Saturday, 20 February 2016

Batman: Arkham Asylum/ Xbox 360



Dna dna dna dna dna dna dna dna Batman!
I just couldn't resist it. It was either that or 'riddle me this, riddle me that, who's afraid of the great big bat?' Every villain in Gotham City might be the answer, but even if this is so, there are some who like to taunt him. In this game the first of a trilogy of Xbox 360 titles it is the Joker doing the taunting along with some familiar nut jobs (such as Harley Quinn) after he manages to get Batman trapped inside the Arkham Asylum, home to many of the criminally insane that have crossed paths with Batman at one time or another; how unfortunate for Batman. The Unreal engine (insert loud clapping) is used for this game (possibly my favourite game engine), giving it a super chiseled look, especially Batman's face and body. 
I was never a huge fan of Batman I must admit, at least not the comics. I watched the TV show that was shown in England when I was a child and some of the cartoons, plus I loved the first two Tim Burton films, but that's as far as it went. After playing this game though, my appreciation of Batman has grown and the rest of the Arkham titles have been invested in.

 The plot

The joker, that smiling old chap, arch enemy of Batman decides that it might be a good idea to trap the Dark Night inside the Arkham Asylum, home to the criminally insane, of whom most have had a run in with Batman at some point in their criminal career. Nightmare scenario for Batman, fun and games for Joker, of which there are twistedly plenty. Escorted into the asylum by a suspicious Batman (suspicious that Joker has purposely allowed himself to be captured), Joker escapes capture letting his plan be known, with the added threat of blowing up Gotham City with hidden bombs should anyone try to step inside the asylum to aid Batman. As the plot develops Batman becomes aware that the reason for Joker's ludicrous plan to hijack the asylum is that he had been secretly funding a project to turn Bane's venom into a more powerful venom called Titan that he plans to take from the asylum's Dr Young and use to create his own army of Bane like henchmen. Making his way through the asylum like a bat outta hell.....Batman must fight his way through a host of Joker's henchmen (some mutated by Titan) as well as some of his most recognised foes, such as Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and Bane to name a few, whilst attempting to re-apprehend the Joker.

The Criminal's


The Joker

Total nut job, dresses like a clown, real name Jack Nicholson (not really), loves winding Batman up and generally causing mayhem for no other reason than he can. Lures Batman into a trap as part of his plan to take Titan from Dr Young. Final boss that Batman must face after Joker jacks himself up on Titan and turns into a rather scary looking crackhead. Voiced by Luke Skywalker. 

Harley Quinn

Total nut job, dresses like a jester, real name Harleen Quinzel, has a soft spot for Joker (in her panties), dislikes Batman simply because she wants to win the Joker's approval. Taunts Batman throughout the early stages of the game until finally getting knocked on her pretty little backside and locked in a cell.

Victor Zsasz

Total nut job (bit of a theme developing), looks like Dhalsim from Street Fighter, escapes with the patients at the beginning of the game and gets his ass kicked pretty quick when Batman rescues the doctors Victor has taken hostage.

Bane


Full of rage and steroids (venom), which explains the rage that is generally directed towards Batman, Bane has been the subject of Dr Young's experimentation in attempting to make a super venom from the steroid that gave Bane his superhuman strength. As Batman is about to cut Bane loose, Joker decides to pump him full of titan, which sends him rampaging towards Batman, who then hands his ass to him on a plate (without a fork to eat it).

The Riddler

Real name Jim Carrey (joking), Edward Nigma only appears in the game as a voice that taunts Batman about how he will not be able to solve all of his riddles and therefore not find all of the hidden trophies, question marks and links to criminals who are in the game in one form or another. 

Scarecrow

Total nut job (surprise), Dr Jonathan Crane (not Frasier's brother) likes to fill people full of fear, using his fear inducing toxins, of which he inflicts on Batman at various points throughout the game, sending him into a nightmare game of cat and mouse with the Scarecrow each time, before Scarecrow is finally snatched from the sewers and gobbled up by Killer Croc.

Killer Croc


Living down in the sewers of the asylum is another freakish character with a hatred of Batman (yet another theme developing), going by the name of Waylon Jones or Killer Croc as he is also known because of a skin condition that has given him a reptilian appearance. He would like nothing more than to chew down on Batman, but finds himself settling on Scarecrow before being blasted even further below the sewers when attempting to chase Batman down. 

Poison Ivy

Perhaps the most challenging of all the boss battles and not because her striking appearance is distracting, but more due to the fact that she is aided by Titan enhanced plants that spit poisonous energy balls at you as you dance about attempting to strike at Pamela Lillian Isley whilst knuckle sandwiching the zombified guards that are also coming at you..... It's a lot to deal with all at once. It's quite an ungrateful assault on Batman given that he set Ivy free earlier on in the game.

