Tag Archives: Warner Bros

There’s too much trivial chatter in Batman: Arkham City

Twice a month, I go to my local oncology center, sit in a fairly comfy reclining chair, get hooked up to a machine, and have poison, along with other substances, pumped into my body for three to four hours. It’s not exactly what I’d describe as fun, but it is what I have to do to continue living the life I want to live, a life with cancer. I’m never alone there, and sometimes the room is quiet, with everyone reading a book or listening to music or sleeping, as I’m wont to do, and other times it is just bursting with mindless chatter. Thank goodness for headphones. I tell this story because it actually relates greatly to Batman: Arkham City, believe it or not.

Can Batman just get one moment of peace to look out over Arkham City without having to hear some nearby conversation between Goon #1 and Goon #2? Please, it’s all I want. It seems you can’t go anywhere without picking up a stray conversation, and the majority of them are just fluff, nonsensical, pointless chatter to clog up your ear-holes. Someone somewhere is always talking, and it quickly becomes grating. Plus, there are occasional conversations you do need to pay attention to, such as when a political prisoner is being attacked or threatened, as it is a side quest activity, and parsing those out from the clutter can be tough. I don’t remember Batman: Arkham Asylum having this issue, but a lot of the game was spent in-doors, whereas here you are constantly gliding from rooftop to rooftop via a pretty open world brimming with enemies.

That said, I’ll now talk about the game proper. Written by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini with Paul Crocker and Sefton Hill, Batman: Arkham City is inspired by the long-running comic book mythos. In the game’s main storyline, Batman is incarcerated in Arkham City, a huge new super-prison enclosing the decaying urban slums of the fictional Gotham City. He must uncover the secret behind the sinister scheme “Protocol 10,” orchestrated by the facility’s warden Hugo Strange, all while also dealing with a number of other big-name baddies, such as Mr. Freeze, The Penguin, and, of course, The Joker. It plays and feels a lot like Batman: Arkham Asylum, but bigger and more explosive, with more things to do.

The same freely flowing combat from Batman: Arkham Asylum returns here and, while it can feel mashy at times, it does also feel purposeful. Batman can dynamically punch, kick, grapple, and Batarang through crowds of tough guys or, if you get the jump on a solo dude, take him down stealthily. Players gifted with superior button-pressing timing and the clarity of mind–in short, not at all me–can also use Batman’s fist and gadget tools to elevate these brawls into something much more. A violent dance, perhaps. Not all of Batman: Arkham City takes place outside; in locked rooms, Batman is a true predator, stalking enemies from the shadows and plucking them off one by one. I’m much better in these scenarios than I am trying to take on eight unarmed enemies and three guys with guns, all while trying to counter here, punch there, dodge this way, leap that way, etc.

At times, Batman: Arkham City has too many distractions, and I even found myself unable to figure out where to go next for the main mission, having veered off to answer payphone calls and attempt to collect some Riddler trophies. I say attempt because, for many of them, they are quite puzzling and seem like they require tools and abilities I’ve not yet unlocked. I do like that you can tag any Riddler trophy you see and it’ll add it to your map so you can return to it later, if that’s something you want to do. I highly doubt I’ll be going after all the collectibles in this one, despite that being a task I love doing in many other games. My goal is to just get through the story and see how things ultimately unfold for Mr. Wayne.

Currently, I’m in a large museum, trying to carefully make my way across a small pond of frozen ice to save some cops from The Penguin. If you are too reckless or take the wrong path, the ice will break, and a shark will eat Batman. Let me repeat that last part–a shark eats Batman. It’s probably the best thing I’ve seen so far in Batman: Arkham City.

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Small-scale escapades with Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate

Once I’m done with a few other games on my plate, namely Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, I plan to move on and finally play Batman: Arkham City. Well, start it again; I did play a wee bit of it on the ol’ PlayStation 3…uh, some long time ago. Anyways, I got another copy of it in a Black Friday bundle last year with Batman: Arkham Asylum for Xbox One, which I’ve already played and enjoyed, but it was actually cheaper to get both than purchase Batman: Arkham City on its own. Yeah, go figure, right? My cart total came to…$5.33. I’m all about them cheap-o gaming experiences. But that’s not at all what this post is about; I’m here to talk to you about Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, which is a big Batman game on a tiny screen.

Taking place shortly after the events of Batman: Arkham Origins, Blackgate attempts to bridge the story gap between Batman: Arkham Asylum and its recent prequel. In this one, Batman learns of a robbery that leads to his meeting the feline burglar Catwoman. As events quickly unfold, the temptress leads the Caped Crusader to Blackgate Prison, home of Gotham’s criminals who haven’t been deemed criminally insane and consequentially sent to the much more infamous Arkham Asylum. The villains already behind bars, the most nefarious being Penguin, Black Mask, and the Joker, have managed to escape from their cells and take control of the joint. With the rest of the inmates at their employ, Batman must stop the complete takeover of the prison. It’s a decent setup, but it does feel a bit samey when you think of how events went down in Batman: Arkham Asylum.

What is Blackgate, other than a mouthful of a game title? Well, it’s a Metroid-style Dark Knight adventure designed by a few of the top people behind the three Metroid Prime games on GameCube and Wii. Their new studio is called Armature, and this is their big debut. In this, you are the titular Batman, exploring Blackgate Prison, automatically filling out a map as you search for clues about how to get from one part of the game world to the next. As you go, you’ll discover obstacles that are in your way and then, somewhere down the road, find new abilities and gadgetry that let you pass those obstacles. Shocking, I know. Also, there are enemies to fight, and the combat is handled similarly to the main entry series, wherein rhythm and timing is your best bet to remain standing at the end. Blackgate is two-parts detective work and one-third combat.

