Injustice: Gods Among Us – Ultimate Edition (2013)


It’s Not What I’m Doing … It’s What I’ve Done.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition (2013)You could say that my sister has a bad habit of picking the worst game from my Christmas list to get me as a present.  I prefer to think that she has a gift for it, and that the bad habit is my naiveté for assuming I’ll like so many games.  If you’re up to date with my reviews, you’ll know that two years in a row my sister has given me a game that made it into my worst games of the year.  Last year was Twisted Metal, but this year she got me Injustice: Gods Among Us – Ultimate Edition, developed by NetherRealm Studios, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and starring the voices of George Newbern, Kevin Conroy, Adam Baldwin, Susan Eisenberg, Richard Epcar, Phil LaMarr, Neal McDonough, Joey Naber, Khary Payton, Mark Rolston, Tara Strong, Alan Tudyk, Stephen Amell, Troy Baker, Grey DeLisle, Jennifer Hale, J.G. Hertzler, Nolan North, and Fred Tatasciore.

In an alternate reality, the Joker (Richard Epcar) tricks Superman (George Newbern) into killing Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis, sending Superman off the handle to the point where he kills the Joker and establishes a new world order as the High Councilor.  In our reality, the Joker’s plan did not succeed, but did send the heroes from our world over to the other one, where they must join Batman’s (Kevin Conroy) insurgency and try to take down Superman’s regime.

There must be some sort of mistake.  I seem to not have taken any notes on the story of this game.  Of a fighting game!  They’re always so story-driven!  This game didn’t have a bad story (especially when you compare it to other fighting games), but it was fairly forgettable.  I guess I didn’t take any notes about it because it didn’t really make any impact on me one way or another.  It didn’t impress me as being particularly well-written, and I didn’t think of jokes to tear its shittiness apart.  It was roughly as good as any of those straight to DVD DC or Marvel movies.  Take that for what it is.

The thing that really makes or breaks a fighting game is the gameplay.  The problem with that when it comes to me reviewing them is I don’t really like fighting games.  I was interested enough to complete the story and beat the game with a couple of the individual characters to see their specific endings, but as with all other fighting games, once I hit that wall of boredom I hit it hard.  When I reach boredom with a fighting game, there’s no taking a break and coming back to it; I’m out.  Returning to the game is extremely painful at that point.  This game controls like most of the newer Mortal Kombat games.  There’re some punches and some kicks, a few special movies, and a super move for each character.  Nothing revolutionary.  I do like the fighting games that allow you to transition between different sections of the same level by knocking your opponent off of an edge, and this game does that as well.  Of course, once you’ve seen it once you can pretty much put a check mark behind that ‘cause it’s just going to be the same thing over and over.  There were a couple of notable changes to the fighting game mechanics that I noticed.  The first was the health bar system.  Unlike most fighting games that give each character a full health bar for each round, you’re given two from the beginning but do not get full health when you knock out one of the enemies’ health bars.  I actually liked this because it inspires you to do good all the way through as opposed to getting a fresh start because you just got KO’ed.  The other thing I noticed was the Wager system, which I hated.  It basically just gives the opponent the chance to prolong the battle by sacrificing their super bar.  They’re about to die, so they’re not going to need it, but you may have if you were trying to finish the game spectacularly with a super move.  Instead, they wager their entire super bar every time and you have the choice to either sacrifice your ability to do your super move or let them win, damaging you or healing them.  It just seemed like an unnecessary annoyance.

The characters were pretty good in the game.  It’s basically every notable character from DC comics, at least as far as I know.  I’ve never been that big of a fan of DC, but I certainly couldn’t think of anyone else from that universe that I would care to see in the game.  That basically means that Batman is in the game.  But I also resented Batman because they changed his default costume and made it look lame.  Thankfully, that could be repaired with alternate costumes, but you couldn’t fix how lame his super move was.  He basically just jumps up into the air and hits the opponent with the batmobile.  This is Batman we’re talking about!  Stupid ass Aquaman stabs the guy with a trident, hits them with a giant wave, and gets them eaten by a giant shark!  Wonder Woman’s super also sucks because it makes her seem like she needs help because she basically gets her Amazons to come in and beat your opponents ass.  It would’ve been less lame to involve that stupid invisible airplane she used to have.  But there were lots of characters to choose from, and even more because I got the Ultimate Edition.  That means I had even more characters to not care about.  Like Zatanna.  …Yay…

Injustice: Gods Among Us was a decent enough game for those who like fighting games, especially the Mortal Kombat games.  Unfortunately for it, this review was written by me.  I’m not that big of a fan of DC and I’m not that big of a fan of fighting games.  Kind of makes you wonder why I asked for this game in the first place, doesn’t it?  Well I am a complicated individual, but I will not complicate my review any more than I need to.  If you like DC and fighting games, buy it.  Otherwise, skip it.  Injustice Gods Among Us – Ultimate Edition gets “There is no justice!” out of “You could feel the love, right?”

