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