Thursday, 26 January 2012

Arkham Asylum Hard Mode - A Difficulty Mode Post

Hi all. In this new occassional series we'll review the various "hard modes" of certain games. Hardcore gamers like myself relish the challenge that some games have to offer but find that whereas some games offer a firm but fair challenge in their hard modes, others are just a plainly horrific waste of time and a clear sign of lazy game development. In this feature 103% Complete writers will sort the wheat from the chaff for the hardcore following. For this first iteration we have Batman: Arkham Asylum's Hard Difficulty on the chopping board.

As you would expect. Batman is well 'ard.

When you graduate from Normal Bat to Hard Bat in Rocksteady Studio's modern classic Bat 'em up, you will immediately notice the main difference between the two difficulty modes in that you lose the 'lightning bolt' warnings for incoming attacks in the Freeflow fighting sections. To the uninitiated, these lightning bolts appear during the frequent fights with the game's Black Gate Thug henchmen and warn of an incoming melee attack from one of them. Since you are almost always severely outnumbered, and the fact that these Thugs' attacks have a small counter-attack time window, these very bold warnings of an incoming attacks swiftly become a feature the player depends on and takes for granted. Hard mode pulls the rug from underneath the player who has already played through easier modes and asks them to re-master Freeflow from the ground up.

In Hard mode, the Black Gate cons don't telegraph their attacks nearly as much.

Now in the transition to Hard Mode from Normal mode, rather than merely increasing the number and variety of enemies fought at once (although this happens) and increasing the amount of damage taken for taken hits (although this happens too), Arkham Asylum fundamentally changes the fighting style that the player needs to adopt and forces the player to always be thinking five moves ahead in order to survive the regular onslaught of hand to hand 30 versus 1 rumbles. They do this in a sensible way (in fact it only adds immersion to the fighting) and as a result the level of satisfaction  from clearing a section is all the greater for not solely being a rescaled version of the Normal story.

I should also mention that the Predator sections are also more challenging but not in the same fundamental way that the combat is. But this is probably for the best. Given the critical amount of damage taken for being discovered in these stealth modes, taking away the essential Detective Mode from the player would have been a step too far and the game designers were wise not to go down that route. All in all, Arkham Asylum's Hard Mode is a challenge that is worth a second playthrough for.

Verdict: A great example of a challenge mode