Batman: Arkham Asylum

So, there I was, sitting around, not knowing what to do after a recent bout of mugging up and vomiting (read – exams) when I thought I’d get back to my usual stuff and game a little. Although I have enough games in my hard disk to last a whole year in college and enough processor power to run most of them simultaneously, I have never been into gaming much.

Yes, my laptop is very powerful and I will boast as much as I want until some acquaintance of mine buys one to trounce it 😛

So, anyway, I looked through the selection and thought I’d divert a little from the FPS craze I was feeling and go for a very very very highly acclaimed and highly recommended game.

Yes, my first action adventure game in sometime. Batman: Arkham Asylum is a VERY good game. It may sound a little prejudiced on my part considering I’m a big fan of the Batman franchise as such (particularly after seeing the recent efforts by Christopher Nolan to bring it to the silver screen) but trust me, the game is actually pretty brilliant.

Au contraire to what I do with most FPS games, I have not the patience to either fight every mini boss battle a million times in order to win them nor sate my curiosity until I play hard enough to clear levels to let the story progress, that I play the game in the highest difficulty (Not a very concise sentence I know, but it should make perfect sense).

So what did I do? I played it in the easiest difficulty. That’s not to say I didn’t attempt the highest difficulty but since my mouse maneuverability is still in its infancy, I thought the better of it.

The game was, as I keep repeating, bahut awesome. As with all games, it had flaws. But that makes it a fun package (as most people keep saying for some reason).

Gameplay: Epic. No other word. Proper slightly super-human skills in the martial arts, use of batarangs, bat claws and all other apparel the batman usually takes with him on his nightly charades were an integral part of the game. The protagonist sprite felt, moved, looked and spoke like the Batman that I have come to associate with from comics and movies hereunto. I found the unlimited batarangs a little ridiculous but then, it makes the game a little more fun. The soft landing from any height thanks to his piezo electric cape makes the game a little more easy leading to lesser deaths.

What I did NOT like about the gameplay was the utter lack of perception of edges by the AI. What do I mean by that? In most games of this genre, when you reach the edge of say, a platform you’re standing on, the character does not walk into the void beyond if you keep pressing forward. He’d rather do nothing (most games), hang on a ledge (pop) or look down and show the player what’s below (assassin’s creed). In Batman: AA, the character just walks off a ledge. Of course, considering you have the bat claw and the cape to stop you from dying through such unfortunate mishaps and later feel stupid about it, its not that big a deal but I hated it.

The nice touches like the detective mode – in which he can follow trails using DNA data, chemical composition of the atmosphere (to its finest detail, down to the molecular orbital diagram of ethanol, which is admittedly not very tough to find online), fingerprint analysis and other things make the gameplay an awesome experience.

What I missed though was seeing bones broken when you hit the villains in the detective mode but I guess the new Mortal Kombat trailers have made me a spoilt kid 😀

Graphics: I’ve taken a healthy interest in graphics considering I’ve been studying video compression and OpenGL for some time now. The game uses the Unreal engine from what the credits show. The graphics are not extra ordinary. Some cases, they are downright cartoonish. The characters themselves seem well made but the environment, although rich in detail and very interactive in certain cases, does not have the feel of the other recent games I’ve played. As in, I can’t say its bad .. But I feel its definitely lacking in some way.

What really hit me about the graphics was the lighting. It was absolutely like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was, to be quite honest, very surreal but also looked very good..

See what I mean? I can assure you the light falling on these guys has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the lighting in the room. But, grant me this … It looks terrific.

I’m guessing though that the graphics requirements are quite minimal. I was able to run this and AC: Brotherhood simultaneously without loading the processor too much. I’m not able to express how stunned I was when I noticed that it hardly took any power from my CPU – which is important considering some games take a lot of my CPU power (at ~14 GHz, that’s a LOT of clock cycles).

