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


Xbox 360, PS3, PC


Third person Action Adventure/Detective


Single player Campaign, Challenge Mode


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


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.


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.


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.


Graphics – 9/10

Audio – 10/10

Story – 8.5/10

Gameplay – 9/10

Replayability – 8/10

Final Score – 9/10

Required Specifications:


Intel Pentium 4 3GHz or AMD Athalon 64 3500+


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


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


Xbox 360, PC, PS3


Third person RPG/RTS


Single player campaign only


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


Hair-pulling difficulty at some points.


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.


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.


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.


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)


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


1.5 GB or more/4 GB


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

Buy Dragon Age: Origins from

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

Left 4 Dead 2 Review

Filed under: Left 4 Dead 2 — Tags: , , , — Mike Cieply @ 01:22 January 6, 2010

“The sequel to the best-selling zombie shooter improves on the original in every possible way.”


Xbox 360/PC


First-person shooter; Survival horror


Single player; 4-player cooperative multiplayer; 4-vs-4 multiplayer


More campaigns and chapters, increasing the game’s length; Over thirty new weapons and items; New special infected; Graphics are noticeably improved, even while playing split-screen; Survivors are wittier and more amusing than in the original; Melee weapons are enormously fun; New multiplayer modes; Campaigns are more diverse; Campaigns are tied together, establishing plot


Gameplay is fundamentally the same as the original; Single player is still a bore


In 2008 Valve introduced Left 4 Dead to the world. It was hailed as one of the greatest multiplayer games, one of the greatest zombie games, and one of greatest games of the decade. Due to its new and thrilling gameplay, critics and consumers alike were able to look past its glaring faults. Exactly one year later, Valve released Left 4 Dead 2. Its announcement was initially met with calamity from fans of the original, and thousands were outraged. The gaming community was outraged at this rushed sequel, and many viewed it as an expansion. However, everyone’s worries were soon cleared when the game was released. This sequel is precisely everything a sequel should be, and more. It improves on every aspect of the original, quenching everyone’s thirst for a true sequel.


Left 4 Dead 2 steps it up in the presentation field. There is a noticeable update from the original title. The environments, survivors, and infected have all been greatly enhanced, visually. The game now has chapters that are set in nighttime and daytime situations. The inclusion of sunlit levels is an extremely welcome addition to the series, for they provide an interesting new take on scenery and keep the player’s interest high.

Left 4 Dead 2 - Screenshot

One glaring problem with the first game was the severe graphic-quality reduction when playing split-screen. Fans will be pleased to know that even these graphics have been immensely improved, providing a more enjoyable experience for those gamers who take pleasure in sharing a television.

While the scenery in the original did vary, Left 4 Dead 2 provides completely new locations for every single one of its twenty-three chapters. Whether you’re making your way through a swampy village, sprinting atop a carnival’s roller coaster, or fighting through a shopping mall, you will absolutely never get bored playing this game. Every level takes place in a totally new and creative environment, which shows how innovative a developer Valve is.

As previously mentioned, the four survivors have also been refined in nearly every way. Their facial expressions, lip movements, arm gestures, and body language have all become quite noticeably more lifelike. Due to their wardrobe, it is also easier to distinguish them from each other.

Finally, the voice acting and script have been improved tenfold. The voice actors for Left 4 Dead 2 are surprisingly better than the first title. Ellis’ stories are hilariously spoken, and Nick’s reprimands are ingeniously well done. Coach, though he is a clear copy of Punch-Out’s Doc Louis, offers more witty and clever lines, along with Rochelle. The four survivors are more unique, deep, and all have more personalities than the previous four. The increased character depth definitely provides a more enjoyable experience for all.


Left 4 Dead 2 - ScreenshotIf you have played the original Left 4 Dead, you would understand how Valve dealt with the story. Or rather, how they did not deal with it. In the first game, the complete lack of a story and plot was something that immensely bothered myself and many others. Fortunately, this matter has had more attention brought upon itself, and Valve made it their job to add something of a plot to the series.

