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My thoughts on Batman: Arkham Asylum
Ok so I know it’s a long time coming and most of you have already played this already, formed your own opinions, read every other review out there and probably don’t care much about my opinion at this point, but I’ve gotta do it.
I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been immersed and every spare moment of my time is spent feeding my obsession with playing this game. I guess you could say my lack of writing in the past few months sort of all built up and spilled out here on this topic, so I understand if you get bored, this started out as a review and became my 3 1/2 page dissertation. LOL… Oh well, there it is.
First, I suppose I aught to tell you where I’m coming from here, as far as gaming. I know most of you probably have a lot of experience with gaming, gaming systems and likely have a great deal more notches on your belt as far as wins than I ever will and I’m okay with that. I have a deep appreciation for certain games and those ones that I love I will play over and over again; Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat, Devil May Cry 1 and Medieval. The one constant through all the games I am willing to purchase at full price and put on my shelf is that they are all 1 player games, first person shooter style games, or survival games, puzzle games, games where you get to beat the crap outta people, zombies, monsters, whatever… and earn points by doing so.
Thing with Arkham is, it’s ALL of that. There really isn’t a way to classify this game because literally all of those components are present but none more so than the other. It just does what seems natural for the story. That’s not surprising considering the effort that was made to ensure the continuity of the story with the already existing Gotham universe. The credits are incredible as you see those who worked on some of the more recent Batman TV shows are the same people that wrote, directed, and did the voiceovers in the game.
There is an obvious appreciation for this story that I haven’t seen in any sort of medium since the new Clone Wars show came out and before then, Lord of the Rings. It was obvious they were concerned about what true fans would think, that they themselves are true fans and are dedicated to upholding the universe.
Arkham Asylum is first and foremost, a remarkable gaming experience and the most fun I’ve had in YEARS. The last time I was this obsessed with a game was the year Silent Hill 2 came out. Its stunning visuals and views of the river, Gotham in the distance and the expansive island of Arkham offer a truly realistic quality that the games I have always loved simply can’t hold a candle to.
Some of the cool visuals you might notice:
* Detailed ironwork embellishments in the walkways, floor grates and balconies
* Facial expressions and physical details in movement and surroundings during game play that equal the detail in the video interludes
* Veins in the leaves of plants! Seriously! I checked!
* Each detail obeying the laws of physics in every way- you walk by papers and they rustle and blow around, you can kick trashcans and walk by bushes that will move and not just make the sound like they’re moving. ( I know there’s a technical name for that but I can’t remember now)
* There is a level that uses the concept of pressure on water as means to control your movements. That may not seem like such a big deal until you consider, it’s a computer. It is telling you not to push too hard on the plank or it will create waves. It knows!! Creepy.
* Oh, and the story… is awesome. It’s truly like experiencing a graphic novel from the inside.
* You get to see Harley in a new drool-worthy get up and several other characters that resurface from Batman’s past… it’s a veritable “This is your life” for Bruce Wayne.
* The gadgets are REALLY cool! You get to play with Batarangs, a line launcher, a Bat Claw, explosive gel, a grapple gun and a cryptographic sequencer! (ooohhh the fun I could have with one of each!)
* Poison Ivy. That’s all I think I need to say.
In regards to the navigation, it’s simple, the control options are intuitive, functional and do not take away from the experience of the story which is fantastic and rare. In a lot of games for me, it takes so much time to figure out how to manipulate the character that it takes away from the game experience. I didn’t feel this at all. It took me about 10 minutes to acclimate to his various moves, kicks, jumps and toys. After that, it was all about the story and moving forward and not getting so hung up on the actual skill level and your ability to hit square, circle, circle, L1, triangle in JUST the right order with JUST the right timing or you’re screwed. Another way to look at it, is that this game is a true storyline that you’re following rather than a game with skill levels, monsters, the inevitable boss fight and that ever-present “how precisely can you jump from one platform to another without dying even though our graphics suck and you can’t tell where the end of the platform actually is so good luck guessing your way through and dying 18 times before you reach the top, sucker” crap. (You can tell I have issues with platform games huh?) Anyway, the story just flows from one thing to the other. That was my point. There ARE boss fights; it just doesn’t really feel like it. There are no identifiable levels or save points so to speak, and each task flows freely and logically into the next. The story is never broken by “save now, you win! Bla bla bla next level, get supplies now” nonsense, it just flows like a novel with no chapters.
Within the primary objective there are several small objectives and challenges but again, it never feels like you are doing it to get points or to pass a grade. It’s just the next part in the story. The Riddler tries to baffle you with puzzles and secret items hidden throughout the facility grounds. Scarecrow also makes an appearance in an attempt to destroy reality with his ever popular fear toxin. The reality shift experienced by Batman and Bruce Wayne bridge the gap between the warrior and the orphan. It allows entrance and a deeper insight into the world of Wayne Manor and the all too human fears of a man who lost his parents and has the weight of the city’s safety on his shoulders. More than any other piece of the story, it is Batman’s encounters with Scarecrow that provide an emotional connection that allow you to feel the human quality of our Dark Knight. I actually got a little teary eyed for a second.
