Archive for October, 2011
It would have been virtually impossible to predict the enormous success of 2009′s Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was an amazingly well-crafted game, a spectacular tribute to Batman, and a huge commercial success propelling developer Rocksteady to overnight celebrity. I remember saying to my roommate at the time that, “A sequel to this game would either have to be the exact same game or be way worse.” Turns out I was right.
Batman: Arkham City is nearly identical to its predecessor. In fact, I’ve never seen a sequel to a game be this similar to the preceding title, ever. In many, many ways, this is not a bad thing. Arkham Asylum is a ridiculously good game and the same can be said about this one. However, no game is without flaws and the carbon copy job present here inherently drags along all of Asylum’s issues.
If I had one major gripe about both games, it would probably be the load times. Initial boot up can take somewhere around three minutes. But the worst of it comes from deaths. Dying in either game means you’re treated to a pretty cool, few second clip of one of the game’s villains insulting you. Unfortunately, you have to wait these out every single time you die, then hit retry, and finally wait out a loading screen. It can take 3o seconds from death to respawn and that’s quite a while in a game where death is not necessarily infrequent.
When you’re not waiting on the game to load, you’re basically doing the same things you did in Arkham Asylum. Arkham City touts an open world, but in actuality, it’s just a slightly larger than average hub space separating you from several indoor areas. That’s fine considering that a true open structure would probably ruin a game like this. Rocksteady’s trademark pacing has certainly not waned. Even when you’re wandering around to the next building housing your objective, you can drop in on side missions or just beat the bejeezus out of some thugs.
Therein lies Batman’s greatest asset. The universally praised, best in class combat system is back and virtually unchanged. Double counters exist to help deal with those pesky moments when multiple attacks are in-bound but overall the system is exactly what it used to be: you doling out the harshness in the way only Batman can. Random, unarmed thugs are still practically fodder but you’ll run into some trouble against enemies wielding firearms, knives, shields, and stun batons in the later hours. It’s those moments when you’re stringing together knockout blows, dodges over imminent threats, and throwing a quick batarang to take out a distant marksman that give you that unrivaled feeling of truly being Batman.
Outside of combat, Batman: Arkham City still hasn’t changed much from the original. The visual effects are identical and the minute-to-minute exploration is, as well. The “predator” stealth sequences exist and they still give you that feeling of being a dangerous predator lying in wait as opposed to an outnumbered, hiding weakling. There are many gameplay contrivances to make this system work, but it’s totally worth it every time you swoop down from a gargoyle and scoop up an enemy from nowhere. This of course is aided by the Caped Crusader’s Detective Vision, allowing the player to see through walls and glean information such as whether or not an enemy is armed. Thankfully, Arkham City has fewer situations where you can rely solely on this mode. It’s a great-looking game so it’s nice that you don’t have to block out all that awesomness with the effects of Detective Mode. Be warned that this is the Unreal Engine at work so texture pop-in does blemish the magnificent facade. That said, Rocksteady appears capable of making that engine sing better than any other developer out there, Epic included.
The plot to this game doesn’t take as many twists and turns as Arkham Asylum, but it doesn’t hurt the game in any meaningful way. Were I not such a huge fan of the original, I probably wouldn’t have noticed but this game doesn’t have as many water cooler moments. The ending and opening are quite surprising but there’s nothing on the level of the first time you witnessed Killer Croc’s enormous stature back in ’09. Joker’s causing problems again and Batman is going to spend all night dealing with them. Once the story’s over, there are still 400 plus Riddler secrets to lose yourself in, as well as challenge maps. It’s certainly possible to get a good 20-60 hours out of this game to see everything and most of that is worth seeing.
It’s hard to say very much about Arkham City in a review. It has very, very few additions over the last game but it’s copying a near perfect title. If you’re not dying for a brand new experience, and you (like most smart people) just want more Batman, you can’t go wrong here. Being better than one of the best games of all time is a remarkable feat, even if it’s accomplished in an unremarkable way.
So, is it better than…
Batman: Arkham Asylum (its immediate predecessor)? Yes. It has only the slightest few advantages but this is–to an even greater degree–a top-tier, must play game.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (main competitor of Batman: Arkham Asylum for 2009 Game of the Year)? No. Through no fault of its own, I still think it falls short. The constant thrills of Uncharted 2 still best even the highest highs of this effort from the Dark Knight. Arkham City’s still nearly flawless but it’s also still not quite as good.
Every other game of 2011, thus far? Perhaps. Portal 2 is stiff competition but Arkham City slays it on replay value and post-story content.
