Whew. Big day, eh? At 9 a.m., I published IGN's Batman: Arkham Asylum review, a couple hundred kids freaked out in the comments section, and the exclusive Joker Challenge Maps went live on the PlayStation Store this afternoon. That's right; these eight Mr. J missions are only available on the PlayStation 3.
There's been some confusion on just what the exclusive Joker content is, so let's break this down. Right now, there's a free download on the PlayStation Store. When you grab it and pop in Arkham Asylum, you'll have the ability to choose the Joker when you load up the Challenge Mode. Note that you don't play the story as Joker; he's just an option for the challenge maps. Now, these are the same environments as Batman's challenge mode, so if you haven't unlocked one of the first eight challenge maps for Bats, you won't have that map for the Joker. These Joker challenges have there own leaderboards but don't add any new Trophies.
You get'em, puddin'.
If it sounds lame that the maps are the same for Batman and the Joker, I can assure you it is not. The niftiness here is that Joker feels nothing like Batman. His unique moves (lots of crazy kicks), walk (think of a marching band leader), and weapons (exploding chatter teeth) make the experience feel unique, at least to me.
Just like Batman, you're getting two types of missions: fist fighting and sneaking. The fighting is the same thing I described in my review -- there are buttons that strike, reverse, stun, and jump, and you'll use these to link together massive combos to decimate your enemies (Arkham guards and Commissioner Gordon if you're good enough). Thing is, Joker's moves look nothing like those of the Dark Knight. Whereas Batman spoke with stiff ninja kicks and punches, the Joker's more adept with a scrawny high kick or pimp slap. Batman stunned people with his cape, but Mr. J sprays some spraypaint to blind his foes. Batman would acrobatically leap over his opponents, but Joker's packing a simple leapfrog maneuver. Batman could toss out a batarang using a shoulder button, but the Joker's limited to his one-bullet handgun.
Joker's got this springy energy that leads to him jumping on a downed enemy's stomach for a ground takedown, kicking the good guys in the balls for a counter, and more. What's really interesting is the fact that Joker's only got the original health bar of Batman -- no matter how many health upgrades you've unlocked for Bats in the story mode, Joker will be limited in terms of his HP. It makes the challenge that much more… well, challenging. Joker is going to be the mode for people who think they're awesome at these challenges to have all the cool gadgets stripped away and be left to see how good they really are.
Similarly, Invisible Predator mode is a completely different beast as Joker. If you didn't catch the review, here you're dropped into a room filled with gun-toting enemies and challenged to bring them all down as quickly as possible. Now, running in there and trying to take them out face-to-face is suicide -- one guy will fire his gun and soon every other dude will be firing on you. As Batman, winning these modes came down to grappling up to the rafters, taking out a guy, and retreating back to the shadows.
Joker doesn't have that option.
At the green-haired baddie, you'll be up against guards again, but you'll only have that one-shot gun, a pair of x-ray specs to see your enemies, and those remote control exploding teeth. All of that's cool -- the x-ray specs make a classic B-movie noise when you stare through them -- but the lack of being able to grapple in any way drastically changes the game. If you alert a guard, you've got to run to safety and find somewhere to hide; you have to use ladders; and you have to plan your moves even more carefully than you did as Batman.
He won't kill you, just break all your ribs and cave in your chest.
Again, this is way tougher than Batman's challenges, and I love it. Aside from getting even more dynamite dialogue from Mark Hamill, these modes provide a challenge by stripping away the gadgets you've been leaning on the entire game and diminishing your health bar. Joker's ground takedowns take longer to pull off so you'll need to have an eye for when to spring them, his reversals are funny like when he salutes a guy while simultaneously hitting him in the face, and so on.
The long and short of it is that the Joker's addition is a free piece of downloadable content that really changed the way I viewed the challenges. Suddenly, my go-to tactics were gone and I was left on two feet and surrounded by good guys trying to take me down. These modes are a worthy addition to Batman: Arkham Asylum that'll separate the Batmen from the boys.
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