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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (2012)


Sony’s Super Smash Brawl All-Stars Royale with Cheese.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (2012)When I learned of the existence of today’s game, I scoffed.  I had no interest in playing this game.  Well, that’s not necessarily true.  I actually have had interest in playing this game many times before, and I’ve enjoyed playing.  Problematically, I enjoyed playing these games when they were called Super Smash Brothers.  But this time PlayStation was doing it.  I still only decided to play this game because I have a somewhat underused Vita and my roommate gave me a code that would get me this game for free.  Consider yourself endorsed, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, developed by SuperBot Entertainment and SCE Santa Monica Studio, published by Sony Computer Entertainment, and including the voices of Eric Ladin, Sean Pertwee, Tim Phillipps, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Unshô Ishizuka, Josh Keaton, Max Casella, Sanae Kobayashi, Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson, Jennifer Hale, Nolan North, Dred Foxx, Quinton Flynn, James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Stephen Fry, Stephane Cornicard, Kevin Miller, Marc Silk, J.S. Gilbert, and, of course, Mario.  No one is going to read through all those names to see that one joke.

…story…Hmmm…  Well, a while ago, a company made a game called Super Smash Brothers because they had been around long enough and had enough iconic, exclusive characters that a game could justify it.  Years later, another accomplished company took their few iconic exclusives, added some exclusives no one gives a shit about, and acted like another character or two were exclusive, and pretty much jacked Smash Brothers blatantly.  And you use those characters to reach the end and beat a disembodied head to make your character glow blue in his epilogue.

You will find that the biggest problem I had with this game is that it is Smash Brothers.  It is so blatantly and unforgivingly Smash Brothers.  I feel like I will use the word Nintendo in this review more than I will the word Sony.  I felt like the credit sequence was so painfully long because they also had to thank everyone involved in Super Smash Brothers.  It lasts like a half hour!  I could bust through the story in less time than I could the credits.  And to refer to what it had as a “story” is true exaggeration.  Every character, no matter how different, hears that something is happening where characters from different worlds are collecting.  They go, they fight, they have a brief, one-stage-long rivalry with a character, and then they fight a disembodied head.  Winning gives them some sort of power that makes them glow blue, in the still-frame ending movie, and then a half hour of credits.  And the final boss was so disappointing to me.  The disembodied head has nothing to do with any Sony product I’ve ever experienced.  It DOES have something in common with a certain Nintendo product that ends with a pair of disembodied hands and polygonal, colorless versions of the other characters in the game.  I will eventually remember the name of that game.  But I believe Sony missed a huge opportunity to make the final boss Kevin Butler.  That would have been fucking perfect!  …SMASH BROTHERS!  That was it.

I was vaguely surprised to see that Sony had actually pulled off a fairly strong set of characters for their Smash Brothers rip off, but they cannot justify it nearly as well as Nintendo could.  Kratos, Nathan Drake, Cole MacGrath, Sweet Tooth, someone from Killzone, Big Daddy and Dante (neither of which are Sony exclusive, by the way.  And didn’t Bioshock originally come out as an Xbox exclusive?), Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, PaRappa and Nariko (why does anyone remember these two?), Raiden (the least favorite of all Metal Gear characters, since Nintendo already had the most popular), Sackboy, Sly Cooper, Sir Daniel Whogivesafuck and Toro Whatthehell from Huh? for Red October.  I lost focus near the end.  I started wondering if Xbox could pull this off.  My research pulled up Marcus Fenix, Master Chief, Blinx, Alan Wake, Joanna Dark, the Viva Piñata characters, the dude from Condemned (which admittedly might be a little dark for a Smash Brothers rip off), and no, they can’t pull off this kind of game.  Of course, they might be able to pull it off if they add in characters that are not exclusive to Sony (such as Big Daddy and Dante) or if they actually had the audacity to make Cole into 2 different characters, justified by being a good and an evil version of the same character.  Hell, I guess Microsoft could pull of this kind of game.  There are like 10 different Carmines in Gears of War, and they could always have Master Chief and crestfallen Master Chief.  And, strangely, the characters I enjoyed playing as most were the ones I didn’t know or didn’t give a shit about.  I liked Sir Daniel from the game I can’t even name because I gave all of my shits away to the orphans in Africa.  I liked the strange cat thing, Toro, from whatever the fuck crazy Japanese thing it spilled out of, partially because he felt like this game’s version of Kirby.  I even liked playing as Nariko.  Certainly more than I liked playing as her in the game she came from.  I kind of defaulted to Kratos most times, because I wanted a character that played well that wouldn’t embarrass me.  I liked the Big Daddy too, but watching a Big Daddy get suplexed by Sackboy is not something I endorse.    I do endorse beating the crap out of PaRappa, especially when he keeps shouting about how you’ve gotta believe.  Believe this, PaRappa: I hate you.

