Reviews for Gamers by Gamers…

Batman: Arkham Asylum – The End To A Reign Of Comic Folly

Filed under: Batman: Arkham Asylum — Tags: , , , , , — Kellen Beck @ 02:00 January 11, 2010

Format

Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Style

Third person Action Adventure/Detective

Modes

Single player Campaign, Challenge Mode

Pros

Great graphics, original gameplay, voice acting fans can appreciate, unique blend of combat, detective work/puzzles, and stealth.

Cons

Not much replayability, get stuck every once in a while, Batman died back in January 2009.

Batman Arkham Asylum Screen Shot 1Introduction

After years and years of unsatisfying Batman games, Eidos puts out Arkham Asylum, a stunningly brilliant superhero game of which the likes has never been seen before. Batman has always been near and dear to my heart as an avid reader of the comics, and the games have always been sub-par. But come late August, a revolutionary new Batman game set in a unique environment has risen from the depths of nothing: Batman: Arkham Asylum.

The Start Up

The opening scene is grim and dark, as rain pours on the Batmobile, spanning across the city to Arkham Asylum, Gotham’s own psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. When you get inside with the Joker in hand, you follow him and a few guards down to the depths of Arkham, where things get interesting. It seems as though the Joker had been planning this from the start, as he escapes his captors and gains control of the Asylum. Starting off with a quick intro to combat with the new FreeFlow™ Combat System, you battle several thugs and progress through the grounds, searching for various people and things. You quickly learn about your Detective Mode, where you can see inmates through walls, follow trails of various substances, and find otherwise hidden things, such as vent grates and weak walls. It’s an easy game to get into, and can be played respectably by both hardcore and casual gamers.

Gameplay

Batman Arkham Asylum Screen Shot 2Of all the superhero games I’ve played, I must admit that this is the best of them. Never has there been such attention to detail, back stories, and personalities in a comic-based game. I’ve always been an avid Batman reader up until the day he died (rest in peace, Dark Knight) and know Batman and the Gotham crew like my own friends and family. The game plays like you’re classic third person action/adventure game with a small bit of RPG elements. You play as Batman as you go through the Asylum fighting inmates, solving puzzles, and advancing through the story to take back Arkham Asylum from the Joker and his accomplices. Immediately you are thrown into combat with the basic inmates, which is a sort of free flowing punch-and-kick type of combat with counters and take-downs. Starting off you have your Battarang and grapple, the Battarang can be thrown to daze enemies and hit the Riddler’s chattering false teeth toys. Pretty soon you learn about your Detective Mode; this is a modification to your sight that shows various things previously mentioned. It’s very handy when you are stuck somewhere, before you walk into a room to check for enemies, or want to find hidden things. At some points it’s used to follow substance trails such as alcohol in the air, blood and hand prints while tracking people down on the grounds, which you seem to be doing a lot of.


Unlike previous Batman games, Arkham Asylum blends combat, stealth and detective work on a superb level. The stealth is great, although sometimes it feels like you’re completely invisible during times in which you shouldn’t be. All over the Asylum there are convenient gargoyles in which you can grapple up to to observe a room and stealthily kill inmates who are perusing around waiting for you. To render enemies unconscious (Batman doesn’t kill people) in stealth you can do a flying kick form a gargoyle or raised structure and a take down or sneak up and do a sort of silent choke out. If you are caught by armed inmates, you are reduced to hiding up in the shadows and avoiding gunshots which can get pretty annoying.

Since 1948 the Riddler (Edward Nigma) has been using riddles and clues to lead Batman to his meticulously planned crimes. In Arkham Asylum he has left riddles and trophies everywhere and are a nice bonus if you feel like taking a break form the story and do some searches and puzzles. As you collect trophies and solve riddles you gain experience, which you also get from incapacitating inmates and bosses. After an amount of experience is reached, you level up and get to pick an upgrade; upgrades include new weapons like the Sonic Battarang, new combat moves, and armor increases. None of the upgrades are essential to the game, like “you need this upgrade to get to this part in the game”, but they do help a lot.
Batman Arkham Asylum Screenshot 3Progressing through the game, you meet a lot of classic characters including the Joker, the Riddler, Commissioner Gordon and Scarecrow. Scarecrow plays an interesting role in the game in the aspects of his psychoactive gas. If you don’t know, Scarecrow (real name: Jonathan Crane, a psychiatrist who specializes in fear) uses a variety of toxins that make people hallucinate that their worst fears are real and present. In the game, you encounter his gas multiple times; the room begins to shift, things begin to distort and move, and an eerie music plays as you walk onward to unknowing terror. As you pass through your hallucinations, you eventually come to an event where you have to avoid Scarecrow’s gaze. He grows exponentially, and you have to hide and run as he looks for you in a torn apart, circular version of the Asylum. This adds quite an enjoyable twist to the game, and briefly takes you away from the normal game.
Besides the regular story, you can do the Challenge Mode. The Challenge Mode is a series of unlockable, short challenges that involve combating inmates for points and stealthily taking down inmates which is timed. While combating inmates, you earn points through combos, counters, and special take downs, and in the stealth challenges you take down armed inmates as quickly as possible using your various acquired techniques. When you finish, your points are added up and are submitted to the online leaderboards. Challenge Mode is a nice addition if you feel like honing your skills and taking a break from the story.

