Thursday, April 1, 2010

Batman: Arkham Asylum -- How I Came Around

Since I acquired an XBox 360, I've downloaded a lot of demos of games that I have no interest in buying or playing for more than 10 minutes. I wanted to see the graphics and sound that the games today are capable of. But I didn't have that much interest in becoming immersed in a game. Batman: Arkham Asylum was the game that overcame that resistance.

I was initially impressed with the game's graphics. The demo first has Batan fighting a room full of goons. I found that fun, but it was nothing mind-blowing. I thought the best part was how the game zooms in and goes into slow motion when Batman delivers the final blow to the last goon standing. It was cool, but I didn't think I'd want to play an entire game of doing just that.

The demo then has Batman intervene in a hostage situation. This introduces the user to "detective mode", which is a visual filter Batman can use to see useful things in the environment. Using this mode, Batman has to sneak around a room and surprise the hostage-taker from above. I tried to complete this part of the game a few times and just couldn't do it. At that point I gave up on the game. I kept the demo on my XBox just so I could show the graphics to my friends and family members.

One evening a week or two later, I decided to take one more stab at getting past the hostage room in the demo. I was able to get past it that time. I'm very glad I did, because that's when game got really interesting.

The next part and final part the demo introduced me to "invisible predator" mode, where Batman has to neutralize a room full of armed thugs. If they notice him, they open fire and often kill Batman before he can escape. Batman can use a variety of tactics and gadgets to successfully neutralize all of the henchmen. Once I played though this part, I was hooked. Using Batman's different types of takedowns is just awesome and really makes the gamer feel like Batman. The moves are easy to execute, but timing everything correctly and using an optimal strategy is challenging and addictive. "Invisible predator" mode is just executed so beautifully. The game would be worth it for just those "challege rooms" that can be unlocked in the full version of the game.

So as I implied, the quality of the demo persuaded me to buy the full version of the game. I've now played through the game completely and remain impressed and really in awe of how good modern games can be. I'll have more thoughts about this game in an upcoming post comparing 2D and 3D games.

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