Batman: Arkham City Trailer dissection.


   
 So I was just checking out No High Scores who had found this new Batman trailer on RPS, who seem to have found it on IGN. Quite frankly, it's pretty awesome.  
 
 I'm really digging the way this trailer works for a number of reasons. It's got a great aesthetic to it, showcasing the mix of gameplay and cinematics that made Arkham Asylum work so well. The music is pretty fantastic and as well as being thematically appropriate has a real gritty buzzing tone to it that sort of reminds me of Angel by Massive Attack. Andof course, there's the gameplay which looks pretty identical to Arkham Asylum, aside from maybe some more set-piece oriented bits such as avoiding helicopters whilst gliding (or, you know, gliding straight onto them.) 
Let's break this down from the beginning:  
"Your presence creates these animals..." 
The trailer opens to credits in classic Warner Bros. style, incorporating their logo (as well as the DC & Rocksteady logos) into the world in question. Worth noting that the images are utilising that really cool black & white colour palette, with heavy emphasis on the white, as if everything has been blasted with light or it's a super snowy day. It's a cool look that's really worked with the advertising so far and sets a really dark tone. 
Hugo Strange appears and muses about the possibility that the reason Gotham City is so screwed up is Batman's fault. It seems that the game is going to be asking questions that you'd expect to see in the Nolan Batman Universe, citing the possibility that all these freaks seek out Batman because, like The Joker from The Dark Knight, they're all the same sort of lunatic, just on opposite ends of the same scale. 
From there we get a brief glimpse at what life is like in the new urban prison. We see thugs kicking each other to the ground without mercy, other lunatics patrolling a great sign that simply reads Arkham City and helicopters performing patrols, likely to keep an eye on the 'inmates'. Most of the thugs seem like the same basic fighters you'll remember from Arkham Asylum but every now and then you'll come across one that is wearing heavy make up with green spray-painted hair. You can guess who they work for. 
Over a radio or intercom a voice rings out "Confirmation of prisoner 4-0 in the courthouse." Implies that there are places that the inmates are not supposed to go within this city, or even that when the authorities need to extract a prisoner, they might need to actually man some sort of a search party. It's all rather speculative at the moment but goes to show that giving prisoners a portion of a city to just go friggin' nuts in is a pretty bad idea. 

    
"You could say we're of two minds..."
Next frame is Two-Face kicking in a door to find Catwoman suspended upside down over a vat of, what looks like, bright green acid. He pulls a gun to her face and growls "Heads or Tails, kitty-cat? He then pulls off his signature coin flip, which is shot from an angle a few feet above him. This whole sequence is really tightly edited and it,along with that aforementioned soundtrack, is what really sets the tone. I'm digging how Two-Face isn't entirely above the odd joke. Although there was nothing wrong with Aaron Eckharts performance in The Dark Knight, I really love how these Batman games are slightly cartoony, just in a remarkably dark fashion. As I said in my review of Arkham Asylum, it's this sensibility that grounds the fiction in the narrative of the old cartoon show, but shows that these games are for the kids who watched that show but have now grown up. 
Batman comes gliding around Gotham, swooping down from great heights, then using his grapple to hoist himself back up before swooping back down again. This appears to be a function similar to that of Just Cause 2, except for physically possible and as a means to simulate flight, as opposed to just grappling the ground so you don't die. Naturally, Bats finds a group of thugs and proceeds to knock the living stew out of them. The freeform combat looks mostly the same, you get to do multiple takedowns at the same time now, which is pretty cool. It probably won't spice up general combat that much but it doesn't especially need to when you consider how amazing the combat was in Arkham Asylum. Post thug-bashing, Batman grapples onto a helicopter and silently hangs onto the landing gear, surveying the city below. 
"It would be a shame to get blood all over my nice new outfit." 
Dropping down, he finds a host of thugs along with my favourite character from Arkham Asylum, Harley Quinn. Appearing now sporting attire much more akin to that of a playing-card themed stripper than a nurse (you can't fault her for appropriate fashion sense) Harley makes a quip before cracking Batman around the head with a freakin' Baseball bat. I don't care if you're Batman, that shit has gotta hurt and it looks like it does as he crumples and the screen does that flashing white thingy that it's been doing every 30 seconds or so. 
 