Overall, the gameplay is phenomenal and Eidos has finally achieved making a good Batman game. There are only a few faults in the game and they don’t pop up too often. At some points, there’s no clear indication of what to do next, and you’re reduced to looking around everywhere, trying to figure out or remember what you have to do. Having said that, there isn’t much else to complain about in Arkham Asylum.

Audio/Graphics

Batman Arkham Asylum Screenshot 4The audio of Batman: Arkham Asylum is fantastic, with great voice actors and environment noises such as the music during Scarecrow events. It’s good to see that they didn’t take any of the recent movie actors for voice acting (apparently Heath Ledger wasn’t answering his phone) and instead went with the fantastic voice actors from the Emmy award-winning 90’s cartoon show Batman: The Animated Series. There seems to be a general lack of interest from movie actors that are asked to voice games. Besides the voice acting, the music and environment sounds are done wonderfully; every drip of water and intense fighting score just adds to the enjoyment of the game.
As far as graphics go, Arkham Asylum is one of the best looking games that has come out in the past year. The look of the Asylum is grim and rigid, and the whole darkness of the game adds so much depth. Characters are rendered greatly, and the emotions seem life-like at some points. Motion is fluid and overall the game looks great.

Ratings

Graphics – 9/10

Audio – 10/10

Story – 8.5/10

Gameplay – 9/10

Replayability – 8/10

Final Score – 9/10


Required Specifications:

CPU:

Intel Pentium 4 3GHz or AMD Athalon 64 3500+

Memory:

1 GB (XP) 2 GB (Vista/7)

GPU:

NVidia 6600 or ATI 1300


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Rating: 9.9/10 (9 votes cast)
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Rating: +11 (from 11 votes)

Dragon Age: Origins BioWare’s Gem Among Gems, The RPG of ’09

Filed under: Dragon Age: Origins — Tags: , , , , , — Kellen Beck @ 22:44 January 8, 2010

Format

Xbox 360, PC, PS3

Style

Third person RPG/RTS

Modes

Single player campaign only

Pros

Stunning graphics, epic storyline, engrossing gameplay, top-notch voice acting, good combat, great fun.

Cons

Hair-pulling difficulty at some points.

Introduction

Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. A company that puts all of its heart and soul into its games, and the outcome is more than worth it. Dragon Age: Origins is a platinum Dragon Age Screen Shot 1medal among gold. With an expanse of RPGs in this past decade, it’s difficult to narrow it down to the best. But what most players agree with is that DA:O is one of the top RPGs this decade, if not the top.

The Start Up

Like any RPG, you get the character selection/customization. I first tried making a Dalish Elf, These are the elves that have stayed in the isolated forests, hiding away from the humankind. It started out with a nice intro to the story line and to the Dalish Elves. After the video I immediately was thrown into decisions, whether or not to kill a few humans wandering through our woods. Of course I had to let them go, I know how humans are. They also tipped me off about some ruins that I ventured into with an elvish friend and delved right into an easy, short intro to combat. The easy switch between the zoomed out, over head zoom and the up close “adventure” camera view with the scroll wheel makes the switch between combat and walking very fluid. The first part of the game is very forgiving and eases you into the style which I was not used to. It’s like a cross between RTS and classic Third Person, packed with lore and action and quests. The cut-scenes are absolutely gorgeous, and the voice acting is top-notch.

