Rarely have I ever looked forward to a demo like I looked forward to the demo for "Batman: Arkham Asylum." If you haven't taken the time yet, it's available for free download on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.
I finally got a chance to play the demo last night and it both excited me and worried me at the same time.
There is plenty to drool over here. The demo allows you to beat up a few henchmen, use your batarang, and show off exactly how "Detective Mode" will work, by highlighting areas of the wall that you can grip to and highlighting where in the room henchmen are hidden. Most importantly, this one-level cross-section of the game makes it obvious that charging headstrong into a pack of armed criminals will only result in bloody, bloody death. Instead, Batman will have to creep around in air vents and skulk the ceilings in order to get the drop on villains. The second part of the demo forces you to take out a room of five henchmen one by one without getting caught.
The whole thing, between the game mechanics and voice work by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, feels uniquely Batman.
The one flaw which really worries me, though, is the speed at which Batman moves. You feel much more Michael Keaton than Christian Bale. The man walks like he's enjoying a sunny day in the park. And yes, there is a button specifically for running, but it doesn't feel very organic. Here's hoping the speed at which the Dark Knight moves doesn't prove to be this very promising game's downfall.
All in all, though, this demo did nothing but encourage me to take August 25th off from the office.