Value: High. A lengthy story mode and an abundance of challenges, secrets, a new game plus, etc. And honestly, the story mode is good enough to warrant another playthrough anyway. Dozens of hours of content here.
Played as someone who loves Batman and loves this franchise even more. Completed the PS3 version about 1 and a quarter times on Hard difficulty. Did not play any of the downloadable missions because that’s some BS, but that’s another story for another time.
As you know, I read a lot of video game websites and magazines. I recently realized that the main reason people want to read a review is to answer one question: Is it better than _____?
I’m considering removing the Breakdown section from future reviews and instead going with a section that compares the game to other titles. Sometimes they’ll be games of the same series or genre. Other times, they may be games coming out in the same release period. For example, if I would have played Mortal Kombat, Portal 2, and Socom 4 all on the same day since they released on April 19th, I could have said Portal 2 was better than MK, which was better than Socom or what have you. With the fall game season in full swing, it might be really important to know if you should buy Assassin’s Creed Revelations over Skyrim.
I feel like that’s more helpful to someone debating the purchase of a game than how good a game’s graphics and sound are. The Value rating will stick around no matter what, though. That’s an important part of a review to me. Overall, I just want to make sure my reviews make it easier to decide whether or not you should spend your time and money on a game. Let me know via our Facebook page or the comments section if you like the idea. As always, thanks for reading!
Goichi Suda (No More Heroes, Killer 7), Shinji Mikami (creator of Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil 4), and Akira Yamaoka (composer of Silent Hill) walk into a bar and decide to make a game. Only it’s not some triple-A, blockbuster title. It’s the video game equivalent of an Adult Swim cartoon. If that doesn’t properly imply the potential absurdity of this game, perhaps this dialogue exchange will:
“How did you know shooting a goat head would get rid of the darkness?”
“How did you not know? Some demon hunter you are…”
“(Sigh) Just warn me if I have to f*** a horse to unlock a door.”
If that did anything positive for you, you might need to play Shadows of the Damned immediately.
Ninety percent of Shadows of the Damned is pure amusement. You’ll never go for more than five minutes without something weird, funny, vulgar, or just inexplicable happening. At first, a Mature-rated video game with lots of swear words and a perverted sense of humor sounds like a major turn off, but this isn’t Bulletstorm. Shadows made me realize that I can appreciate a good dirty joke in a video game, if it’s well told.
It doesn’t hurt that the game plays pretty well. Suda’s presence is certainly apparent in the insane enemy design and the fact that your main character’s middle name is “F***ing”, but the Mikami style of shooter design is a major reason to like this game. Even though I was expecting some level of similarity, I was still shocked by how much it feels like an upgraded Resident Evil 4. It features that dramatic, over-the-shoulder perspective as well as a laser sight on every weapon as opposed to an on screen crosshair. The changes all push the system towards modern third person shooters. You have things like a roll button, an effective melee attack, and the ability to move while shooting. However it still feels a lot like Resident Evil 4, even down to the ammo readout.
Beyond the pure shooting mechanics, Shadows of the Damned still has some interesting gameplay quirks. Your guns are all actually your floating, flaming, ghost skull companion named Johnson transforming into various firearms. He starts out as a pistol (named the Boner) and can morph into weapons like a shotgun or submachine gun. Each weapon has a secondary fire called a Light Shot which is used to temporarily stun enemies (setting them up for a one-hit execution kill) or solve some of the game’s many puzzles. At times you’ll use the Light Shot to shoot a goat head and remove the life-draining darkness from a room. Other times you’ll use it to simply light a lantern, which scares off weaker enemies. It’s a peculiar mechanic and the game makes sure that by the time you’ve finished its 5-8 hour story, you’ve done pretty much everything there is to do with it.
Every weapon and a few abilities can be upgraded by finding hidden red gems. These “performance enhancers” bring a mild layer of RPG gameplay into the mix; another callback to Resident Evil 4. Overall, you end up with a very solid, fun game that doesn’t necessarily hit every high note when it comes to mechanics, but is certainly not unplayable.
The main reason to play Shadows of the Damned is probably just to have the experience. The back cover defines it as “One Hell of a Trip” and boy, is that appropriate. Shortly after the Tarantino-esque opening you, Garcia “F***ing” Hotspur, venture into hell to rescue your girlfriend. Instead of the fire and brimstone hell we’re all supposed to be afraid of, this hell is more utterly insane than frightening. It has a focus on demon culture so it gives you an understanding of hell’s important matters like what kind of porn demons like. It’s not trying to scare you. It’s trying to enlighten you.