Although the story won’t win any awards, the inclusion of one is enough. The four survivors now have back stories, and their own histories. Each character is now totally unique and we finally know their backgrounds. Another much-loved addition is the story of the campaigns. In the first Left 4 Dead, all four campaigns were completely separate from each other and started at a different point. In Left 4 Dead 2, however, all five campaigns are brilliantly tied together and flow smoothly from one into the other. This addition, unquestionably, pushes the sequel high above its predecessor.

Similarly to the previous game, the in-game plot involves you and three other survivors battling and hacking your way from Point A to Point B, ending in a safe zone, or being rescued. Again, this has become even more enjoyable due to the intertwined campaigns.


Left 4 Dead 2 - ScreenshotAlthough the gameplay from the original Left 4 Dead was highly praised, Left 4 Dead 2 took everything and made it bigger and better.

Perhaps the most noticeable change is the amount of weapons in the game. The original title simply had six firearms and two “grenades.” In Left 4 Dead 2, the total count reaches above thirty, with five times as many weapons. Similarly to the last game, the firearms are based on a two-tier system. The weaker and less powerful weapons include the pump shotgun and submachine gun from the original title, as well as the chrome shotgun and silenced submachine gun. The pump shotgun is essentially the same as it was in the first Left 4 Dead, as is the submachine gun. The chrome shotgun sprays its ammunition out tighter than the pump shotgun, and each shell deals more damage. The silenced submachine gun deals more damage at close-range than the standard submachine gun, but suffers from low-accuracy and annoyingly high kickback. With each gun’s pros and cons, it is clear that there is a much larger emphasis on preference than there was in the original. This is even more noticeable in the higher level of firearms. The game offers three assault rifles: the combat rifle, AK-47, and the M-16 assault rifle (also known as the assault rifle in the original). All three possess their own qualities and characteristics, such as varying levels of accuracy, three-shot burst, kickback, stopping power, damage, reload time, and amount of ammunition. Additionally, there are two other shotguns: the combat shotgun and the tactical shotgun. The combat shotgun has very low kickback and is very effective against special infected. The tactical shotgun, also known as the auto shotgun from the original, releases more bullets per shot. Also returning is the hunting rifle, which stands beside the new sniper rifle; both of which vary in power and reload time. Yet another firearm added is the grenade launcher. This completely new weapon deals an enormous amount of damage to an infected, and is great for taking out large groups. In addition to these weapons are the pistols, which include a standard handgun and the magnum, which deals out far more damage than the other handgun but cannot be dual-wielded. With the wide selection of firearms, Valve has brought in much more variety and replay value to the game.

There are also two new types of ammunition one can use with their weapons: explosive ammo and incendiary ammo. The explosive ammo will explode anything it touches while the incendiary ammo will ignite the infected that it is shot at. Additionally, throughout the game the survivors can obtain laser-sight upgrades, which greatly improve accuracy on all firearms.

The pipe bomb and Molotov cocktail return from Left 4 Dead, but a new inclusion in the series is the boomer bile, also known as the bile bomb. Throwing this onto an infected of any kind will instantly draw the common infected to them.

Now for one of the greatest improvements to the series: melee weapons. Left 4 Dead 2 introduces the cricket bat, crowbar, frying pan, electric guitar, axe, katana, machete, nightstick, and chainsaw as methods of one-hit kills to all common infected. These melee weapons are extremely powerful, and will never break. Only the chainsaw will eventually be replaced with a pistol, after running out of gas. Melee weapons are unbelievingly fun to use, and one will certainly use them nearly as much as the standard firearms.

