Friday, October 16, 2009

Batman Arkham Asylum PS3

This is the review of the collectors edition of the game to go with my initial review of the demo.
I was indeed correct in my point that the game seemed designed for HD screens, the juddery opening scene became as smooth as silk at 720p.

I'll start though with what came in the collectors box, a journal that makes an interesting curio, the game disc itself of course and another disc of watchable extras I still haven't gotten around to seeing yet; oh and the batarang of course.

The large box comes in a plastic sleeve that slides off, first problem arises when you try to put it back on again as the box has a cutout of the bat symbol and the edges catch if you're not careful. As to why you'd be taking this cover on and off all the time - well apart from said cutout allowing access to dust etc. the game disc itself comes in a simple fold-out cover with no clasp. Think of the cardboard slide-outs in special packs for DVDs etc., but without the cover. In other words not something you can really leave out by itself so back into the box it goes each time.

The batarang itself is quite disappointing, although a fair size it has a plasticy feel (because it's made of plastic) not helped by the fastening on the back that holds it to the stand that screams "Plastic!". On an odd note they seem to have tried to hide this plastic finish by using what appears to be a wood veneer - a swirling grain. Hey who'd have thought old Bat's batarangs were made of wood? Okay standing on a shelf and not giving it the microscopic inspection it does look kind of cool.

Onto the game, and as mentioned everything is lush and smooth in 720p, voice syncing still seems a little off and Batman still walks with a pole up his arse and looks an idiot talking to Oracle; but but it's Batman and everyone who's visited and seen him even just standing there does a woah!

In combat he excels, yes I'm still off on the extra combos that require you to press two buttons at the same time, but other than for trophies you don't need them. Square to hit, Triangle to counter, Circle to confuse (Stun), and Ex to evade. On the note of combat here's my first recommendation - ignore the first two levels of difficulty and go straight to hard. The first difficulty levels moddy-coddle you in one simple way - anyone about to 'sneak' attack you gets a blue electrical 'my head's on fire' icon allowing you to hit the triangle and counter; hard takes this away. If you've been playing either of the other levels of difficulty this removal will play the biggest hurdle you have to face and it allows for awesome.

No seriously it's truly awesome, instead of Square Square with the odd Triangle whenever the blue lightning descends you now have to watch what your enemies are doing as if you were there. Words cannot express the feeling you get taking on eight guys, punching one and spotting another about to hit you, countering, then countering another before another hit, flipping over them, hitting, countering etc. that is when you get it right; get it wrong and you're left flailing at air. But this truly is the essence of Batman.

Add in Silent Takedowns, perching on Gargoyles, sneaking through ducts, batarangs, explosive gel, grappling hooks and you can play some of the larger set pieces in so many ways. As as an example the area featured in the demo crops up and I take it as normal - perch on gargoyle, string-up anyone walking beneath, swing to next gargoyle repeat, until just one guy's left and Glide Kick him. However I decide to reload the checkpoint and do it another way (to show someone what I can do). This time I used the explosive gel on a wall on which one guy was leaning, back up to a duct, down to the floor and used it on a weak floor from underneath, then up to a gargoyle down to a weak ceiling with someone beneath it then back to a gargoyle. Remote detonation as someone walked over the weak floor and I took out three goons in one hit - instant terror for the remainder.

It's nice to say that one of my possible faults, repetition, really doesn't crop up to much as you're really just enjoying yourself except... sigh the 'boss' fights. These do everything a boss fight shouldn't; repetitive actions that allow a repetitive response all the bosses go through set patterns of attack that only become a hazard because unpredictable goons tend to join in. No seriously I'm in a boss fight and I'm concentrating on the hired help as they're the most dangerous to me - that ain't right.

As an alternative to the violence, you also get Detective Mode, an Eraser rail-gun style vision mode that shows up other people and highlights duct grills and gargoyles and allows you to examine evidence and track people. Two problems with the vision mode - one it shows up all unarmed personal the same way, whether dead, alive, unconscious, prisoner or guard; with only armed prisoners showing up differently. Second problem is that as you can see through walls you have no sight-lines - round that corner and there are the prisoners, or they're round another corner; you can't tell. Now some negative criticism has been levelled that you can end up playing the entire game in this mode, which is classed as a shame as it ruins the atmosphere and renders the excellent graphics moot - however to me that poor vision sense means I only use that mode when I have to. A quick check on the corners and back to normal mode; which is much easier to navigate using. If the sight-mode simply added an overlay to the normal graphics as some suggest there wouldn't be a point in having two vision modes.

Another use of this vision mode is to scan the Riddler's answers. Yep the Riddler has left challenges around and the discovery of these is a nice way of reinforcing moves and tools that can be used in combat situations. 100% on these isn't that difficult, but is a nice diversion at least the first time around and there are enough around to become a memory challenge on subsequent play-throughs.

Onto the technical side and that works a treat, areas are divided up and it seems the game tries to load up the next area in the game 'sequence' as you approach it. This does mean that if you run to another section that it's not expecting you to return to then you get a brief pause and revolving bat loading icon; but these don't last long. I've experienced no slow-downs, never lost a fight because of pausing or find myself facing the wrong way due to controller stutter. Being picky some clipping occurs with Batman's cape and with some of the goons; but you'd have to be watching out for these.

Again though with the yank away control cut-scenes that reposition you (something I complained about in inFamous too) - rescuing a doctor in an obvious trap that had a bunch of goons on a platform over the door I had no ability to prepare by spraying explosive gel on the floor where they'd have to jump down, and when control returned I was facing back to the door and not slightly upwards at the descending goons. Which meant a minor delay in using my grapple to swing up to the ledge and take them down in two split groups. Just irks, sure you can counteract with second playthrough precognition, but this was an in-game "I know it's a trap" and with Detective Mode supposedly allowing such ambushes to be spotted, being forced to walk into them unprepared makes this doubly irksome.

Before my summation a special mention goes to the nightmare levels, applause, applause, applause; an excellent set of mid-game palette cleansers.

Anyway in summation, under-performing bosses, still non-pausable cut-scenes that snatch away control and reposition you at the end of them, but in true 300 style this... is... BATMAN! and I don't think anything is every going to come closer to putting you in his cowl except perhaps a sequel; and only so long as Joel Schumacher stays the hell away from it.


Orphi said...

I watched Nakor playing this on his XBox360. It did look like fun, actually. Except that, obviously, it's far too hard for somebody like me to play. And, as far as I can tell, you need an XBox to play it anyway…

FlipC said...

... or, as the title to this piece suggests, a PS3.

I'm not sure where you get the "too hard for [...] me" from - on Easy you could probably get through 90% of the combat with one button. Now sure I know you're a PC gamer at heart and switching to a controller over the mouse keyboard combo is tricky, but this ain't an FPS it's third-person with no real cursor to manipulate, which is where the whole PC v. Console control method kicks off.

Next time you see him kick Nakor off and give it a go you might be surprised, but don't get discouraged if you get beaten, despite what I just said there's still some adjustment required to switch to using two joysticks.

Oh and yes it is fun even when I was doing the speed-run for the Bratii.