Batman: Arkham City
(Wait, wasn't this supposed to be Katawa Shoujo?) This is...actually, this isn't very far off from plowing a girl without arms, but it isn't entirely close, either. Next week, then, I suppose. But why the hell am I complaining about this? Yea, it sucks that I can't talk about 's recent love in this blog (I have plans for Katawa Shoujo), but why the hell should I care? I'm talking about Arkham City. I'd say that's a fair trade-off, but I don't really want to undersell Arkham City.
After all, Arkham City's got a cool story, too. (It even comes with an unlockable synopsis for lazy bloggers like myself.) I'd say something about it being a sequel to Arkham Asylum, but the game doesn't put a lot of weight on this. It's just the Mad Doctor's motivation for making the Superjail-esque Arkham City, really. I'd also say that this provides Batman some motivation for beating up the villains, but he already has a perfectly good motivation: beat up Asylum's table scraps or die. That's not a joke; the Joker poisons him, and the only cure is a fist in Nolan North's Cockney face. Along with a ton of other villains, because holy shit, are there a ton of villains in this game. Just go look at the wiki for it, because that number is too high for me to count. Surprisingly, though, most of them get a decent amount of the spotlight. Sure, the Joker and the Penguin hog a lot of that spotlight because they're the most recognizable villains, but even the more obscure ones get some love. Ra's al Ghul gets a pretty cool flying level in a prog rock Dali painting; the Mad Doctor has a pretty entertaining stealth section near the end; oh, and did I mention how much I love the Mr. Freeze boss battle? Unfortunately, the fun times are not to last (wait, that's a sentence I'll have to contradict later), as not all the villains get their share of the limelight. In fact, I'm almost certain that some of the villains only showed up because of some corporate quota. Oh, and I'm not talking about the villains who only exist for sidequests, like Victor "Pain in the Ass to Type" Zsasz or the Riddler (I actually love that guy); I'm concerned with villains who serve some role in the story...sort of. Just look at the Mad Hatter: this is his entire role in the story. Again, that's not a joke. Solomon Grundy gets it even worse, but to be fair, Solomon Grundy sucks. His entire characterization is a nursery rhyme, and I've already spent longer than that just describing him.
But the game isn't all about the villains, even if they constitute 99% of the game. There's also the 1%: Batman. (Occupy Gotham. There. I beat you to the obvious.) In that respect, this game is kinda...weird. The Batman of Arkham City occupies this strange place between old "galloping [WORD THAT BEGINS WITH G], Batman" Batman and new "growl out each word as threateningly and seriously as possible" Batman. (Although on that subject, it is disconcerting to watch Batman talk to people, since he emotes like the type of person who finds emotion to be a waste of time.) First, the more modern Batman. The totally serious Batman. The-I should stop talking like this. I'm trying to say that this game takes itself very seriously, willing to point out flaws with its own train of thought. Like at the beginning, when Bruce Wayne gives a speech in front of a city populated entirely by criminals. Guess how that turns out? If you couldn't figure it out, get out. Now.......But at the same time, some elements of past Batman manage to sneak their way into the game. Nothing as bad as seeing "WHIFF!" or "ZAM!" pop up with each blow, but Batman is certainly more willing to kill people than Batman should be. For example, there's this one point where Batman decides to put Mr. Freeze's life on the line because...I think it has something to do with the Penguin? It's not like the reason is necessary, given that willingness to kill I brought up before. Now don't take that as a criticism against the game or anything; hell, I effing love it. It introduces this new moral dilemma to Batman that I haven't seen before in what little I've seen of the franchise. Combine that with the "city of criminals" motif that I hope you've caught onto by now (unless you ignored my earlier instructions), and the game takes on a whole new level of depth that I don't think Rocksteady anticipated. That probably explains why what comes just before the ending turns out to be so disappointing (without spoiling anything, that moral quandary thing has no consequences on ol' Bats), but why the hell should I care? The story's already awesome enough as it is, and the ending makes u-
Maybe I should actually talk about how the game plays, at some point. Awesome........More than that? OK. What to talk about? How about the
Arkham city aspect of the game? Now remember how I sort-of implied that the city itself was important to the game thematically? Well, it's also important to the game from a gameplay standpoint, since it turns the game into Batman's Creed: Revelations, somewhat. Alright, so you can't jump into a pile of guards and just go to town on them (more on that soon enough), but holy hell, is there a lot to do in this game. I'm not even sure I can list it all off, mainly because of how much there is to do. There's even a sidequest or something that requires you to play the game once a day for a year. Obviously, I didn't do it, mainly because I'm not insane enough to fuck with my Xbox 360's clock 365 (or possibly 366) times just for a minor sidequest. My point is that there's a lot to do in this game, and plenty of reward, too Granted, it's just experience and new-ish gadgets, but a reward's a reward, damn it, even if it is just Batman going Other M with his gadgets. But it's not like the game is entirely Saints Row: The Bat. Remember that this is a sequel to the fairly guided Arkham Asylum, and Rocksteady would be stupid to give up what made that game awesome. This means that Arkham City is also a fairly guided experience. Hell, I think Batman (or at least his completely useless butler) holds it against me whenever I decide to hunt for Riddler trophies or have Vietnam-esque flashbacks to Superman 64. I don't know why. It's not like I'm wasting his time or anything. Has he seen Arkham City? It's not as big as it looks, at first. Either the diameter of the city is about three yards, or Batman can glide faster than a hatchback. So yea, the open world is more flavoring than the actual meat of the game.