(For what it's worth, I feel surprisingly little shame when I admit that Harley is just about the most wierdly alternatively hot super villain I've ever seen in a game. I remember when the first screenshots were coming out of her in Asylum and a bunch of fanboys were crying that she's been slutted up too much but I dig on the contrast between being a super-villain and dressing like a prostitute. It adds another level of subconscious darkness to the whole affair.) 
 
We then get a look at Batman, sneaking around being all stealthlike. The Detective Mode is still absolutely in play with this game but seems to almost be a bit more digital, with grids flashing briefly as the UI expands. Next up is a very brief glimpse of Batman gliding amidst a flurry of gunfire. The fire seems too rapid to just be that of an assault rifle, so my guess of turret gun or helicopters. I'm kinda hoping helicopters, because c'mon, how cool would a dogfight as Batman be?! 
 "Purrrfect."
Straight after Batman is back on the ground talking to Catwoman, when he pulls her aside quickly and we see that a green laser was pointed directly at her. Just as she's out of danger a bulletshot echoes and the wall splinters. Evidently, someone wants Catwoman dead in Arkham City, more so than Batman considering he was right next to her the entire time. I'm certainly curious about how that plot thread plays out. "That was dangerous," Catwoman purrs, looking tinto Bats eyes, "I like it." 
From here on, a few more shots of Batman gliding down and then away from an exploding tower or some sort, possibly that of a church. Finally a lush sweeping aerial shot of Batman sitting atop a gargoyle, overlooking the scum of Arkham City, Gotham. 
And then you get a white background with a logo, followed by pre-order and date details along with a message to find them on facebook.  


"I'm an agent of chaos."
After those 'credits' we hear a voice. "It was all a lie. There's nothing wrong with you." 
Enter The Joker, literally walking towards the screen. "Nice of you to say," he grins, "But you of all people should know...there's plenty wrong with me." 
It's good to know that The Jokeris going to be retaining his old psychotic sensibilities but what was apparently not wrong with him? After effects of the venom? Perhaps, he's been declared legally sane? Yeah, sure... 
I suppose we'll all find out in October. 
 
Also posted on A Hundred Worlds A Day on 16th March, 2011
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5 Months In: An Adults Tale...

Fuck, I had something to say here. Any such attempt at a sincere train of thought has probably been sabotaged by my inability to stop looking at my older blogs and thinking to myself "I don't remember writing this at all.". Allow me to adopt whatever style comes to mind to digress my thoughts as I've not had a great deal of writing experience for a few months now. 
 
It's been 5 months since my last blog and the reason is simple: I moved away from home. Leaving the relative comfort of my parents' joint and adopting a certain squalor that comes with moving into a flat/apartment that costs more than it's worth has taken its toll on my bank balance, meaning that I've had to work like a motherfucker and constant work does not leave a great deal of time for blogging. I've also had no internet in this flat which nearly killed me. We should have had it within two weeks but for some reason the provider seemed to decide to not give a flying fuck about what we were paying for. This will[/should] finally change in the next 8 days. I'm not holding my breath. 
Regardless, I beg of you, pity me not too much. I've had my weekly dose of bulk-internet action whenever I stopped by my parents place to download the weekly bombcast. They were genuinely sick of the sight of my during the Game of the Year deliberations as I was naturally stopping by each and every day to get my fix. I'm glad I didn't miss that particular 5 days of aberrant craziness. 
Also, during my blogging absence, I learned to drive (well, passed my test after 2 years of lessons) and turned 20. Although I maintain that I became a real adult in real life for real (like, really) when I moved out, it wasn't until I hit the last day of my teenage years that I finally realised that "Fuck...I can't use the fact that I'm a kid as an excuse anymore...". This still terrifies me. This was made all the more terrifying this morning when I began to understand that I literally cannot sit around watching TV for more than 3 hours on end without falling asleep any more. I'm getting fucking old.
 