You’ll solve puzzles by finding ethereal strawberries (“The demon fruit”) and shoving them into doors with angry babies as locks. You’ll read children’s bedtime stories describing just how certain bosses became the demons they are today. You’ll hear references to Alanis Morissette songs. And you will be subject to a lot of penis jokes. We’re talking a pj/h of like ten. Your enjoyment of all the random madness and things like demon phone sex lines will undoubtedly measure how much you like or loathe this game. I would just like to say, though, those are some pretty high quality penis jokes.
It’s very easy to recommend Shadows of the Damned to anyone with a sense of humor and a stomach for the disgusting. It plays pretty well, has excellent voice acting, and most importantly provides an incredibly unique, fun-loving atmosphere without being a children’s game.
A good-looking game that suffers from ungodly texture pop-in. It has slick menus, loading screens, and cutscenes which add a lot to the comical vibe.
Superb voice acting drives the jokes home. Music is just fine. Some of the effects put on the demon’s voices to make them sound more demonic can make them hard to hear at times. Play with subtitles on.
Though movement can be stiff at times, the main shooting mechanics feel as good as they did in Resident Evil 4. It relies a bit too much on making you mash a button to open a door or flip switches, though.
The story and storytelling drive this game. Its wacky mood and ridiculous characters are definitely worth experiencing.
It’s a game of decent length with no reason to replay it other than easy Trophies/Achievements, but it’s also really easy to find for a low price.
Played as a skeptic and an avid hater of previous games directed by Suda. Completed on medium difficulty about 1.5 times on the PS3 version.
Just a few hours after our review for Resistance 3 went live, the magical patch to help address that game’s Move controls has landed on an internet near you. As a person who was fighting hard for Insomniac Games to even acknowledge these issues, I feel somewhat relieved that they’ve finally been resolved. It took more than a month but you can officially pick up that Sharpshooter and shoot you some aliens!
The third main entry in Insomniac Games’s Resistance franchise feels much more like an original game than a sequel. Throughout the series, each sequel has been very different from the game preceding it, but the differences between the first two Resistance games are small compared to the changes made this time. Joe Capelli’s struggle to revive humanity and take Earth back from an alien threat is a harrowing journey, but that’s not all there is to Resistance 3.
Years after the events of Resistance 2, the Chimera have officially won the war for our planet. There are less than 3 million humans left and over one billion Chimera. It’s a bleak scenario that creates a unique setting for a modern, first person shooter. Most shooters are about war. They highlight large troop counts, massive explosions, and the feeling of being part of a military squad. Resistance 3 is a shooter about survival.
The typical combat sequence in this game is an intimate, concise affair. You’ll battle about five or six enemies at a time in intense firefights. This is an Insomniac game so there are of course ridiculous weapons. This time around, the weapon wheel seen in Resistance: Fall of Man and the Ratchet and Clank titles returns, allowing for lots of tactical decision making. On top of that, each weapon evolves with use (another callback to Ratchet) so choosing the right gun plays a major role. Shotguns are always great for slaying the zombie-like Grims but shotguns that shoot flaming rounds are good for everything. Many of the upgrades are really cool so it’s worth upgrading some of the less useful weapons just to see what they’ll do to the Chimera scum. That sniper rifle can shoot lasers through walls.
Between shootouts, you’re exploring areas reminiscent of a horror movie. It’s in these moments that Resistance 3’s single player campaign sets itself apart from other shooters. The quieter parts are intense and foreboding. Eerie music, thick fog, tight corridors, and creepy sound effects make the game thrilling even when you aren’t killing things. It appears the developers were genuinely interested in making the Chimera a fearsome foe as opposed to just…aliens. The same attention is paid to making sure you feel the desperation of humanity in this story. Capelli is all but forced to go off and fight the Chimera again, not because he’s a gruff military man with a boner for murder, but because his family is on the brink of starvation. At several points, he almost completely gives up his quest due to the overwhelming odds. The storytelling is far from perfect, but there are moments of emotional depth you’d never get out of Halo or Call of Duty. It’s evident that Insomniac Games ran out of either time or inspiration in the game’s final act, but overall this is one of the finest single player campaigns to grace a first person shooter in the last decade.
With all the effort put into the campaign, you might wonder if any attention was placed on Resistance 3’s multiplayer design. After spending over a dozen hours with competitive multiplayer in R3, I can safely say I am still wondering. This is where the game starts to become totally baffling.