So what's the actual meat of the game? Beating dudes the hell up. Seems pretty obvious, given that 90% of upgrades are combat oriented and the 10% that aren't eventually circle back into combat, but holy hell, does this game do an amazing job of just this alone! What do I like about it so damn much? Well, first off, the free flowing nature of it. I don't know how Rocksteady managed to pull it off, but every encounter possesses this unique flow that makes things so damn fun. It's just so easy to jump from baddie to baddie in the middle of a fight. Wait, easy? I'd hardly use that word to describe the combat. Go ahead and try to button mash your way through combat. Now tell the class what happened.....Screw it, I'll say it: you died. You died because you fingered the X button like a ridiculously aggressive lover. Your combo meter also struggled to get past the decimals, but the point is that you died in combat. So how do you win at Arkham City? Well, you have to pay attention to your surroundings and respond with the appropriate action, like countering when there's a guy with smelly blue lines, or taking another guy down when there's nobody with smelly blue lines. You better start whipping out your gadgets, too, if you want all that savory EXP from your hard fought battles. (Don't bullshit me. You died in front of an imaginary class; clearly, your battles are very hard fought.) IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE COMBAT IN THIS GAME!? Wait, there isn't? Seriously? Well.....uh....well, shit. Congrats for being so perfect, Arkham City's combat.
Oh, and there's
multiplayer stealth. I'd say that it sucks, but I know where to draw the line. I mean, it's at least competent with what it does. I'll just say that I'm not a huge fan of it. Now why would I say that? Well, to be perfectly honest with you guys, it's just way too goddamn easy. Every stealth situation eventually devolves to the same strategy: find a perch (why does Gotham have such a boner for Gothic architecture that they feel the need to shove it into steel mills, of all places?), turn on Oingo Boingo vision, wait for somebody to break from the group, knock them out cold, and retreat to a gargoyle before anybody catches on. That gets boring pretty fast. Actually, I feel guilty about saying all this, but not because I'm factually wrong or anything. (Did you really think it would be that?) Rather, it's because the game probably knows that everything I've said is true, and it's trying its hardest to fix this. As soon as it realized that I was camping on gargoyles for 90% of the experience, it started throwing thermal goggles at me to keep me from hiding in the not-very-dark dark. (It also threw mines at me, but since this isn't Goldeneye 007, they weren't very effective.) Granted, Arkham City never stopped to realize that those things are useless when you can loudly grapple to a gargoyle that isn't turning blue, but the point is that it was trying to get me to do something different. It didn't work, though. Eventually, the game said "fuck it" and got rid of gargyoles for some of the encounters. Obviously, this was when I had to start improvising, and it was also when the feature became far more fun. I actually had to pay more attention to my surroundings, not only to avoid the bad guys, but also to beat the fuck out of them in the quietest fashion possible. Yet that doesn't change those things I said before, does it? You know, those things about the stealth being stupidly easy?
And as long as I'm complaining about the game, let me throw out a fucking strange complaint: it's way too...corporate. What the hell do I mean by that? Well, let me open the game up and reveal its contents. First up:
the game disc a catalog. Just what I like to see in something I've bought with money: advertisements. And it's not even for stuff that would affect my experience with the game (more on that in a bit), but shit like Arkham City hats and 3D glasses and action figures. You know, for the audience playing this T-rated game. Next up: a beta key for Gotham City Impostors. I haven't a clue what that means (is it like Team Fortress 2, but with Batmen?), so let's move on. To the DLC codes, to be specific. Now I could be an asshole and go off on a tangent about how the industry is evil for hating the used game market (I think I can sum it up with good ol' Shinra music), but I honestly have no problem with that. It doesn't affect my expe-and THAT is where I get angry. My god, this game is insistent with its day 1 DLC. Every time I load up the game, it pesters me about getting Catwoman into the mix. Can't I just enjoy being the Dark Knight? Isn't that enough? Apparently not, because I feel like the game holds that against me. There were plenty of times when I'd try to pick up a pink Riddler trophy, only for Mr. Nigma to scold me for trying pick up Catwoman's little surprise. Then I get a message telling me to buy the damn DLC, doing its damnedest to take me out of the experience (although the inadvertent justification for how the Riddler manages to keep bums from pawning off the trophies he plants in hobo camps does a bit to draw me back in). Funnily enough, the game isn't nearly as intrusive about Robin content, possibly because not even the developers like Robin that much. Finally (because this is getting a bit lengthy, although that seems to be becoming the norm), the manual, or lack thereof. No gameplay information, and it's all printed on a single sheet of paper. They dedicated more paper to the catalog than they did to the manual that tells you (or should tell you) how to play the damn game. Let that sink in for a moment. Now if you think I hold something against this game after all the mean words I said in this paragraph, you've clearly forgotten all the nice words I spent the past many paragraphs rambling about.