The gameplay in this game was as good as it was a few years back on the Nintendo, but they again failed to live up to Smash Brothers.  The biggest problem was that beating up enemies served no good purpose.  In Smash Brothers, you beat people up because weakening them makes them easier to knock out of the level.  There is no ring out in PSASBR.  In other fighting games, you beat up your enemies to take their life bar down to zero.  There are no live bars in this game.  You beat people up to build up super moves, and super moves are pretty much instant kills.  So, basically, your ability to win is only as good as your character’s super move.  Kind of takes a little bit of the fun and strategy out of it.  There were other issues, like how annoying it was to double tap on the screen to pick up an item instead of just pressing a button to do it, but I think I hate most games that force touch screen use on you.  The big problem I thought of in regards to playing this game is I don’t see any reason to do it.  With Smash Brothers, you did it on the big screen on a console that could support four players simultaneously.  On my Vita, I play alone unless I want to go online (which I never really do).  Of course, this game is also available for the PS3, so I might have liked it more that way.

Graphically this game was fantastic.  Sony will always have that over Nintendo because the decision makers in Nintendo really have gamers figured out.  But this graphical improvement comes at a cost.  The load times between levels are awful, and really take you out of the pacing of the game.  You play a level, taking three minutes tops to beat it, and then you can put the Vita down and go get a sandwich waiting for the next match to start.  The levels are also nicely designed.  They start off as one person’s level and, over time, get invaded by a character from another game.  Like playing in Ratchet and Clank’s Metropolis and having the Hydra from God of War pop out of the ground, or having a Metal Gear slice its way into the Patapon level.  The game was musically delightful, but there was a problem with my game and the sound at first, but I don’t really fault the game for it because it was patched while I was still playing it.  And after that, I got to listen to the music from Uncharted from time to time, and I am always ready for that.

Of all the categories that this game comes second to Nintendo in, there is one category that Nintendo could never touch Sony in: trophies.  Sure, one could argue that Nintendo did not do a Trophy or Achievement system, but that feels irrelevant.  The trophies in this game were super easy, and not even very time consuming.  It’s not much more complicated than beating the game with all the characters and using their Level 3 Super Move in their own level.  Then just grab Toro, go online, and get an easy triple and double kill with his Level 3 move that seems to kill everyone on screen no matter what.  Easy Platinum.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a decent enough game that was ripped off wholesale from Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers, and without very much by way of improvement.  Their characters aren’t nearly as iconic and the gameplay feels pointless and unsatisfying in comparison.  But, this game is not without its charms.  If you don’t own a Nintendo system, if you’re looking for an easy Platinum trophy, or if graphics are more important than gameplay, I could see there being reasons to play this.  Ultimately, I wouldn’t have paid money for this thing, and I wouldn’t be able to recommend it to you.  PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale gets “Super Brawl Brothers” out of “Melee.”

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Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)


Killing Zombies Gives Me Total Wood.

Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)My inspiration for playing today’s game can sadly be defined with one word: boobies.  This movie appeared to have them in bulk.  Technically, there was probably more than interested me in this game.  I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of James Gunn – who collaborated on this game – but I’ve definitely had interest in things he’s done before.  I’ve also had interest in the games of his collaborator, Suda51, but I’ve also never played anything he’s taken part in.  I also consider myself a fan of the main voice actor in this game, Tara Strong, and I’ve actually enjoyed many things she’s taken part in.  But that’s far too much explanation and it’s much easier to say I played Lollipop Chainsaw strictly for the boobies.  In fact, all of that was too long.  Remind me to erase it later.  Lollipop Chainsaw was written by James Gunn, produced by Goichi Suda (Suda51), developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, published by Kadokawa Games and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and includes the voice acting of Tara Strong, Michael Rosenbaum, Kimberly Brooks, Linda Cardellini, Gregg Henry, Vanessa Marshall, Bruce Locke, Sean Gunn, Little Jimmy Urine, Michael Rooker, Shawnee Smith, Dave Fennoy, Rick D. Wasserman, Fred Tatasciore, Nolan North, and Kari Wahlgren.