Dragon Age Screen Shot 2My second character I made was the generic, Human Noble. I generally don’t like melee fighting in RPGs but I decided to push this game to its limits. This proved to be a great choice. Even the very last thing I ever wanted to be was a lot of fun. You start off with the choice of having your dog as a companion, and I don’t know how you could pass up a chance like that. During gameplay, you may only have 4 companions out at a time, so you’re generally fighting in a team. I decided to be a tank (defensive character) to help hold enemies and take the blunt of the damage. The combat and tactics were pretty easy to get used to, but the gameplay is incredibly difficult.

Graphics

While playing on maxed out graphics with a new GPU from the Radeon 5800 series, it’s an incredibly beautiful game. The faces are the best I’ve seen, the armor and weapons are incredibly detailed, and the environment is gorgeous to look at. Lighting and shading are at a perfect balance, each light has a nice glow and the darkness is greatly contrasted. Even the fire alone is just about the best fire I’ve seen in a game this far. It has this warm, comforting glow, with a strong lick and… well, it’s really nice looking fire.

The detail in the game is unbelievable, after fighting, your characters are covered in blood specs, as opposed to the usual clean heroes in most games. People will notice eventually that each place, each forest, each dungeon and cave they go through is detailed and extravagant, along with it’s contents and enemies. The game is top quality for DirectX10 and only DX11 can beat it. It was a smart move using DX10 though, as not everyone has a DX11 GPU (recently released). Basically, the game is absolutely pristine.

Gameplay

Dragon Age Screen Shot 3This is one of the hardest and most frustrating games I have ever played, except for Street Fighter and Mega Man 9. The difficulty can be summed up as such: On the second quest, I had four characters, full health and was ready to fight. There were just two enemies waiting by a bridge over the swampy waters of the Wild. I figured “hey, easy enough, just tank ’em and spank ’em.” But no, I was mistaken, those two led us through bear traps and a multitude of more enemies. They overtook us time after time after time. It must have taken five tries to get by them finally. Within the first half hour of the game! On normal difficulty! It’s a great challenge. One feature that really took some time to get used to was the tactics. This bundle of menus determines what your character does when a certain event happens, such as if you character’s health is below 20% they will use a special block move. This really comes in handy for big fights where you can’t really keep track of everything every second.

Besides the occasional, jaw-gnashing difficult parts, the game is pretty straight forward and simple. Completing quests, continuing the storyline, gaining levels and skills, improving armor and weapons, it’s your no-surprises RPG. But what you don’t always come to see is the fantastic, unique, engrossing storyline. This rich tale sticks out in the RPG world because it’s so original and detailed. The Blight (a bunch of ugly, gray-ish guys) come around and try to kill everyone every couple of hundred years. They were old Magi that tried to take the heavens, but were defeated and cursed. There is an arch-demon that leads the blight and he must be defeated to end it. The Grey Wardens are a group of fighters that work to defeat the Blight with the help of the people, and you become one of these last Grey Wardens. You must work with three other fighters/adventurers (whomever you pick up) to delve further into the world with quests and objectives and fights. And yes, much like Mass Effect, there is a sex scene involved, it probably won’t be in the news quite as much because there’s no aliens involved. But anyways, the gameplay is fantastic, easy to get into, incredibly challenging and fun, and the storyline is great.

Each time you start a new character, you’re thrown into a completely different starting are with different choices and quests. As you progress, you choose your path depending on what you decide to do, so you could play through the game twice in two totally different ways. The replayability is staggering, because not many other games give you this much decision. The fact that it is solely one player doesn’t hinder the experience at all, and in my opinion is a better route to go, it would just feel weird playing with other people. Compared to other RPGs, Dragon Age: Origins is a gem; it has taken everything we love about RPGs and perfected it. BioWare knows how to make a great game, and I look forward to any sequels of this fantastic game.

Ratings

Graphics – 9.5/10

Audio – 10/10

Story – 10/10

Gameplay – 9/10

Replayability – 10/10

Final Score – 9.7/10


System Requirements/Recommended Specs (Windows Vista/ Windows 7)

CPU

Intel Core 2 (or equivalent) running at 1.6Ghz or greater/Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4Ghz Processor or equivalent

RAM

1.5 GB or more/4 GB

GPU

ATI Radeon X1550 256MB or greater/ATI 3850 512 MB or greater
NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT 256MB or greater/NVIDIA 8800GTS 512 MB or greater

Hard Drive

20 GB free or more

Buy Dragon Age : Origins from Amazon.com

Buy Dragon Age: Origins from Amazon.co.uk

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Rating: 8.9/10 (7 votes cast)
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Rating: +3 (from 5 votes)