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The Corrente Review Of Games: Volume III, Number 2 (English Edition)

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The Corrente Review Of Games is published on the first Saturday of the month.
Posting is done in rotation by the following contributors:
Aeryl, BDBlue and danps.
Please contact any of us with submission ideas or feedback.

Contents

  1. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum

OK, first off: I gave up on LA Noire. Rock Star does a great job creating environments, but Lord have mercy is their game design repetitive. The similarities to Red Dead Redemption (and maybe its Grand Theft Auto series as well - I haven't played them) went way beyond similar controls or menu options. It felt too much like a century-later expansion pack for RDR instead of a separate game, and the one really new wrinkle - the interrogation sequences - were terribly put together.

For just one example: In RDR you get random crimes popping up during free play. The criminals appear as red dots on your map, and you can ride over to them and deal with them. I liked that feature and thought it was a good way to gain prestige and money. But in LAN you have basically the same thing, with a car substituted for a horse. It was just way too similar to be enjoyable. There was an awful lot of that feeling of deja vu, so I did something I almost never do with a video game - gave up on it.

Moving on. I picked up a copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum to fill in the time before Skyrim comes out on Friday. I'd heard some good things about it but wasn't expecting much. Film and comic franchises are notorious for their shoddy ports to video games; I think designers might get lazy thinking that juice from the original will be enough to carry it. Whatever the reason, they are usually lame.

I picked up BAA for the same reason I occasionally pick up a first person shooter - to see if the genre finally got done right. To my great and happy surprise, this one did. Since this wasn't from a franchise or studio I'd played recently, there wasn't the same kind of unexciting familiarity that recent examples like LAN or Mass Effect 2 had.

There definitely is a bit of a BioShock vibe, a "utopia gone wrong" feel to it. Batman goes up against a familiar cast of villains - Joker, Riddler, etc. - to restore order to the place. And they are all gleefully, cartoonishly evil. The designers did a great job of making that work. Most of the attempts at humor in video games fall flat, but an early quip from Harley Quinn literally made me laugh out loud. Comic book bad guys ought to be over the top and BAA plays to that strength very well. It's fun to go up against them.

Batman doesn't get a big selection of weapons, which is definitely a change from most video games. You can't pick up guns from fallen enemies (or otherwise acquire them) - you have to rely on a somewhat underpowered bat-throwing star, and your fists. (That will probably expand later in the game. I'm still early in it.) To compensate, Batman can fire his zip line up into gargoyles and other highly-situated perches, and use that to move around out of enemy sight. It also provides a quick way to cover familiar environments, which is a very nice wrinkle.

The emphasis on stealth and melee over frontal assaults with guns blazing suits Batman's character, and doing reconnaissance on your enemies from high up in the shadows is great. And while some of the combat sequences are pretty crazy, nothing is overwhelming. Going up against multiple armed attackers usually requires some planning and strategy. For unarmed ones, though, it's often possible to just wade in and see how many combo punches you can string together - which is awesome, of course.

The main drawback so far is that the environment is not as interactive as I'd have liked. There are Riddler trophies hidden throughout and interview tapes to give some character exposition, but overall you can't just pick up and mess around with stuff. That seems to be a trend in game design. Maybe the studios want players to get right at the action and not fiddle around with inventories, encumbrance and so on. I like when that's part of a game, though, even an action-oriented one like this, and I very much hope that pendulum starts to swing back soon.

Overall, though, it's a great game. I'm not sure if I'll get Arkham City; if I do it will be down the line a bit. This one has been a lot of fun though. Highly recommended.

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BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Okay, not caused by gaming, but I'm having a tendon problem with my hand that keeps me from playing almost any game (I can limp through the controls of Civilization Revolution, but that's about it). I had started Borderlands, but now can't aim, which makes an FSP very frustrating.

I tried the Arkham Asylum demo and only sort of liked it. Sounds like the entire game may be better than just the demo. Of course, that like other games is going to have to wait both for my thumb to heal and for my RL to calm down (which is another issue entirely).

As for fiddling with backgrounds, inventories, etc., I like to do it too, except when I don't. That seems to me to be key - put it in the game you're charging me $60 for and in ways where I can either spend a lot of time on it or a little.

Less than a week until Skyrim, but it'll probably be some time after that before I can actually play it. Eeep.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Great line. Gaming preferences are even more idiosyncratic than most human tastes, it seems.

And you're right, at $60 a pop these games ought to range from almost infinitely customizable to not at all depending on what the player wants. They won't compete with Angry Birds or Farmville by just stripping it down, that's for sure.

Submitted by Lex on

I still haven't gotten to the point of lots of game time, but what little i've found hasn't been spent on LAN. It certainly hasn't drawn me in. The facial animation and graphics are amazing, but like the boys on South Park said, it's really just pressing the x button.

I've got a few unfinished games, but can't decide between picking them back up or going shopping.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

It's a fairly nebulous concept and can be done in lots of different ways, but a game has to have some kind of hook that draws you in and makes you want to keep playing. Not sure what exactly about LAN fails that test, but boy does it.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

The optical drive in my 360 went out(in the middle of playing CivRev) with about half of Fable II beaten. I've found a guy on craigslist who can fix it for $50(with a warranty) but gotta have $50.

With my accumulated MSoft points I've been able to download a few games(yay Plants vs Zombies) to keep playing, but nothing on disc.

Sux.

Fable rocks though, like Oblivion, big sandbox game with a ton of stuff to do. Your hero gets famous(or infamous) as you complete missions, but the controls are a lot better than Oblivion, IMO, not as cumbersome.

You can buy properties as well(you have to have a house to get married, and eventually your spouse will want a new one, they'll go on and on and on...) and I've spent a good chunk of my gameplay redecorating my houses to get the maximum rental value. More time spent on that and my hero's outfits, than on weapons to be honest. You get a dog, which is a wonderful thing they stole from Bard's Tale, who finds and digs up treasure and will attack anybody you knock down in combat. Romantic and sexual liasons are expected, bisexual, gay or straight. There is even an achievement for a menage a trois. And if you don't use condoms, you can end up with STDs or babies. And if your spouse divorces you, CPS takes your baby.

Side note: My first husband divorced me because I came back and tried to give him his favorite thing, some type of fish. Well the game controls screwed with me, and I ended up gifting it to the person standing next to him. My husband walked off on the spot, and no amount of pleading got him over it.

One thing I like the best about it, is the trail of golden bread crumbs it leaves for you, for whichever quest you select as your current one. So you can explore and travel as much as you want, without ever losing your way. Plus once you discover a locale, you can travel to it automatically, though the same amount of game time passes as if you had walked it. But there are carriages you can rent for faster travel(and unfortunately owning all three carriage houses does NOT get you a discount like it does with other vendors).

All in all it's a fun game, drew me in where Oblivion failed to. Soon, I'll get my drive fixed and get to play it again.