Juliet Starling (Tara Strong) is a cheerleader that just turned legal.  But she is no ordinary cheerleader.  Well, technically she is exactly the definition of what you’d expect out of a cheerleader.  But also she carries a chainsaw and fights zombies.  She is off to meet her boyfriend at San Romero (HAAAAA!  I see what you did there, zombie game!) High School, but she arrives too late.  Her boyfriend Nick (Michael Rosenbaum) is bitten by a zombie.  She performs a ritual to allow his severed head to remain alive and decides to keep him around in this form.  It turns out that the whiny Goth kid Swan (Sean Gunn) has summoned the zombies because people in high school were mean to him.  He summons musical themed zombies – punk rocker Zed (Little Jimmy Urine), Viking drummer Vikke (Michael Rooker), hippie guitarist Mariska (Shawnee Smith), autotuned R&B-ish guy Josey (Dave Fennoy), and some kind of rock dude Lewis (Rick D. Wasserman) – to seek his revenge.  Along with Nick, Juliet teams with her sensei Morikawa (Bruce Locke), her Mom (Vanessa Marshall), Dad (Gregg Henry), gun-toting older sister Cordelia (Linda Cardellini), and clumsy younger sister with far too much energy Rosalind (Kimberly Brooks) to send them back to Hell, or wherever.

I knew what I was getting into with this game.  I had assumed that it would be a pretty run of the mill hack and slash game with occasional funny parts and lots of Japanese quirkiness.  So, now that I’ve proven that I can read the future, I will be accepting premium rates to read people fortune cookies and tell them I’m magic.  I really can’t say that there’s too much to say about the story of the game.  The zombies show up and Juliet has to kill the shit out of them.  The dialogue is pretty hit and miss in the game too.  Quite often, I found the dialogue between Juliet and Nick to be pretty cute, especially the part where Juliet thinks Nick speaks Japanese because he knows what the word “sensei” means.  But other parts of the dialogue just seemed like they were trying too hard to be funny, or perhaps even edgy.  Not really a problem, I suppose, but noticeable more in the times when they fall short.

Not a lot to say about the look of the game either.  It wasn’t particularly good and it wasn’t particularly bad.  It was fairly colorful and goofy in how dismembering zombies was muted by rainbows and stars because of how most guys think the world looks through the eyes of most girls.  The only real issue I took with the look of the game was the sexuality.  Don’t get me wrong; I love boobies.  The problem I had with it is that it felt like it was telling me way more than I ever would want to know about what James Gunn and/or Suda51 masturbate to.  That’s information I’d do better without.

The game plays well enough.  It’s vaguely Bayonetta-esque.  And by that, I mean it’s a hack and slash game.  Spam the hell out of that X button, then throw a Y button at the end for good measure.  They add a gun thing that doesn’t really work unless you take off auto-aim and a few other things to break up the monotony, with limited success.  They also often try to break things up with quirky minigames, like a baseball one where you have to protect zombie Nick as he rounds the bases and a basketball one where you try to make baskets with decapitated zombie heads, but these never really became more than irritants for me.

The achievements aren’t necessarily what I’d call easy, but they’re not the hardest ones either.  The only thing that makes them a bother is that it means you’ll probably have to replay levels a few times.  I got to about 800 before I finally got sick of the game and decided it wasn’t worth the bother anymore.  But I imagine I could’ve gotten 1000 without too much extra work.  It’s just that the game isn’t interesting enough for me to really work at it.

Lollipop Chainsaw was a goofy, fairly standard hack and slash game.  The story was simple, but funny enough when they weren’t trying too hard, and the look was pretty cute for a game with so much dismemberment.  But I’ve never really been a big fan of hack and slash games because I can only press X so many times before I realize that I’m getting bored.  This game is satisfying enough for a rental, but can’t justify a decent price tag.  Lollipop Chainsaw gets “What the dick?” out of “These zombies suck dick at driving.”

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Harley Quinn’s Revenge (2012)


I Guess That’s the End of Scary Face

This will probably be a quickie review, but I wanted to do it now to keep with the Batman theme.  This is a downloadable content pack for a game I’ve already reviewed, but it has its own story so I figured it would count.  I generally don’t play that much downloadable content because, once I’ve finished with a game, I don’t tend to go back because I’ve probably moved on to another game.  My decision to play this game came from one of Kevin Smith’s newer podcasts, Fat Man on Batman.  In this podcast, Kevin talked with one of the voice actors in the game, Tara Strong, about this DLC pack, so I decided that I should give it a go.  And that brings us to my review of an expansion for the DLC pack for Batman: Arkham City, Harley Quinn’s Revenge, developed by Rocksteady Studios, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and including the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, Troy Baker, and Nolan North, among others.

