Xbox 360 Releases- August-September
So, it’s been a while since I last posted on this thing, but I’m back with a vengeance… a little late on some of this stuff, but I promise I got some goodies coming up, including a poll. Wow!! A poll!!
Batman: Arkham AsylumXBOX 360, Rated T for Teen
So, this is almost a month late, but considering this has been practically the only game I’ve been playing lately, and since I’ve become obsessed with getting all the Achievements for it, figured I should give it a review.
Licensed video games are a sordid affair. By that, I mean that 99.9% of the time they suck balls. In my experience the only ones that are worthwhile brandish either the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings moniker, and even those are pretty hit or miss. So I wasn’t all that excited for Batman: Arkham Asylum, despite my love for the character. The Caped Crusader is without a doubt, the greatest super hero of all time, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies. But in previews and magazine articles, Arkham Asylum just looked weak. A Batman beat ‘em up game? Seems a little obvious. And while it was fun, even the preview I played at Comic-Con failed to impress. It wasn’t until the demo was released on Xbox Live that I knew this was a must-have.
The game does a great job of balancing the styles of the comics, the original animated series, and Nolan’s two “realistic” Batman films. The character designs seem like they came from a Grant Morrison-era graphic novel, most of the voices were provided by the cast of The Animated Series, including Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker, and the music sounds very Hans Zimmer-esque. Arkham Asylum excels for many reasons, but chiefly I think it’s a great game because it isn’t connected to any other Batman media- it’s an entirely standalone experience, complete with an original story that rivals any Batman tale you’ve read or seen before. Above all, it allows you to fill the role of Batman like never before. I had only ever played one Batman game prior to this- 2001′s Batman Vengeance for the Gamecube, which was based on The New Batman Adventures, the follow-up to The Animated Series. It was decent, and while more cartoony, it still had a pretty dark story that began with the Joker faking his own death. But it fell short on almost all accounts, and you never really felt like you were the Dark Knight.
Arkham Asylum puts you in his shoes, and everything from how he glides with his cape, grapples, and fights multiple enemies at once, is spot on. There’s also a host of gadgets, most of which are used in stealth sequences, which I found to be the most enjoyable part of the game. The “freeflow” combat as they call it, is probably more addictive though, and it’s a very eloquent fighting system. Batman really only has a couple moves, and only one “attack” button, but the game rewards you for stringing together multiple moves and constantly blocking enemy attacks. An instant takedown move allows you to break enemies’ limbs, and there’s also the option to toss them across the room like ragdolls. It’s all very kickass, and the game has a ton of re-playability. Like I said, I’ve been playing this almost non-stop since August 25th, and god knows how many hours I’ve put in. Too many I imagine.
So far the biggest surprise in gaming for me. This is well worth $59.99, and will be a treat for Batman, fighting, stealth, and action fans alike. Buy it. NOW.
F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn DLC
XBOX 360, Rated M for Mature. Available via download from Xbox Live.
Released at the beginning of September, Reborn is a five-mission expansion to F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, downloadable via Xbox Live and assumedly, PSN. In case you didn’t know, F.E.A.R. is a series of highly successful FPS/survival horror hybrids- think The Ring plus The Matrix, because slowmo is a big part of the game. Reborn puts you in the shoes of what is usually the primary enemy in the game- a “Replicant” (basically a clone soldier) called Foxtrot 813. F.E.A.R. 2 was essentially F.E.A.R. 1 with better graphics and more gore, so I wasn’t exactly frothing at the mouth for Reborn. But for approximately $9.99 (800 Microsoft Points) it’s totally worth it, at least if you’re into the series. Nothing that new, and Foxtrot 813 plays exactly the same as every other character in F.E.A.R., but it’s nice to get into that powered armor one more time and blow security guards into little red globules.
Star Wars The Force Unleashed: Tatooine DLC
XBOX 360, Rated T for Teen. Available via download from Xbox Live.