So, at this point, you may be wondering, “could anything go wrong in what seems to be the most perfect game ever? Look J, you sound pretty doe eyed about all this do you have anything constructive?” Does anything happen in this perfect world that doesn’t make it the most amazing experience of all time?” For you dear, my answer is: Oh hell yeah and it’s annoying as $%#@$%!!
Here are my gripes:
* Why can he do some things at certain times but not the same things at other times?
* Why can he jump off a balcony and climb a 10 foot wall but he can’t jump onto a staircase from the side?
* Why can’t he wedge himself between a giant plant and the wall when there’s a 2 foot gap between them?
* Why can he grab certain boxes with his bat claw and not others?
* How is it that he can do these incredible, catlike moves to beat the crap outta clown faced criminals in record time but he can’t outrun a heat seeking pod spore moving at half his pace?
* Ok, these catacomb rooms with the jumping and the climbing and the riddle finding… okay one is fine but really? Do you really need two separate places that are a total bitch and a half to get through that gain no real assistance from the maps and all look the same? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyyy is that necessary???
* And WTF is up with the lunatics taking SO much life? They have their faces or their hands covered, most of them are muzzled and all they do is jump on your back like a deranged 10 year old demanding a piggy back ride. They’re probably doped up on mescline and lithium and can barely stand let alone cause damage to the big, bad Batman. HOW is that life threatening? Maybe it’s not life that he’s really loosing, it’s his will to live simply because they’re so damn annoying.
* Why are all the women SMOKIN’ hot (and I mean.. seriously… OMG if Poison Ivy really existed… HOLY DAMN. I look at that character and I feel like Claudia staring at the Creole girl in the window) Anyway, so all the women are insanely beautiful but all the men are either skinny as a rail or frail looking or they’re big, dopy and look like they’ve had too many steroids and too much head trauma. C’mon, people… girls want eye candy too!!
* And while we’re on the topic of physique, I have to say, I was a little frustrated with Joker’s overly caricaturized movements. He never really seemed to fit in with the rest of the scenery. And not in a stand out in a good way, way. Harley fit in just right by comparison, but there was something wrong about Joker. He was too cartoonish put side by side to everyone else. It was disappointing, I guess.
* Since when is Croc such a cannibal? They really turned him into a larger than life monster and I wasn’t thrilled with that.
* So you’re trapped in a room, right? Only way out is a massive drop that’ll kill ya. How do you get out? Oh, well the Bat Jet of course! You just call it in so that it can drop off a special delivery of your line launcher. Oh yes of course! Why didn’t I think of that 3 hours ago when I passed up about 6 places that I tried to get to, but couldn’t because I needed a… LINE LAUNCHER. GRRR!
* And my biggest issue… where’s my girl? Selina’s gear was there… but not a whisper of her. BIGGEST.TEASE.EVER.
So after my overly excited rambling and my soap box complaining, what’s the verdict? Well, I’ll tell ya; I finished the story 3 weeks ago. (Notice how I said story and not video game.) I started it over again 2 days later looking for things that I maybe missed in the background in the same way that you watch a movie 2-3 times to catch all the small details. I’m still trying to beat the challenges but I’m not that great so it’s taking some time to get scores I can be happy with.
The downloadable content is AWESOME. Long after I’ve finished the game, they give me more! It’s that feeling when you finish a good book and you’re sad it’s over… then realize, hey there’s another one after! Brilliant idea.
Overall, it’s incredible. Fun, exciting, stressful, frustrating in all the right ways and leaves me actually feeling accomplished when I finish playing, not like I just wasted 4 hours of my life in front of the TV. (is that sad?)
It is worth the time, worth the money, worth buying a PS3 instead of playing it on XBOX to play Joker in the challenge levels. I would recommend it to those of you who have played ten thousand games and need something new just as much as I’d recommend it to those of you who have never gotten into games.
If you think it’s just me and your ultra comic book geeks with this opinion, check this out:
Arkham Asylum has had, as of last week, over 2.5 million units shipped worldwide
A cool story just to close this up; I have this friend that’s the mother of 4 kids, she’s in her mid-40’s and has always seen video games as distractions and kind of a waste of time, partially she stated, because she’s just not that good at them and it gets really frustrating. She liked Rockband though, so she bought her kids a PS3 system. Well, her oldest son saved up his cash to buy Arkham. The first day he had it, he played it on his day off the entire day long and then the next day left for work around noon. So, she comes around cleaning the house and as she’s putting it away, she decides instead to have a look. She starts her own game. You know, just to see what all this time wasted from chores is really all about. The way she tells it, the next time she noticed what time it was, it was dark and her son was walking through the door! Since that time, she’s finished the game and loves playing the challenges to try and beat her son’s scores. This is one of the best testimonies I have ever heard to promote a game. MOM IS OBSESSED!
Ok so that’s all I have to say.
Does anyone else have other opinions? Anything to add? Think I’m fulla crap?