Two weeks after Arkham City ended and Batman (Kevin Conroy) has disappeared while searching for Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), who is not taking the loss of her boyfriend, the Joker, very well.  Fearing the worst, Barbara Gordon sends Batman’s partner Robin (Troy Baker) to find the Caped Crusader.  What Robin finds is that Harley has been driven even further into madness by her grief, and that she’s indeed done something with Batman as he finds only Batman’s utility belt.  We need to find out what has happened to Batman and, if possible, save his life.

This was actually a lot of fun, but I don’t imagine it was that difficult to accomplish.  They basically just used stuff that I had already used with a little bit of extra story to extend the life of the game and give us a little bit more to the story and tie up some loose ends.  But I guess that’s what DLC really is.  That’s why they call them expansion packs.  But the story was good enough, I suppose.  It’s not a complicated story, but it’s told in a slightly more complicated way in order to draw it out a little.  It’s roughly equivalent of what would have just been one mission in the actual game.  Harley Quinn kidnaps Batman, Robin saves him.  The little bit of extra complication they add in there is that we start as Robin, find Batman’s belt, then we jump back in time a little bit to become Batman and see how he got himself into that predicament.  Then back to Robin, and then back to Batman to finish it out.  Not a whole lot more complicated than that.  They did have to do some writing for it, though.  The dialogue was good and you could tell that they spent a little extra time than necessary writing dialogue for random goons that talk about the situation as you pass by.  But it’s a good enough excuse to get back into a game that was already amazing, so I don’t complain.  If I were going to complain about one thing, it would have to be the ending.  I don’t think they handled the situation very well, but it requires ::SPOILER ALERT::  It’s made to look like Batman dies.  He’s trapped with Harley Quinn and a bomb without enough time to disarm it.  Then we cut outside to see Commissioner Gordon run up as the building explodes, seemingly taking Batman and Harley with it.  But it only lets us think that for a few seconds before Batman jumps through the window (with Harley in tow) to safety.  Then they try it again with Harley making Batman think that Robin was still in the building when it blew up, so now he knows what she feels like after having lost the Joker.  But a few seconds later, Robin comes out and everything’s all better.  You have to let this stuff sit for a bit so we can actually believe them.  Obviously, we don’t at first.  Why would you do that?  But then the doubt starts creeping in as the scene drags on.  I felt it was at least two missed opportunities.  ::END SPOILERS::

There’s not a whole lot to add about the look of the game or the gameplay.  I already wrote the review with that stuff in it.  The gameplay is fantastic and enjoyable, and satisfying all the way through, just like the rest of the game.  And I also can’t imagine a game looking any better for what it was trying to do.  The only complaint I had about it was that, being nearly a year removed from having played the main game at this point, I found it really difficult to try to remember what all the controls were as I was trying to get through battles.  But I warmed up to it and remembered it soon enough, and that’s really more my problem than the game’s.  As far as achievements go, this DLC is pretty easy to get the few achievements you can get.  It’s basically just finishing the game (with a few rare stipulations) and make sure you hit all the balloons.  That’s about it.

I told you I’d keep it short, just like the DLC Harley Quinn’s Revenge for Batman: Arkham City.  It’s a short and simple story, but it’s an enjoyable excuse to get a little more time out of a game with some of the most satisfying combat and graphics of 2011.  It’s also pretty dang cheap and can net you a few easy achievements.  Can’t ask for much more for such a low price.  Harley Quinn’s Revenge gets “Is it … a helicopter?” out of “Okay, I didn’t write down any quotes from the game.  So sue me.”

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Rage (2011)


Oh, I’ve Got Some Rage Now…

I was very excited to get my hands on this game since the moment I heard about it.  id Software has been one of my favorite developers since Wolfenstein in 1992, though they really stuck with me with Doom.  Quake was also a very good game.  When I heard that they were developing another game, I was already on board.  I saw a lot about it at E3, talking about the fact that all of their environments are hand painted and not just a random texture generator.  When it finally came to the store shelves, I didn’t buy it.  It was a busy holiday season for gaming and funds were tight.  But when it went on sale on Black Friday, the time had come.  This game is Rage, developed by id Software, published by Bethesda Softworks, and includes the voice acting talents of John Goodman, Dee Bradley Baker, Nolan North, Phil Lamarr, Tara Strong, and Claudia Black.