It starts with the player count. Resistance: Fall of Man featured 40-player matches. Resistance 2 boasted 60-player games with virtually no lag. Resistance 3 barely manages to host 16-player matches steeped in frame rate drops, glitches, and lag. As of this writing, nearly a full month after release, Insomniac is still releasing major patches to make this game reliably functional. I doubt they’ll ever address the multitude of gameplay balancing issues. As the 1.2 GB of required patches on day-one indicated, the technical side of multiplayer is just bad.
Unfortunately it isn’t the cute “Look how comically buggy this awesome game is!” type of bad, either. The technical performance of Resistance 3 online is frustratingly bad. For example, the game locks up for about half a second every time you die. This doesn’t sound that terrible initially, but consider you literally won’t know what hit you because the moment your life bar drops, the game freezes. The conceptual design of multiplayer here is a complete mess as well. There are dozens of pointless, misguided ideas represented. Why is there an automatic respawn in a game that lets me choose loadouts while I’m dead?
The first two Resistance games on PS3 pioneered many unique online mechanics. This one has simply grafted Call of Duty’s systems into the world of Resistance in the crudest, most sloppy way possible. From the way scoring works in a Team Deathmatch, to the kill cam, this copy-and-paste job is impossible ignore. You remember how Call of Duty games have preset “classes” until you hit level four or five and unlock Create a Class? Remember Prestige mode? It’s all here. CoD multiplayer has inspired lots of copycats such as Homefront or Quantum of Solace but Resistance 3 online has to be the most egregious offender. Hell, they didn’t even bother to give the Kill Streaks a snazzy, Resistance-sounding name. They’re just called Kill Streaks! It’s like they said, “Hey, you’ve played Call of Duty. You know what the hell this is. Shoot each other.”
A part of me realizes that innovation is overrated. Video games are sometimes about evolving a concept, without necessarily reinventing the wheel. Resistance 3 isn’t evolving Call of Duty’s multiplayer suite. It’s imitating it poorly. This is the Fruity-O’s to CoD’s Fruit Loops.
Rounding out the package is cooperative mode. If you played Resistance 2, you’re no doubt chomping at the bit for more of that game’s MMORPG style of co-op. Too bad. Resistance 3 co-op is Resistance 3 single player with another person. It can be played online, so I guess that’s good. The mode is very clearly just another box to mark off on the FPS checklist as it doesn’t work its way into the story at all. Everyone in the cutscenes refers to you, Joseph, as one man even though there’s a random invisible second person there. It’s reminiscent of old-school game design and it’s downright laughable. The powerful tension built up when you experience this campaign alone is ruined when you have another player around unless they’re silent and unnoticeable…but then why have the other player around?
Resistance 3 is just a difficult game to recommend. The abrupt, meaningless finale is especially disappointing if you consider that it’s the end of a trilogy. The much-anticipated multiplayer is surprisingly unfinished. The co-op campaign just isn’t. At full retail price, it’s almost impossible to suggest anyone buy this game even if the campaign gives you 12 hours of greatness unless you can stomach the broken multiplayer.
I almost forgot the most infuriating part of Resistance 3. Currently the game is sold as a standalone game or in the “Doomsday” edition. The $150 upgrade nets you a PlayStation Move controller as well as the Move Sharpshooter accessory. I’ll be the first to champion the Move controller and its implementation in shooters but in this particular game, it’s useless. Due to some oversight in the design of the game’s Move controls, zooming in the while using the motion controller makes it nearly impossible to hit a target. Shooting “from the hip” is as great as it is in titles like Killzone 3 but using any sort of scope effectively is impossible. This obviously means you can’t use the PlayStation Move in this game for online play.
It took three days and literally thousands of comments, emails, and tweets to get Insomniac to even acknowledge these issues. They’ve promised some sort of fix but as of now, no changes have been made. That means if you buy this game for $150 you can’t use the controller you paid $90 extra for.
Resistance 3 is a graphical stunner and one of the best looking games on the market. Offline, there’s a consistent frame rate and even online the characters and environments are great. Menus are nice to look at as well.
Great voice work, top tier sound effects, and the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard in the genre.
The setup and 80% of the campaign are great but the ending is among the worst.
Mechanically this is a top-tier shooter. Go online and it all falls apart. Lackluster character progression and perks are all either unoriginal or poorly implemented.
An unfinished multiplayer game with a great, but certainly not must-play single player campaign. I simply can’t recommend buying it.
Played as a die hard Resistance fan. Completed single player twice and played around 20 hours online. Used the Move until I literally couldn’t progress without switching to a standard controller. Did not try 3D, but I hear it’s 3D.