Story: The highlight of ANY media in the batman franchise – movies, cartoons, comics etc is the story. For people like me, its the cinching factor. I mean .. You can have a lot of villains and a fair amount of fighting but when it comes to story, whether it be in movie or comic, I like to see something good.

Batman: AA does not disappoint. Although, I’d read the whole Knightfall series a mere five days before I started the game, I found the story as good as any comic. Though not as epic in scale as most comics are wont to do, it was still very good. The whole story is, as happens often, based on Jokers masterminded scheme to take over the Arkham Asylum. I will tell you no more.

The story was lacking at certain points though. But then, my expectations are high … I mean, it’s BATMAN!! 😀

Consensus: MUST PLAY!

PS: PLAY THE GAME AS SOON AS YOU FRICKIN CAN!

PPS: Batman Arkham City is due to be out soon. Trailer? Check this out.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

So, I finally convinced myself that FPS games aren’t all that bad after watching the whole frickin hostel going at it in multiplayer on Call of Duty 6.

To be honest, I’ve never been good with games that require the mouse. On a joystick, after a point of playing, it becomes flesh memory to press the right buttons. My mind says things like “kill that guy” and my hand will press the appropriate buttons. On a mouse, it’s a right pain trying desperately to keep the sensitivity at just the right level, A bigger pain is finding the right surface (book, piece of wooden plank, mouse pad, whatever) to keep the mouse on so that it doesn’t act weirdly.

But I can manage playing with a mouse specifically because using a mouse is something we all do day in and day out through our lives (right?). So, there I was, one hostel hunt for games later, sitting in my room with COD 4, 5, 6 and 7 all loaded and ready to install. I thought I’d start with 4 cos it was the game that started the epic-ness in the whole series.

I started the game in Veteran mode which the game very clearly told me I “will not survive”. How true it was. But first the game:

The game is addictive … And I mean addictive as bloody hell. In veteran mode, after Act 1, every checkpoint took me a minimum of 5 tries to cross. Around the end of Act 2, I was stuck in a VERY tight spot. As in, my tries had exceeded 20 or so and I still was nowhere close to having a clue as to how to cross that stage. So I thought I’d see how the people with COD clans fare in that level and gave it to a pro. He tried the first 2 times and couldn’t get through after which he pressed “Restart Level”. It reset the game back by some 18 checkpoints 😐 and frustrated me as hell when I tried to cross the first 4 of those.

So I took the cowardly path out and restarted the game in “Recruit” mode (read: supremely easy). Then, I got bored running through the same levels (albeit as considerably faster pace) and resorted to cheats *hangs head in shame*

I finished the game today evening. I can honestly tell you I LOVED the game.

I’m not a big fan of FPS .. I mean beyond CS, this is the first game that has captured my attention (No, I’ve never played Half Life 2). But I will tell you this – the game is bloody BRILLIANT. I hated Crysis 1 because there was too much story. I have a love/hate relationship with games like CS and Rainbow 6 because they have too less (Rainbow 6 is actually a Tom Clancy game but I still found it lacking back when it released). COD 4 gave me a perfect blend. The story was simple but provided solid gameplay hours (multiplied many folds considering I was playing in Veteran).

Halfway through the game, you keep switching between playing as Sargent Paul Jackson of the US Marine Corps and ‘Soap’ Mactavish of SAS \m/ . Then you switch to Captain Price of the SAS for a brief period of time. The story follows the accession to power of Khaled Al-Asad who kills some random president and takes power and then detonates a nuke (sadly killing Paul Jackson). The rest of the team trace him, his partners and Imran Zakhaev and kill/execute all of them.

What truly blew me away was this one particular mission when you don the role of Captain Price and move through tall grass in camouflage suits. It was TERRIFIC to say the least. I could not, at times, figure out where the other guy was before I spotted something that looked like a slightly taller strand of grass holding a camouflaged sniper rifle.

Consensus: MUST-PLAY. Epic Game. So awesome I read up on the history of CoD games here

PS: Started playing CoD 5 now – seems kinda drab after CoD4 but you’ll never know until you finish it 😉