So with all this in mind, what's with the lack of blogging? Well, primarily lack of internet access tends to be a pretty big reason as to why. The time that I spent with the internet over the past 5 months I had better things to be doing (such as the aforementioned Game of the Year downloading) but also, I've had very little to write about in a way. For the first few months, I was focused on the Luchazine and anybody who kept up with that knows just how much of an abysmal failure that turned out to be. From then on, I've been focusing on writing about movies and...well, writing movies. It's been what I've wanted to do for ages and moving out put a few things in perspective. The result has been that the time I've spent playing video games has been much more about enjoying the games and not really giving a shit about the artistic or culturally relevant nature of video-games and so forth, etc.  My time with Tron, Singularity, Dead Space, Deadly Premonition, LittleBigPlanet 2 and so on has been kind of limited, lacking in focus, but so much more enjoyable in its own way. This time 6 months ago, I was considering writing a book about video-games and where they are right now, but I'm thinking about scrapping that idea entirely. My incessant nature to write eventually, though, means there should be more than a few articles about video-games hitting this blog sooner or later, until I find somewhere more productive to hang my hat. 
 
True to form, or at least the promise at the beginning of this blog, this post lacked any sense of structure. Working on script notes and short stories may have taken its toll on my sense of prose but I'm sure sooner or later I'll re-discover what it is I'm searching for. 
If you managed to keep up with all this, thanks for reading. You did a better job than me =) 
 
--Bo17.

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So long to Kieron Gillen, even if we disagree.

I'm not much of a writer yet. I've worked a few months on a community magazine and I'm arguably the weakest writer on the staff. I don't get paid a thing for my work, nor does anyone, to the best of my knowledge. Understandably, Kieron Gillen's farewell blog resonated with me somewhat.
Despite the fact that I'm not a PC Gamer, I've been reading Rock, Paper, Shotgun for just over a year. I liked the writing and that's just about all I have to say about it. Sometimes the things people do with words are more entertaining than the point they're trying to get across and even when that's not the case there's always fun to be had with disagreeing with them. This is the internet and you knew that much already. Kieron was the sort of writer I put in the same class as Leigh Alexander. I didn't always agree with what he had to say, but I had to admire the consistency of his style and intelligence. Naturally, I'm saddened to see his retirement from the video games journalism industry but as with all men and women who transcend their current lifestyle to do something more becoming of their inner passions, I cannot fault him for his decision. Naivete and cheesiness abounds, but people need to follow their hearts just as much as their heads.
Now whether or not you follow Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Kieron has another workload, one that he understandably neglected: A blog called Kieron Gillen's Workblog. Not the most inspired of titles, but I'm more than happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. This was the most recent post. The first half is ultimately just an explanation of his retirement. The second half however is the single most cynical piece of expressionist writing I think I've ever read about career progression. Not that there is any surprise there at all. Gillen states it as a rant and in practise it is precisely that.

 As I said, have some pride. You’ve got talent. You’re using it in a stupid way. And when you smarten up, you’ll go on to do great things.

I can't deny that there's truth to the declamation. Publishers and editors will naturally resort to dirty tricks to save a buck, but this is old news. Video-game writing is a much sought, underpaid job that has little-to-no benefits beyond 'doing what you enjoy'. This much is known. But shunning the whole industry as stupid feels overly violent. It seems like a potentially dangerous thing to say. Even if he's right and writing about video-games is a stupid use of real talent, it's probably the most effective way to improve your writing, if you enjoy it. And shunning an entire industry, one that is reaching peak levels of exposure and productivity in todays world? Film was new once and I'm sure people said the same back then.
I mentioned naivete before and I'm probably obligated to point out my youth and love for video-games right off the bat but I'm not going to fault Gillen for anything he said. He seems to be the sort of guy who means what he writes and this is amongst the final opportunities he is going to get to post these thoughts and be taken seriously. But if you're a video-game writer, aspiring or professional, I hope you don't take the post too seriously. I don't get paid for my work, but I do it anyway. Regardless of how much material gain you benefit from your writing, as long as you're getting that feeling of satisfaction when you decide you're finished on a piece and you hand it in, you're on a good track. The second to last line of Kieron's blog is what you should be focusing on.

 You’re talented. Don’t let them ever make you forget it.

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Podcast fails...becomes Blog: Are Mascots Obsolete?