In the year 2029, an asteroid strikes the planet, killing a large amount of people.  The remaining people in the wasteland have huddled together in communities.  Some of them are just regular people, some of them are bandits preying on those regular people, some of them are mutants preying on anything.  There’s also an ominous authority figure called … what was it? … Oh yes, the Authority.  And, of course, there’s a resistance against them with the equally as clever moniker, the Resistance.  We play as a person that emerges from an Ark, buried deep underground and kept in cryostasis for 106 years.  We emerge and are greeted by a member of the Ghost clan (a group of violent bandits that look like Quan Chi from Mortal Kombat), but saved by Dan Hagar (John Goodman).  From this point on, we help people around various towns with their odd jobs to gain reputation in those towns.  Eventually, we join the Resistance and take on the Authority, who is hunting us because Ark Survivor’s apparently have access to something they want.

I was fairly devastated by this game, but the majority of the reason will be in the next paragraph.  This is a pretty classic first person shooter with not much by way of gameplay to separate it from the pack, but id Software arguably created the genre, so it’s all pretty smooth and comfortable.  They don’t add much of anything to the gun types.  They have the standard machine guns, pistol, shotguns, but they do add a boomerang type device called a Wingstick.  You could toss this out, get a decapitation, and have it return to you.  The weapon was nice enough, but it became pretty useless later in the game when it would only knock the enemy’s helmet off and allow them to keep shooting at you.  The enemies varied in type and look a large amount, ranging from bandits dressed like indians, bandits in armor, and the robotic, heavily-armored Authority.  Each one looked pretty different, and also moved different.  The mutants would run along walls and roll, making them difficult to shoot.  Part of the problem with this game is a problem I’ve had with other FPS games in recent history: the headshot.  There was a time when the headshot was all you needed to take out the regular enemies.  This first began to change when Dead Space came out, touting their strategic dismemberment and how a simple headshot would not be all it took to defeat your foes.  But I liked the headshot.  You have to be pretty good to get the headshot and you should be awarded for it.  This game makes the headshot pretty insignificant since most enemies are armored and a headshot would mostly just remove their helmet.  I want headshots to have their power back!  Especially since this game had a crossbow that the game claimed would help you get into locations with stealth, but without being able to one-shot kill your enemy with a headshot, a crossbow shot to the head just gets their attention and they start shooting, throwing stealth out the window.  The look of the game is pretty glorious.  Though you occasionally need to wait a beat or two for them to load up fully, you can see that they took the time to paint these textures.  The environments are ugly, but beautifully executed ugly.  What should you expect of the environments in a post apocalyptic game?  The game is kind of open world, allowing you to leave a town and drive around the wasteland a little, but there are certain paths to take and no real reason to do it unless you’re on a mission, so that turns it more towards linear.  The level maps repeat fairly frequently, but they make you take different paths through them and that keeps them fairly fresh.

::SPOILER ALERT::  It’s not much of a spoiler alert actually.  I won’t spoil the ending of this game because there wasn’t one.  I was playing through the second disc of the game, doing what felt like an average mission that might be closing the third act.  I get to the top of this structure, press a button, fight off mutants, press a button, fight off mutants, and then press the final button and … um … wait a second?  Where’d it go?  They completely forgot to write a ending.  You press that button, a cinematic plays of arks popping out of the ground, and the credits started playing.  For joking purposes, I half thought about stopping my review abruptly right about now, but then I realized how annoying that would be, which is something the people that made Rage didn’t realize.  It felt like it was rushed to completion, but I never saw the demand for this game reaching such a boiling point that they should decide to release it before it was finished, or crap out some really lackluster ending.  So why?  If you had the time, use it to make the game amazing.  Everything else in the game worked very well, but the ending was so disappointing that it tarnished my memories of the rest of the game.  ::END SPOILERS::

There is apparently multiplayer to this game as well, but the ending made me so angry I didn’t even look at it.  From what I can gather, it takes the mildly entertaining vehicle combat used during trips from one location of another in the game and makes you face off with others.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.

It’s not possible to call this game a complete loss.  It’s a gorgeous looking game with some of the tightest shooting mechanics you can find, as well as enemies that give an added degree of challenge with their acrobatic maneuvers.  It’s a completely satisfying game that you will really wish they had finished.  The ending is just so rushed and crappy that it makes me feel like I just wasted my time.  But I didn’t.  I say this game is worth a rental, but know what you’re getting yourself into by the time you reach the game’s end.  Rage gets “…

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Batman: Arkham City (2011)


A Ruby the Size of a Tangerine

Okay, I’ll do the actual first review of something good, and it’ll be a video game.  That game, of course, is Duke Nukem Forever.  …Just kidding.  BATMAN!!  Not to spoil my review and give away what I thought about it, I bought this game in collector’s edition and I’ve beaten it twice and it’s amazing.  You’ll find out what I think about it later.  First, the summary.  Batman: Arkham City is an open-world, action-adventure game brought to us by the fine people at Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  Also, I got the game with the Catwoman DLC so that may have changed my story a bit.

