Mention the words "Arkham Asylum" to any die-hard comic book fan and they'll immediately rattle off an opinion about their favorite Batman stories. It's been a legendary location for numerous Batman books, shows and movies, including the 2005 film Batman Begins. Now it's the hot spot for the Caped Crusader's next video game adventure, Batman: Arkham Asylum for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
In the game, you control the Dark Knight as he comes face to face with the Joker, one of his most feared adversaries. When the story begins, Joker's in captivity at Arkham, but it's not long before he gets loose and becomes the Bat's worst nightmare. To make matters worse, other legendary villains show up, potentially putting Batman and the rest of Gotham City at risk. We know that the gigantic Killer Croc is one of the villains but the rest remain a mystery.
This latest Batman game is mostly combat-driven. He's able to fight with enemies up close using a combat system consisting of punches and blocks. A pair of early screenshots shows the Dark Knight battling an Arkham inmate, pumped up and ready for a fight. As you can see, there's a heavy amount of detail in Arkham Asylum, especially with Batman's suit and the damage each character takes during a fight.
It's not all beat-em-up action, however. You'll also have to do a heavy amount of exploring, discovering clues as to what's going on and occasionally pulling an accessory from your utility belt. We're not sure how many gadgets Batman has, but he will be able to use his Batarang. Once he flings this at an enemy, the camera changes to a behind-the-Batarang view, giving you full control over its flight. This makes it easy to hit targets around a corner.
Thus far, Arkham Asylum's visuals look great. The asylum is dark and mysterious, with only a few floodlights guiding the way. As for sound, voice actors haven't been announced. However, Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker voiced those characters in the animated series so there's hope.
Paul Dini, a longtime collaborator on Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, is penning Arkham's script, so expect plenty of familiar characters and surprises. Commissioner Jim Gordon, for instance, pops up every now and then to provide advice, while his daughter Barbara keeps in contact with you via radio to give you assistance in the asylum. You'll need both of them, as the warden is a real pain. For all we know, he works with the Joker.
Arkham Asylum has a lot of potential, and while it looks impressive, returning Batman to video game glory is a daunting task. That said, the game's tentative 2009 release means there's still a lot of time to make it incredible, and we look forward to saving Gotham.