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.

Forgotten Sands: Must Forget!

So, absolute boredom and quite a bit of joblessness made me resolve to get back into gaming. This is the epic journey of a geek who went through possibly the worst game Ubisoft EVER made.

College is a wonderful place for people who love to game .. Unless MMOs are your forte. Games are in everyone’s hard disk. Just moving around 4 rooms in the hostel can net you at least 20 different games, each being a combination of different genres except for the FPS’ – which are mostly very alike but fun nonetheless.

So, I started moving around the hostel and after going to one room, I got Metro 2033, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Just Cause 2, Modern Warfare 1 and 2 and finally, the GOTY – Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands.

Ubisoft has been one of the best game making companies in my experience – probably after Rockstar Games and CodeMasters. I’ve played at least 5 of their games and they were mostly the same type – guy jumping around evading traps or whatever. However redundant it gets, it is still awesome.

Forgotten Sands, in my experience, was the WORST game I’ve ever played. Filled with glitches, bugs, stupid graphics problems and other nonsense which I can’t even start on, the game was hell to finish through. It took me 6 hours to finish a game that I could probably get through in less than 4 hours – sans the cutscenes maybe.

The game was FILLED with glitches. I thought this was because I had a cracked version from SKIDROW (NOT the band, no). Turns out the game is actually quite buggy .. the PC version of it at least.

From having doors that didn’t open to keys that didn’t work to graphics that kept getting messed up or downright missing from the place, it was a terrific experience and not something I’ll forget soon. My roommate had a good time laughing his head off each time I met up with one of these glitches and started trying to circumvent it by hook or crook. Finally, I resorted to downloading a bunch of saved games online and crossing levels which just could NOT be crossed.

Apart from that, the game itself had some levels which required a kind of mixed focus and for a guy more accustomed to a joystick, moving your hands around on the keys didn’t feel all that good 😐 .. but fact remains that they ARE quite challenging and I crossed all of them when I reduced my concentration level to zip and let my fingers do what they wanted. Yep, instinct actually helps.

Anyway, PLEASE give this game a miss. I cannot emphasise on how bad an experience it was. I got through it today and am sitting here talking to you. You may not be so lucky (I sound all dark and mysterious, I know). Also, tell anyone you know to give this game a miss or probably get the PS3 version which has fewer bugs reportedly.

Anyway,