Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum -- a real-time review

Awww, isn’t my brother the nicest guy? He pre-ordered the PlayStation 3 version of the new video game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, for me and brought it over this afternoon. I must be doing something right.

Okay, let’s fire this game up and see what we got here. I’m going to start off in Easy mode because, hey, I’m a wuss:

- Wow. This game looks GORGEOUS so far. Gloomy, but GORGEOUS.

- Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill! Oh, how I’ve missed them!

- Heh. I hit the zoom function by accident. It’s really good.

- This bat was made for walkin’…

- “Jo-ker! Jo-ker! Jo-ker!”

- This intro is really long. It’s entertaining, though, thanks to Mark Hamill’s Joker. It also gives a really good sense of just how deeply into Arkham the Joker is being taken.

- Holy crap! What’s THAT thing?! Oh, it’s Killer Croc. Wow. He’s HUGE.

- The backgrounds are awesome. SO detailed.

- Agh, the lights went out! Oh, wait – they’re back on, and Batman has his hand around Joker’s neck: “What, don’t you trust me?”

- I’m really missing Bob Hastings as James Gordon. I think the presence of other voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series has spoiled me.

- Well, yeah, the Joker IS obviously up to something, Batman. And yet you bring him to Arkham, anyway?

- Yep, the Joker's on the loose, and he and Harley Quinn have taken over Arkham. Imagine that.

- The fighting looks great, and you can do a lot, but there’s this brief slow-motion pause in the action just before every third punch/kick connects with the bad guy. Right now I find it kind of annoying.

- Character bios! Nice!

- Does Batman always have to walk at an angle like this?

- There are chattering teeth on the floor. Stepping on them doesn’t seem to do anything, but I’ve been encouraged to knock them out with batarangs. I guess this is just supposed to be batarang training – but I kind of hoped the teeth would be a genuine threat.

- There seem to be plants everywhere. Gee, I wonder why.

- Lots of half-naked goons in gray pants around here …

- “I work better alone.” Yeah, SURE you do, Bats.

- And then he calls Oracle. Way to work alone, Bats.

- Zsasz? Really? That’s a pretty obscure Batman villain. Not sure most people will know who he is. That’s kind of disappointing. I’d prefer seeing Batman fight one of the more well-known villains first.

- I’m gliding! I’m gliding!

- Look at Harley Quinn’s new outfit. I hate it. Oh, well -- that's Harley for you.

- There’s really nice interactivity with the background characters/Arkham employees. It makes me genuinely care about these people. That’s a very nice touch.

- This game still looks gorgeous – even though Arkham is a real dump.

- Detective mode! Nice, nice, nice – and SO appropriate for Batman.

- I”ve changed my mind about the pause in the fighting. I like it. Every attack/punch/kick looks different, even if it really isn’t.

- Ooooh, I’ve earned an upgrade! Decisions, decisions …

- Holy crap! What’s THAT thing?! Oh, goody, my first boss fight. I have no idea who/what this thing is I’m supposed to fight, though.

- Ow!

- Ow!

- OW! OW! OW!

- Oh, so THAT’s how you defeat him. Well, that was pretty easy, once I figured it out.

- Look at that map! Great jumping Jehosaphat, this place is HUGE!

- Background music consists mostly of atmospheric sounds, like in the Chris Nolan Batman films. It’s a nice compliment to the action, and I don’t find it annoying at all. Video game background music is often too loud or distracting, but not this music.

- Still working on trying to get out of here, which is the goal at this point …

- Oh, great, Gordon’s been kidnapped. Figures.

- Ah, HA. The Riddler makes his presence known.

- More goons to fight!

- Jump. Glide. Jump. Glide. Jump, jump, fight, fight …

- I’m out! I’m out! Wow, this game is gorgeous – and I was right about the environment being huge. Nevertheless, first “objective achieved,” and I earned a “Born Free” trophy. Whew! There's still a long way to go, though.

Okay, since this is a PlayStation 3 game that was pre-ordered through GameStop, I want to pause for a moment to go play with the Joker and Scarecrow downloadable add-on freebies. Here we go …!

- First freebie – Joker fighting Arkham guards. The Joker is actually HARDER to use in a fight than Batman. Still fun, though.

- Second freebie – Batman fighting skeletons in a Scarecrow-induced environment -- or, rather, Batman trying to avoid being touched by the skeletons for as long as he can. Fun! It’s also very cool – it’s like Batman encountering a bunch of Harryhausen skeletons. The Scarecrow’s been redesigned so he’s wearing a gas mask. Makes perfect sense. I like this freebie better than the Joker one.

Okay, I’ve been playing this game for about three hours now, and here’s my official report up to this point: I LOVE it. Despite my gripes about some of the functional details, I’m really enjoying the heck out of this game. The functions (at least in Easy mode) are challenging yet simple to use, and the game is NOT a hand-killer, which I appreciate very much. The game also, actually seems to have a decent story. That might be because I’m so familiar with Batman’s world, but the action and events are really doing a great job of moving me through the game. It’s almost like LIVING in a Batman comic. True to the character, you have to THINK your way through this game. It isn't just a punch-out game like Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.

Despite the voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series, the game IS more like the Batman comics than any of the movies or animated series. The story, background, and presentation seem to be a blend of the comics, movies, and animated TV series, but the game FEELs mostly like the comic books, if that makes any sense. It’s brilliantly done.

There are a few functions that I wish were slightly different, such as being forced to view Batman walking at an angle. I understand it’s done to help players see the environments better, but really, I’d prefer a more Grand Theft Auto-style approach. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable game to play. So far, I think this is the best superhero-based video game I’ve ever played.

It’s a little too intense for little kids, and has some naughty language; otherwise, I highly recommend this game to any Batman fan – and even non-fans!


That Face! said...

Holy strawberries, Sea!

I love your real-time reviews. :-)

SallyP said...

This does look amazing, although my kids don't let me play with their video games, because I'm TERRIBLE at it.

Kevin T. said...

Wow, sea! You're such a hip mom!

I think I've encountered Zsasz two different times in bat-comics. He's just so TWISTED that I can't help but remember him. I saw the Croc on different sites; he looks SO weird.

Sea-of-Green said...

Yeah, this version of Croc doesn't look like any version I've seen before.

Not quite through the game yet, but there are two Scarecrow levels that are worth the price of the game alone!