A few more criminals appear in cameo roles, but the above pretty much covers the main ones.


Game-play (Third Person Action Adventure)

Oh there is so much fun to be had in this game...... So much. I will start by saying that this is the first game in a long time that has made me what to get all OCD and complete it 100%. Part of doing this is to crack all of Edward Nigma's riddles of which clues are scattered all over the asylum with trophies hidden also. It isn't just a straightforward game of hide and seek either. You will have to use Batman's detective skills as well as his gadgets, only being able to find certain trophies once certain gadgets have been upgraded or when certain areas of the asylum have become accessible. This is the main side quest of the game, which can be finished up once the main story has been completed as you will still be able to go back into the game and collect what you may of missed whilst fighting your way towards the Joker. The storyline is deep (written by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini) and well thought out with graphics and voice acting that give the look of an actual Batman graphic novel and the sound of an actual Batman cartoon; Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) voices Joker which gives you an idea of how seriously the developers have taken it. Despite the game taking place in one location-the grounds and buildings of the asylum, there is lots to explore, with enough playing time to keep you hooked for at least 8 hours, with the added challenge mode that unlocks more levels as you progress through the main game. In the main game, as well as knocking out asylum inmates (Bats doesn't kill people), some pumped full of Titan, you will every so often have to look for clues using Batman's detective skills, which will normally lead you into a boss battle and then further on into the asylum. Every so often Batman will become marked on body and suit, giving the authentic appearance that he has indeed been in battle. The fighting system is easy to get to grips with, as is most of the actions you will take, but difficult to master in terms of creating huge strings of combos when fighting which will get you more points and help you to upgrade gadgets and body armor more quickly. It is very pleasing to be able to create such varied combos with a slow mo finish when hitting the last of your enemies. Using Batman's gadgets is a fun way to get around and to investigate your surroundings with certain ones upgradeable. Overall the whole experience of playing Arkham Asylum is highly enjoyable and playable for non Batman fans as well as the fanatics (I've seen the cosplay). The look of the game is what you'd expect if you are familiar with any game made on the Unreal engine and the sound is nothing short of movie quality.


The Gadgets

Batarang- Comes as one, two and then three which can be thrown to stun enemies or detach things from the environment, such as ropes. You can also knock switches and smash the chattering Joker teeth that can be found around the asylum and ticked off of the Riddler list. You can also upgrade to a remote controlled Batarang and a Sonic Batarang that emits a sound beacon that will attract the attention of a nearby enemy.

Explosive Gel- Can be applied to structural weak spots, then detonated to blow holes normally in walls. You can also use it to stun enemies. It can be upgraded to give more applications in a single use, as well as being able to go off when an enemy is close by.

Batclaw- Used primarily to open grates that cannot be otherwise reached it is also a handy gadget for pulling enemies towards you or off of ledges. Once upgraded to the ultra Batclaw, you can use it to pull down walls you would otherwise have to blast, meaning that you can get into more areas that are out of Batman's normal reach.

Cryptographic Sequencer- Used to access control boxes by way of hacking into them (simple). You can upgrade it's power and range.

Line Launcher- Used to travel long distances quickly and to get from a to b, when getting from a to b doesn't seem possible.


Batman Arkham Asylum scores a 10 out of 10
For the second time in my writing about games that I play I have given a game a 10. This game is near perfect with some heavy hitting names in terms of its development and publishing. It has everything that a great title has.

Feel free to comment if you have played this game. Catch me online as CarlosJuanWolf, often streaming on Twitch and Ustream.
For Twitter heads hit me up @DanLumma 






   



  


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Silent Hill: Downpour/ Xbox 360


My First thoughts upon playing this game....
I love that the Unreal engine was used for what is the 8th instalment in the Silent Hill series of survival horror games. Konami really do stay true to what makes a good survival horror and with Downpour and Vatra Games who developed it, the true elements stay, along with a huge improvement in how it looks. However, I couldn't help but think during the first 10 minutes of playing, that the graphics are so tidy that it has taken some of the creepy atmosphere away that I have been used to in the Japanese titles, which almost have a black and white feel to them; It does grow on you though. After a while I really began to appreciate the clean cut look that comes with the Unreal game engine. Secondly the movement of the main character Murphy appears at first to be very similar to the movement of characters from titles 2 to 4, although a lot freer due to being able to move the camera as well as the player, something that you couldn't do on the older generation consoles. So the game I felt is a mixture of old and new that gives a little something for both old and new players of Silent Hill.

Let's get stuck into the game.
I am beginning to get the feeling that a lot of the inspiration for Silent Hill games, if not in the beginning, then possibly in later years, has come from the series of films titled A Nightmare on Elm Street, as there has been an uncanny resemblance with a theme of child killing, paedophiles and burning. After a little bit of research I found out that there are many references to the whole horror genre in Silent Hill games, but none specific to the above mentioned films.     