- It's as Batman as ever.
- I'm jealous of how this game is able to stuff so much into itself yet still do it so damn well.
- Might as well complain about how the manual is just a sheet of paper with "piss off" written on it.
Hey, guys, remember my last blog? Here's how it could have been much worse:
And that's why you won't see any voiced video content from me until my...how about my 400th blog?
Resident Evil: Survivor
(Wait, did I not remember my last blog?) I mean, I did a Resident Evil game last week, so now is WAY too soon to cover another one. Well, if it worked for Valis games, then it works for Resident Evil, I guess. So, anyway, Resident Evil: Survivor. It's apparently the worst reviewed Resident Evil ever, and one of the few games to be released on my birthday (fuck you, Earth). That said, it's still better than Code: Veronica X.
Although it's no less stupid. No more stupid, but still pretty dumb. The game takes place quite a while after the first three Resident Evil games, but that is in no way relevant to anything that happens in the game. Why am I saying it? Only because the game says it, which it does because..I have no fucking clue. Anyway, this guy arrives in a city and forgets who the hell he is. Then somebody calls a payphone and tells him who he is, despite not knowing anything about the guy. Of course, our protagonist is a gullible bastard, so he instantly believes what the random schmuck on the other end of the phone says. Too bad this means taking the role as bad guy...sort of. This would make for an interesting story of redemption if it was actually a story of redemption. Unfortunately, that's not really the case. It's more the protagonist occasionally bitching about how his past life sucked so hard while people treat him like an asshole. Actually, that's an odd way of putting it, because the protagonist's past self (Vincent....I should have said that earlier) was a huge asshole. A cartoonishly, unrealistically huge asshole. He spends half the backstory just killing people because...actually, that's not made clear until the very end, possibly because somebody remembered where they last saw his characterization. Of course, all of this would be easy to overlook if the story was at least presented competently. If. I'd say something about the graphics, since it's full 3D (again, suck it, Code: Veronica X) and people animate less like people and more like slow motion marionettes, or the iffy translation, but I'm more interested in the voice acting. If you thought the animation was wooden, that's probably because I told you as much, but the voice acting is pretty wooden, too. It feels like the voice actors had to figure out what "emotion" means as they go along. It's equal parts funny and painful. So it's pretty Resident Evil, at least in that regard.
So why do I sort of like it, again? Well, because it's essentially a streamlined Resident Evil game. So streamlined, in fact, that it's very possible to beat it in under an hour. Part of that is because the game is so damn linear that I'm confused as to why this wasn't just a straight line. OK, there are a few branching paths, but what I mean is that you don't stop for anything in this game. Just rub up against whatever key you need (it's usually about two rooms away from your current location), ignore the nearby file, and rub up against whatever door was previously locked. I tried backtracking at one point, but the game told me that there was "no need to go back." It's absolutely beautiful. Of course, Survivor isn't a "rub up against shit" game, mainly because I don't think that's even a genre; it's a light gun shooter, as I said a bit earlier. (Actually....I'll get to that in a bit.) What do I need to explain? It's shooting zombies in the head (and only the head); what else is there to explain? Hell, I'm even willing to overlook the fact that enemies regenerate whenever you move between rooms, because in this game, the point is to murder as many things as possible. I know that's pretty shallow, but what more do you want? You have a decent amount of weapons and a decent amount of things that die when you use those weapons; shouldn't that be enough?
And yet I can't help but get the feeling that this game doesn't want me enjoying it in the slightest. Why? Well, first, it controls like crap. Now remember what I said about this being a light gun game? Turns out that when Capcom decided to bring it to America, they forgot to add any light gun functionality. I don't know what they were thinking, because aiming without a light gun is a pain in the ass. Without a light gun of any type, your cursor flies all over the place, and shooting zombies turns into a drunken mess. But let's say that you actually manage to aim at enemy and shoot at them. This is where things get odd. Good news: there's a lock-on feature. Bad news: it makes no sense. Let's say that I shoot a zombie in the head. Rather than lock onto the head I've shot (or simply not lock on at all), the game decides to lock onto the zombie dead center. Only after a few shots does it realize that I never want to change where I'm aiming at a zombie. It seems like the type of decision made by somebody who hates the idea of fun, much like the art of actually moving through the world of Resident Evil Land (I don't exactly remember a lot about the game). Let me be blunt about it: movement is way too goddamn slow. It takes you nine years to pull a full 180, and that's only because there's no quick turn option. This wouldn't be too much of a problem if enemies didn't move so fast. Trust me when I say that a floaty cursor does not make up for sluggish movement when tracking two hell hounds hot on your trail. Oh, and there's no manual reload, because real men shoot at a nearby wall until they've emptied their infinite clip. Thankfully, it's not that long, and I like shooting things far more than I logically should in this situation.
- A dull story told through dull means.
- Fortunately, at its core, it does an OK job of letting you shoot guys.
- Sadly, the game controls like crap.