So just over a week ago, I took part in your regularly scheduled Luchacast with Aurahack, GoranP, Pepsicolaboy & Pepsicolagirl. Don't remember it? That's because a technical fuck up stopped our collective screeches and bickerings from ever reaching your ears. Regardless, amidst the utter chaos came an interesting albeit unplanned discussion about the role mascots play in video-games today.

Will we ever be free of this goddamn Italian?!
At a glance, it's easy to claim that mascots are as big as they ever were. It doesn't take much effort to throw a few names out there: Sony are touting Sackboy as the most loveable little bastard of all time, Microsoft are falling back on a team of faux Master Chiefs to ramp up sales and Nintendo...well, it's been 25 years since Mario joined the family and at least over here in Britain, I don't seem to able to avoid that fact from all the marketing in increasingly obscure locations months after the key Mario game of the year was released.
Pierce through the veil of simplicity, though and it becomes quickly apparent that console sales rely less and less on specific characters as time goes on.
Sony's prioritized ad campaign for over a year now has been the 'It Only Does Everything' scheme, starring Kevin Butler and the title says it all. It's about pushing past the conceit of one system, one sales pitch and broadening the horizon. Microsofts marketing focuses more on games and a wide span of titles at that. Even pushing past that, the seemingly constant inclusion of new applications (facebook, LastFM, Netflix etc.) implies a similar willingness to expand away from the idea that relying on a single system-seller is the way to go.
Even look to Nintendo and you'll see that they're relying on Mario less than they ever have before. The Wii is not 'the Mario console', it's the family console, the mini game console and (up until recently) the motion control console. Based on the reputation they've built for themselves, even after Kinect & Move drop, they'll still probably be the motion control console.
All of this sounds distinctly anti-mascot but I assure you, it's not. Although mascots are invariably less of a surefire way to hit their mark, there is certainly still a place for them.
Cutest. Knitted. Little. Bastard. EVAR!
After all, we're still snapping up units of every Mario game that comes out, it's just not necessarily why we bought a Wii to begin with and the same probably applies to Microsoft and Sony's respective mascots. I generally have no problems with mascots, I just think their appeal has lessened somewhat over time. I couldn't say whether that appeal will continue to diminish or not.
 
I have no doubt that in another 25 years, we'll remember Mario. Like Sonic & Pacman, even if there are no more Mario games we'll still remember Mario because he's become such a mainstay of our culture. And there's always a chance that Master Chief and Sackboy will be just as memorable in that space of time. I just feel that as a sales tool, mascots fail to perform their function as well as they might have in the past. It's a different world.
 
How about you guys?
 
 --Bo17 =D
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The Sunday Show: 16-22/08/10

Hey guys!
You like films, right?
You like games, right?
You like trolling internet people to win shoutouts, right?
Then The Sunday Show is clearly the show for you!
 

 

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The Sunday Show: Episode 2

  

 Hey guys, you liked last weeks edition, yeah?
Well, here's this weeks Sunday Show, complete with video, picture-in-picture pictures, snazzy fonts and captions, and of course, me, Bo17 recapping the key news in the video games and films industry from the past week.
I know this technically counts as shameless self-promotion, but hell, I spent time on this show, so if you could take a moment to subscribe to the channel, rate the vid, leave any comments or suggestions, or just let your friends know about The Sunday Show, that'd be awesome.
Almost as awesome as me. No, more awesome than me. I know you can be awesome, I believe in you!
Anyway, thanks for watching =D
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The Sunday Show: Episode One

 Anyone who follows me might have noticed a lack of Photo of the Day's recently. Well, here's why:  
  

 
 The Sunday Show is a topical show recapping key news from the past week from the worlds of films and video games.
First thing's first, I want to apologize for the microphone that is clearly visible throughout the video. During editing, I discovered I didn't even need it, so future episodes won't include the microphone.
Second, This production was an absolute rush job. Although the work for future Sunday Shows will be spread out over the course of a week, this episode was made up over 3 days between shifts at work, so starting with the next installment there should be some pretty significant improvements, ranging from better vocal work to smoother transitions.
If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section or shoot me an email at billy.gill@live.co.uk
 
The reason films came first this week is because there's just been more film news.
And don't forget to support your local Luchazine =)
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