As I’m wont to do, I played a small amount when I first got Blackgate…and then put it down and completely forgot about it after a few days. Shame on me, but also…that’s just totally me. Well, I loaded it back up recently. My save slot says I’ve played a total of one hour and twenty-four minutes, which puts me at a 21% completion rate. All right then. Thankfully, it immediately told me where to go to next to move the story along–the lighthouse. However, getting there still proved troublesome as I completely forgot all the controls or how anything works, such as using detective mode to find clues in the environments you are navigating. Don’t worry, it eventually all came back to me, just took a few attempts.

While the story itself is not very engaging, the way it is told is super stylish, using somewhat animated comic book-like panels for its cutscenes, with strong voiceover work from the eclectic cast. That said, everything else visually is a bit bland and samey, and many of the environments are simply gray and drab, which makes it hard to know where you are because every place looks identical. There’s a map, but I didn’t find it too helpful when I really needed it; that said, the menus for the cases you are investigating and the gear/armor you have found are nicely done and full of vital information.

I truly intend to keep going with Blackgate and not immediately drop it like a bag of bat guano in a few days, but truth be told all it is doing is getting me excited for the larger-than-life series on the Xbox One, of which I’ve already installed Batman: Arkham City. I suspect I’ll be better at the combat when I can actually see what is going on instead of squinting at a tiny screen and hoping for the best.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #123 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – The Bright Lord

Use Celebrimbor
To brand your way to Sauron
Difficulty spike

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #117 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Ranger-Elf combo
Out to avenge deaths, make ring
Combat mash, plot trash

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Seeking revenge against Sauron’s forces via slow menu screens

gd impressions xbox 360 shadow of mordor

When I heard that a Game of the Year edition of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was coming out, I got the tingles. From my toes to the tip of my ears. That is to say, I felt the time was now right to see what was up with that sleeper-hit that everyone was talking about during the end of 2014’s podcast deliberations. I’m always a sucker for GOTY editions, especially since I’m ten out of ten times late to the party, and these end-all, be-all packages provide me with, ideally, everything I need to get the full experience, such as DLC and now useless pre-order bonuses, just many months later. Count me in.

However, when I got to GameStop and asked the duder behind the counter, he informed me that the GOTY versions were only for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Snartleblast and snakes. Or rather–for the love of Varda! Us ancient tortoises stuck in the “previous generation” were simply out of luck. Still, I had driven all the way over to this brick-and-mortar building and didn’t want to leave empty-handed, and so, with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor still tickling away at my mind, I picked up a vanilla copy of it for the ol’ Xbox 360.

Back during all the praising and glorifying of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were released a month or so after the current generation, with rumblings about how they were altered to not have the Nemesis system, a major element of the game that has you taking down Uruk and Orc captains and watching as the Dark Lord’s army shifts and shapes accordingly. This kept me at bay certainly, but no one seemed to care enough to cover them and confirm this. Well, as far as I can tell, the Nemesis is in the Xbox 360 version, though it might not be as robust or dynamic as the current generation; for example, I haven’t heard any mass of Uruks chanting their leader’s name to intimidate Talion, which is a big bummer.

Grinding Down readers should know how deep my love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s work goes, though many of the vidoegame interpretations fail to impress. I think LEGO Lord of the Rings so far is the only one I feel any kind of amazement towards. Definitely none for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or Aragorn’s Quest. Anyways, from what I’ve gathered, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor does little to enhance Tolkien’s lore, but is still a ton of fun to play. I can concur with that sentiment, with one major caveat: it is a ton of fun to play, but not on Xbox 360.

Five paragraphs in, and I’m now only beginning to talk about the game proper. Welcome to my blog, new readers! This is par for the course. Right, here’s the four-one-one. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an open world, third-person action romp, where the player controls a ranger called Talion who seeks revenge on the forces of Sauron after his wife and son are murdered. Initially, Talion is mortally wounded during this early massacre, but the wraith of the Elven Lord Celebrimbor is able to use his powers to keep Talion alive, gifting him magical, wraith-like abilities in the meantime.

I hate to do this, but I want to get to the part where I rant about this version’s quality so here’s the gameplay in comparison terms: running around the world is like Assassin’s Creed on speed, combat is prompt-heavy and taken from Arkham Asylum, stealth is not very deep, and in between story and side quest missions you can collect plants, artifacts, and ancient runes for experience points and lore. I’m enjoying Talion’s journey so far, but am taking my time to collect what I can and learn the ropes when it comes to fighting large groups of enemies or hunting down nearby captains. In fact, I have to take my time. Yes, thank you, that is a great lead-in into…

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor‘s menus are atrociously slow to load, to the point that I am constantly reaching for my phone to do something while I wait for the opportunity to do something in-game to appear. The problem? You use menus a lot in this digital Middle-earth, whether it is scrutinizing your intel on Sauron’s army, upgrading your weapons with collected runes, unlocking perks for Talion and his skills, or engrossing yourself in the appendices. Oh, and don’t forget the map, if you are interested in seeing what events/collectibles are around you at the moment. It’s so lousy that, at certain points, I’ve had to restrain myself from hitting pause and just go forward without doing whatever I thought I could do quickly. Couple this with textures frequently not loading (or taking forever to load in, even during cutscenes), choppy audio issues, and some hitching, and you have a less-than-impressive version of what many proclaim to be an impressive game. The Xbox 360 version also has a 5 GB mandatory install, which nearly filled up my hard-drive.

That all said, I won’t be moving into the new generation for a good while, certainly not until Fallout 4 is ready to be purchased and played, so this is the best I can do for now. It’s not unplayable, but like with Gandalf’s trepidation about entering the Mines of Moria, I wish there was another way around. For now, I’ll get back to tracking Gollum, freeing slaves, and cinematically slicing off the heads of Uruks with unequivocally cool names.