The second of three bonus missions for the latest Star Wars console outing, this DLC is set in an alternate universe where Vader’s apprentice and the game’s protagonist, Starkiller has killed him (one of the possible endings of the original game) and has taken his place as Emperor Palpatine’s servant. Palpatine sends him to Tatooine to hunt down C-3PO and R2-D2 after their escape at the beginning of A New Hope, which pitches the player into encounters with iconic characters like Jabba the Hutt and his Rancor, Boba Fett, and ultimately, Obi-Wan Kenobi himself. Also priced at 800 MP, this felt like a much better deal than Reborn, even though it probably provides you with even fewer hours of gameplay. It’s just a really good idea, and is executed very nicely. All your favorite Tatooine moments are represented, even Jabba’s droid torture room. While it is slightly disturbing to be the evil, twisted bad guy, it was still satisfying to annihilate Boba Fett, Obi-Wan, and Obi-Wan’s spirit. “More powerful than you could ever imagine” my ass.
I do have a complaint, but it’s unrelated to the DLC. Being the stingy bastard that he is, George Lucas and Lucasarts have decided to make the third bonus mission, which takes place on Hoth and allows you to fight and kill Luke Skywalker once and for all, available exclusively on the upcoming rerelease of the game, called the Ultimate Sith Edition. Well you know what? I already own the fucking game, man. And I want to play the Hoth mission. But I’m not about to sell my copy back at a tenth of the price and then shell out $39.99 to play one extra fucking mission. So fuck you.
XBOX 360. Single Player demo, available for download via Xbox Live.
I wasn’t that interested in this game until I started watching some behind the scenes videos on IGN and learned a few important facts:
1) This is billed as a grindhouse-styled third person actioner. Basically, if Quentin Tarantino made a videogame, this would be it.
2) Eliza Dushku voices the main character, a badass sword-swinging, gun-toting chick named Rubi.
3) There’s lots of slow motion.
Once I understood these facts I got excited. And I was even more excited when I found the demo on Xbox Live one lonely, drunken night. Unfortunately, the demo did not meet any of my expectations, and was a bit of letdown. I’m not ruling this one out completely yet- I’ll wait to see what the critics say before I make my decision. But the demo was pretty lackluster. For starters, I’m fucking sick of slowmo. Why does EVERY game feel it needs to employ some kind of slowmo feature? Max Payne came out eight years ago, people, let’s try something different. It wouldn’t be that big a deal if it was used well, but in WET it seemed kind of arbitrary. It doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay, it just makes it look cooler and makes it easier to blow away dumbass AI enemies who, by the way, can take about a dozen rounds to the head, neck and chest, before going down.
Trailers and previews for the game make it seem like there’s almost too many moves for Rubi to do, and granted, I only played a fraction (I hope) of the full game. But even after a few minutes I felt like it was getting redundant. You pretty much either slide on your knees, leap through the air, or wall-run while blasting your guns, and if you get too close, you press X and automatically kill a baddie with an unblockable sword swing. There’s other acrobatic moves- swinging on poles, sliding down ladders- but none seemed particularly useful. Not to mention that the swordplay seems like an afterthought- all you do is press one button, and that’s it. Not much variety there.
Two aspects of the game I was really looking forward to also failed to impress. First, there’s the “bloodlust” mode, which is activated when Rubi gets an enemy’s blood all over her face. The world changes to a stylized red, black and white, much like a graphic novel, and Rubi is rendered virtually invincible. While it looks cool, it’s more or less pointless. It makes what seems like a pretty easy game even easier. Then there’s the much talked-about car chase sequence, what should be the coup de grace for the game. It’s cool and well choreographed- definitely the highlight of the demo. But it was just as overly simple as the rest of the package. All you do is blast infinitely respawnable baddies as they drive around you in sedans, then press a button when a prompt is given to you on screen, which activates a cut scene where Rubi does something badass. Only it’s the computer doing it, not you, so it kind of takes all the fun out of it.
I’ll have to see what critics like IGN and Game Informer say when WET hits shelves this Tuesday, but it’s looking like I might save myself six Hamiltons and take a pass on this one. The question is though, whether or not I want to buy this monstrosity:
I was sort of morally opposed to ODST, simply because it felt like an overpriced expansion pack. I was also kind of sick of Halo. But the more I read about it, coupled with Microsoft’s always ingenious marketing campaign (can someone make a Halo movie? Pleeaaase?), the more I became intrigued. I’m interested mainly because you are no longer playing as Master Chief, who’s so powerful he’s kind of like a superhero. Now you’re just a regular dude, which means this will probably be a more intense experience, and more akin to other FPS’s. When MC takes on a Brute, it’s no problem, because he’s seven feet tall. When a drop trooper encounters one… well… imagine facing a nasty, eight foot-tall monster with a gun that shoots needles. Yeah. That’s what I thought.