I picked up a subscription to Playstation Network Plus about a week ago, and I think it was a pretty good deal.
The first thing I picked up was Batman: Arkham City. It cost me about 15$, since I was buying from the North American store– huge difference, because video game prices are absolutely gouged in Australia. Arkham City still retails for at least 60$.
The original game, Arkham Asylum, impressed me when it came out because it really felt like you were playing the Batman of the comics in a way that Christian Bale couldn’t on screen. In Arkham City, combat is way better. It’s done with an attention to detail and playability that I often see American rooted games (especially things running the Unreal engine) falling flat on their faces with.
I should point out that I’m very critical of martial arts choreography. If you spend your childhood growing up watching Jackie Chan and Jet Li films, putting a white guy in a batsuit and making him talk like he has throat cancer and making him do some ‘gritty’ boxing is not going to impress me. Especially when you’re dealing with Batman– I mean, for god’s sake– he’s BATMAN. He’s the world’s greatest detective, and he’s mastered like every martial art in the world. Christian Bale can’t even kick higher than the waist.
It’s not that I didn’t like that new Batman movies– like any comic book reader, I usually enjoy a silver screen representation because it somehow makes my hobies more mainstream and relatable to the everyday person who doesn’t know what he’s missing.
However, the Akrham City portrayal of Batman is much better. This Batman does his detective work in the field (and not just by plugging things into the bat computer, as Bale does). He goes out and shakes down thugs on the street for information. He searches vents, sewers, offices, rooftops, etc for clues– not even answers, just clues– as to how things fit together. This Batman is willing to get down and dirty– not just fighting epic one-on-ones against special thugs, or driving around the city all day or whatever.
And when it comes to fighting? Man. While a Street Fighter game is still my pick for a one-on-one, Arkham City is my pick for one-on-twenty. Really– the gameplay allows for a really full and engrossing experience where Batman literally strolls into a room of thugs with bare hands, guns, knives, katanas, baseball bats, cattleprods, rifles… and you can basically take take them all down and feel like a total badass doing it, seamlessly using varitions of punches, kicks, elbows, batarangs, grappling hooks, cartwheels, sommersaults, freeze grenades, headbutts, throws, joint locks… and there are a bunch of surprise techniques, like weapon distructions (dismantling somebody’s gun, or breaking his baseball bat over your knee) and context sensitive counters (like smashing two thugs heads into eachother when they try to attack you).
I guess that Batman, like Neo, generally feel too “stiff” in comparison. They work pretty well from a boxing sort of posture, but you never see any lower body action (for instance– generally, they have very slow and terrible footwork) and you definitely don’t see any believable acrobatics (flips and such).
I was a bit surprised that the world engine of Arkham Asylum has gone “open” in the trend of GTA (or perhaps, more accurately, Prototype). But it does work. I felt that the openness of the world detracted from the importance of the main story though. The main story didn’t feel as strong as the first game, although it did have some twists. This game was way more about sidequests and having fun fighting and collecting Riddler trophies than it was about a main arc.
All in all though, I would say it’s a highly recommendable game.
I tried some retro stuff with [CM]– the Scott Pilgrim game and Double Dragon: Neon. Basically? If you liked Double Dragon games back in the 90s, you will get nothing more and nothing less. Gameplay is pretty much the same with a few additions. It’s fun for shits and giggles, but someone who didn’t play the originals is likely to find the game painfully cumbersome. It goes with the territory of really unforgiving gameplay controls and hit detection exploits of the 90s.