Some bald a-hole named Hugo Strange (Corey Burton) has convinced Gotham to release the prisoners of Arkham Asylum into a walled off section of the city and let them have free reign.  They call this place Arkham City.  Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) is not keen on the idea for some reason and campaigns to get it shut down.  The closest thing to a reason I can remember is that his parents were killed behind the theater there.  Anyways, at a rally, Wayne is captured by Strange’s Tyger Security guards.  Turns out Bruce Wayne is Batman, and Strange knows it.  Wayne is released into Arkham City and is quickly recaptured by the Penguin (Nolan North of Nathan Drake fame).  The Penguin is harboring a grudge against Wayne which is probably only made worse by the fact that he ass-kicks his way out of his custody.  Calling in a drop from his butler Alfred (Martin Jarvis), Wayne gets all suited up and Batman’d out.  Time to punch some faces!  First order of business: Two-Face (Troy Baker) has captured Catwoman (Grey DeLisle) and you have to rescue her.  Once you have, a smiley face laser appears on her head and a shot rings out.  Don’t worry, you saved her.  But who would have aimed a gun with a smiley face on it?  I’m sure we’re all surprised to find out it was the Joker (Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill).  Batman goes to investigate but finds only the Joker’s sidekick/girl-toy Harley Quinn (Tara Strong).  She confesses that, after the events of the first game, Joker is dying from Titan poisoning.  This doesn’t concern Batman at all … except that Harley Quinn knocks out Batman and they inject him with some of the Joker’s poisoned blood.  Now Batman must try to cure himself while trying to figure out what Hugo Strange’s Protocol 10 and how he can stop it.

This game is amaz-zaz-zing.  Let’s go through this piece by piece and describe why.  First, the graphics: amazing.  It is almost flawless in it’s presentation.  Batman looks great.  They take a midpoint between the comic book Batman and the realistic armor look of the Christian Bale Batman by having him look like the comic book equivalent with his costume looking like it could have armor on it, he has gauntlets that he can put things into for analysis, and he has pieces that come down over his eyes when he goes into Detective Mode.  His costume also gets beat up over the course of the game as he’s been through some mess and hasn’t had time to change.  Arkham City is dark and foreboding as it should be, and also keeps the damage done to it along the course of the game.  When the church tower is blown up by the Joker, it stays a smoldering mess from that point on.  All of the other characters are captured well and most are made into darker versions of their characters.  Catwoman is made into all appropriate kinds of hot.  Harley Quinn’s outfit is different from her classic one, but still very hot.  Mr. Freeze’s outfit hasn’t changed much, but may have gotten cooler (pun intended).  Penguin looks different from Danny Devito, but is Penguin appropriate, adding one bottle to the eye like a disturbing version of a monocle.  Two-Face, Riddler, Zsasz, Bane, Robin, Poison Ivy, Calendar Man, Ra’s and Talia al Ghul, Mad Hatter, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Hush, Black Mask, Clayface, and other classic Batman characters are all here and captured masterfully.  The only issue graphically is that I noticed they took the easy way out in a few shots.  When Two-Face is drawn up, he’s already tied up inexplicably, and on occasion Riddler’s mouth doesn’t move when he’s talking.  But these are minor problems and barely worth noticing.

