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Batman: Arkham Asylum

A serious game on a serious console...

On paper, this can't fail. Arguably, the best comic book superhero ever. Certainly the best villains. Definitely the most compelling universe. A blueprint that marries Chronicles of Riddick, Manhunt and Splinter Cell. And all weaved together by the team behind Urban Chaos, an Xbox riot sim no one bought, but which was really, genuinely good.

Not based on the legendary Grant Morrison graphic novel of the same name, though very much drawn from that world, Arkham Asylum is a dark, brutal Batman game, played out in third-person, Resi 4-style. It's an intriguing mix of combat, stealth and detective work, though with surprisingly few of the complications you'd expect trying to blend all three.

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Simplicity is the key here: combat works off only three buttons, for example - Attack, Throw and Stun. It's quick, easy, satisfying stuff, but with an added layer of depth should you wish: combo multipliers help you earn experience points, and from there you can distribute skills using a 'light' RPG-style system. Gadgets are also a key part of the game, and secret rooms inside the Asylum will reveal toys vital for your progression. Certain boss characters and enemies can only be taken down using certain gadgets. Fists won't always do.

In an interesting twist, the game features a Metroid-style visor, which allows Bats to pinpoint important information and clues, while scanning them into his database. Detective work will be the only way to advance through certain puzzles, reinforcing the development team's ambition for this not just to be a bone-breaking beat-'em-up. The environment will certainly help: the ingame Arkham is one, huge persistent location, open for you to explore at will. You can go anywhere you want, at any point in the game (even down to Batman's onsite Batcave) though the story will ultimately drive you where it needs you to go... into the arms of the game's supervillains.

And there are a ton of them. Headed up by the Joker, expect the likes of the Riddler, the Penguin, Killer Croc, Scarecrow and Two-Face to all end up inside the bloody walls of the nuthouse. Completing a game, it has to be said, which is starting to get us seriously excited.

Although it's still early, Arkham Asylum has huge potential. The dark, brutal feel, the Riddick-like looks, the stealth, the detective work, the villains, the freeform environment... if they pull this off, it will be absolutely massive.

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