The Plot 

Protagonist, jailed convict Murphy Pendleton, is transferred to another prison after making a deal with a corrupt officer that allowed him to kill a paedophile that used to be his neighbour. (Not quite your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman). On the way to the new prison, the bus transferring the inmates along with Murphy loses control and crashes badly. Awakening from the crash, Murphy finds himself alone and begins to make his way through the surrounding woodland only to be confronted by officer Anne Cunningham, who was on the bus (she hates him). Anne unfortunately slips and falls from a cliff edge whilst attempting to apprehend Murphy, leaving Murphy to continue on his way. Long story short, Murphy ends up tripping out (so it appears at first) whilst making his way through the woods, a diner and then a mine, before ending up in (you guessed it) Silent Hill, shitting himself and wondering about the other characters and monsters he has met along the way and in particular how it was possible that Anne showed up again, even though he had watched her fall to her death about 10 minutes prior to her second coming.

Gameplay

Ah....the disappointing letdown of being sucked into a game only for it to become a journey of frustration. So much so that it may be a game that ends up on the pile of games I may complete one day if I should happen to somehow run out of games to play. Quickly glancing at the ever growing mountain of games next to my games station, it isn't likely to happen anytime soon should that indeed be the case.

I have an unwritten rule that if a game, film or music album doesn't have me within the first 5 minutes of play, then it is likely to never be played again. Silent Hill, Downpour, sucker punched me after luring me in with the promise that I would quickly be victorious in completing the game. That sucker punch is the fact that once you get into Silent Hill the game becomes an absolute fanny on of having to play hide and seek every time that the rain begins to come down heavily, which happens to be the favourite time for the monsters to come out and it also happens to be for the monsters what spinach is to Popeye (crack cocaine). Coupled with the poor fighting mechanics, the monsters can quite easily get the better of you. Add to this the shoddy weapons that can be picked up everywhere and broken within a few hits of a monster or a few blocks of a monster's attack, you will most likely find yourself running and hiding more than actually attempting to progress in the game. Sure this is the idea of Downpour and the reason for the title, but it happens so often (the rain pouring down) that it takes the horror element out of the game, replacing it with sheer frustration instead of fear. On the plus side it does still have some creepy moments, but none as creepy as it's 360 predecessor, Homecoming.
       
It begins with great promise. Once I realised that it was made on the Unreal engine, I got super excited. It looks fantastic, a little similar in feel at times to Alan Wake. There is an early warning sign when taking out the paedophile in the showers at the beginning of the game (interpret that as you like), that the fighting mechanics are potentially going to be a little cack handed, but you can easily overlook this as you are mesmerised by how the game looks. My suspicions turned out to have some truth as I realised just how much time you can spend trying to defend yourself with a weapon, rather than use it to hit your intended target. In Homecoming, you didn't have a huge amount of weapons choice, but you did have lasting weapons and the ability to lock onto enemies and roll around them to get out of the way of incoming attacks. In Downpour, it just feels as though you are going to get done in every time that you fight and that no weapon is going to last long enough to be appreciated. My little snigger when prompted to escape Silent Hill upon entering, in hindsight was just. There is also the absence of regular composer Akira Yamaoka, leaving the usual haunting sounds that have accompanied Silent Hill games of the past a little flat, although Daniel Licht makes a good attempt and does have some horror pedigree, having worked with Clive Barker in the past. I can give the game the credit of being as close to an original survival horror as can possibly be these days, given that games such as Resident Evil are moving further and further away from their roots and even Homecoming was more action than survival. With this said, perhaps my frustrations lie with the fact that it has been a long time since I have had to play a game so cautiously and that all of the gun blasting Resident Evil titles of recent years have taken away some of my survival skills or perhaps the game is just pants, disguised by the beauty of the unreal engine or my ability to play this game is pants and maybe I need to go back to basics and relearn how to survive. Whatever the case may be, for now I am going to end the review on this......
I feel like the plus of this game, is that it shows what a really great new generation console Silent Hill could be like. In reality it doesn't appear that we will be getting a new one anytime soon (at least not from Konami). The downside of this game is that it is so frustrating to progress in that it makes me not want to continue playing. I haven't even spoken about the puzzles or the side quests, simply because I have been turned off so much by what I have played so far (I last felt like this when playing Dead Rising). In short, lets leave the horror games to the Japanese and hope that another great Silent Hill comes to us soon.


   Silent Hill: Downpour scores a 6 out of 10 for it's looks alone and may boost up another point if I happen to have enough patience to complete it. If I do, I will also update this review.