The gameplay is super satisfying as well.  The fighting is fairly simple, but ultimately satisfying.  X punches, Y counters, double tap A to jump over someone, B stuns, and you can use your gadgets in combat.  It’s pretty easy to get the hang of and gives you the opportunity to feel like you’re the bat.  Combat amps up as enemies gain weapons and numbers over Batman, but if you get the hang of the combat system, their numbers and weapons will mean nothing to you.  YOU ARE THE BAT!  Arkham City steps it up over Arkham Asylum by giving you an open world to explore, and traversing it is also very satisfying.  Granted, I would’ve liked to be able to get around in a Batmobile, but a grappling system is also good.  You shoot your grappling hook over to places and can glide with your cape.  With an upgrade, your grappling hook will shoot you out over your grapple point and send you immediately into a glide, and that’s the only way to fly.  Catwoman, however, could’ve used a little work.  She has similar controls with different animations that feel like they could’ve been refined a little more.  It might not have been so bad if you didn’t play as Batman first; his controls being so smooth most of the time.  But, switching to Catwoman, you can no longer destroy the enemy weapon that was giving you such a hard time (usually the shield or the stun baton) as you may have gotten used to with Batman.  Her travel system is a big step down as well.  Instead of getting pulled straight over to a point you hit it with your whip and swing down to a point on the wall well below that point and usually exposed to guards that will then shoot at you.  If you have not been spotted, you will have to hit timed-button-presses to make your way up to the point you set.  This is not good when you’re trying to stealthily make your way around the room to clear it of bad guys.  She did, however, have the ability to cling to the ceiling, which Batman does not, and use that to solve puzzles or take out enemies and disappear from sight.  Stealth is a big part of the game since head-on assault can sometimes be suicide, and it’s usually well done.  The Mr. Freeze battle forces you to see how many opportunities you have to take someone out as he blocks you from repeating the same take down you just used.  Batman can hang people from vantage points, pull them over ledges, pop up from out of floor grates, charge through wall grates, blow up a wall on you, use the environment, or just flat out sneak up behind and choke out.  This is usually satisfying.  Catwoman loses many of these opportunities and replaces them with ceiling crawling.  They will also change what they do depending on what’s around them.  If your character is near a wall, he or she may bounce off it to punch them or grab their head and slam it into the wall.  If you interrogate the enemies near a handrail, you will dangle them over it by their leg.

Batman also has more gadgets than James Bond.  You have electrically charged taser gun that can open certain doors and knock over armored enemies.  You have freeze grenades that can freeze an enemy in place to either take down or use as bait or make walkways on water.  You’ve got classic batarang, boomerang batarang, and remote controlled batarang that can hit switches or knock people over edges.  Your line launcher can traverse areas you can’t jump into or be used to kick an enemy over a ledge.  Explosives that can knock out an enemy or simply open a wall, but only if it’s drawn in the shape of the bat symbol apparently.  Maybe even some more gadgets that I forgot.  He has a plethora of tools that can mostly be used in puzzle solving or in combat.  And the best part about them is that, even though there are a lot of them, they are easy to access when you need them and most are easily used in combat with the correct combination of buttons.  My personal favorite was the bat grapple.  Usually used to traverse the environment or to pull an enemy over a ledge, I liked to use it in combat (by holding the Left Trigger and pressing Y) to disarm an enemy with a gun and clothesline the mamma jamma while he stumbled towards me.  Very satisfying, especially if it went into slo-mo because he was the last enemy in the area.  They also brought back Detective Mode, which could be switched to in order to track enemies to set up takedowns and other uses.  Catwoman’s vision, however, was not that helpful.  You could see enemies, but it made no discernible distinction between armed enemies and unarmed, or armored enemies and unarmored.  So that was barely helpful.

Another big part of the game (at least if you’re achievement hunting) is the challenges.  There are 3 types of challenges: combat, predator, and campaign.  Combat challenges put you in a room with increasing amounts and difficulties of enemies and you try to reach a high score for medals by trying not to get hit and keeping your combat multiplier up.  Predator is the stealth approach where you have to try to do the 3 special takedowns for medals.  Campaign is 3 back-to-back missions of the other 2 types mixed with modifiers that can be turned on at different times.  I really only did these with any degree of seriousness because I wanted the achievements.  They could get tedious pretty quickly, especially as they got more difficult, but I found in the second playthrough afterwards I had gotten very good at Batmanning and it was a breeze.

There are a lot of collectables in this game, which is something that can be taken either as a positive or a negative.  I actually enjoyed it for the most part.  There were 400 collectables; which are Riddler trophies, riddles, and special things you need to do in combat or travel.  The good thing about this is that there was actually a reason to do them, besides just the achievements.  The most obvious one is that, if you collect enough of them, you can save a hostage of the Riddler.  You can also unlock artwork and recordings of Hugo Strange interviewing the various villains of Gotham, which I found entertaining.  You can also have them shown on your map if you find the covert Riddler operatives and interrogate them.  Lots of people may not have the patience for these collectables though.

The voice work was all around fantastic.  Mark Hamill does the best Joker voice.  Really creepy and appropriate for the character.  Everyone else fit their characters perfectly with no complaints.  I also think Harley Quinn’s voice makes her extra cute.  Too bad she’s crazy…

I’ve gone on too long.  QUICK WRAP UP!  This game is great.  Go buy now.  Give game “Dark Knight” out of “Batman Begins”.

Hey, peeps.  Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh?  And tell your friends!  Let’s make me famous!