As in the previous game, health packs and pills can be used to regain health. While the health packs can be used to regain eighty percent of lost health, one can choose to carry a defibrillator instead. These can revive a fallen survivor who has lost all of their health to the infected. When used, the newly-revived character will have half of their total health, fifty. Pills, which are used to temporarily restore some health to a survivor, are joined by the adrenaline shot. When used, the player runs faster, can heal and revive faster, move quickly through water, reloads faster, and gains health temporarily. Again, Valve has given us many more ways to enjoy Left 4 Dead 2.

Lastly, Valve has added three brand new special infected to the series, while revising the previous five. The Boomer, Tank, Smoker, and Hunter have all had their appearances modified and look more gruesome, while the Witch is the only one with any major changes. While the witch acts the same at night, during the daytime she is completely different. It is during this time when she is known as the “Wandering Witch,” due to her traveling slowly across the chapter. Due to the fact that she is standing, it is much harder to tell her apart from a common infected, but is easier to sneak past and kill. In addition to these five are the Jockey, Spitter, and Charger. The Jockey is a short, humped infected that will jump onto a survivor’s back and lead them into dangerous situations such as a Spitter’s acid, a bunch of common infected, or a Witch. The Spitter will shoot balls of stomach acid out of her large mouth which will expand into a large pool upon hitting the ground. She will also leave behind a smaller pool of acid after being killed. This acid is extremely dangerous and can kill a survivor quite quickly. Lastly, the Charger is a new special infected that closely resembles the Tank. With one massive arm, it can throw, charge, bash, beat, punch, and grab survivors. This makes it a huge threat, and should be taken out quickly with top priority.


Left 4 Dead 2 has a total of twenty-three chapters that spread across five unique campaigns, as opposed to the previous game’s twenty chapters. The campaigns Dead Center, Dark Carnival, Swamp Fever, Hard Rain, and The Parish are all somewhat longer and more difficult than all the campaigns in the first game. Depending on the difficulty, completing all five campaigns can take six to eight hours, which is roughly two hours more than the original title. While this is still fairly short, the game makes up for it with the online multiplayer.

Left 4 Dead 2 - CoverThe campaign can be played online with three other players, and Versus and Survival return with the new Scavenge mode. Survival remains essentially the same as it was in the last game, while Versus allows one to take control of the three new special infected (in addition to the old four). This has been made even more thrilling and fun than its previous incarnation, and will certainly be one of the most played modes. The completely new Scavenge mode is a nod towards the finale in the game’s first campaign, Dead Center, where four players must collect sixteen cans of gasoline and fill a generator or car with them, all while avoid the four player-controlled infected. Whichever team wins the most rounds becomes the final, true victor. In addition to these is the Realism mode, which is extremely challenging. Weapons do much less damage, Witches kill in one hit, the blue outline surrounding the other survivors is gone, and it is harder to spot firearms. As in the last game, the online is one of the main focuses of Left 4 Dead 2, and everyone should at one point try it out, for it will provide a satisfying experience to all.

Final Recommendation

Left 4 Dead 2 is simply one of the greatest games of the decade. It improves on every single detail of the original, and everyone who loved the first will love this one even more. The effects of the boycott are evident, as this game has received four times as many pre-orders than the original, and has sold nearly as much as the original did over a year in only two months. And with promised downloadable content, it appears as if Left 4 Dead 2 will become better and better. Though a relatively new series, its fresh take on the zombie apocalypse and exciting gameplay will be adored by gamers for many years to come.


Graphics – 9/10

Audio – 10/10

Story – 8/10

Gameplay – 10/10

Replayability – 10/10

Final Score – 9.4/10

System Requirements

Supported OS:

Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / Vista64


Pentium 4 3.0GHz, Dual Core 2.0, or AMD64X2 (or higher)


1GB for XP / 2GB for Vista

Disc Drive:



128 MB, Shader model 2.0, ATI X800, NVidia 6600 or better

Hard Drive:

At least 7.5 GB of free space

Sound Card:

DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

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Rating: 9.7/10 (7 votes cast)
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Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)
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