especially crazy inmates and notorious Batman villains, such as Poison Ivy, reside. Once again using his detective vision, Batman uses the warden's DNA (from his broken cane) to track him down in the asylum and confront Quinn.

We're only just scraping the surface of what happens, but be assured that there are plenty of surprises scattered throughout this portion of the game. There's also plenty of extra side content that isn't necessarily pertinent to Batman's mission. A lot of it's pretty interesting (specifically, interviews recorded with some of Arkham's residents) if you're even the slightest bit interested in the Batman universe and its colorful cast. Batman: Arkham Asylum is scheduled for release on August 25.

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