Lego Marvel Super Heroes (2013)

The (Hopefully Temporarily) Best Game on the X-Box One!

Lego Marvel Super Heroes (2013)I’ve had my Xbone for a few months now and thus far I’ve been fairly disappointed with what it has to offer.  Not as a system itself; that has been fantastic.  What disappoints me is the lineup available for my next gen system.  I’ve played a few games on the system already and have found the results typically mediocre.  The game I’m reviewing today has been available since the system’s launch, but I’ve never felt it was quite worth its price.  That was until my friend Bob, the Mayor of Krunkytown, told me that I needed it.  Well, you don’t argue with a mayor and so I went out and purchased Lego Marvel Super Heroes, developed by TT Games, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and starring the voices of Stan Lee, John DiMaggio, James Arnold Taylor, Clark Gregg, John Eric Bentley, Dee Bradley Baker, Roger Craig Smith, Troy Baker, Fred Tatasciore, Nolan North, Laura Bailey, Kari Wahlgren, Travis Willingham, and Phil LaMarr.

It would probably be too hard to go too in depth with the story of this game.  Not because it’s particularly complicated, but because I would have to list too many damned names.  The quick break down is that a bunch of supervillains are getting together to steal cosmic bricks in order to build the “Doom Ray of Doom” to defeat Galactus (John DiMaggio) the World Devourer in hopes that it will make the people of Earth fall in line and worship their saviors.  Little do they know that they are being played by the Asgardian God of Mischief Loki (Troy Baker), who intends to harness the power of Galactus to destroy Earth and Asgard.  But Marvel comics doesn’t just make villains, do they?  HELL NO!  AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!  …And a lot of other heroes too!

This is hands down the best game available on the Xbone.  That title is made much easier to achieve by having only 20 other titles to compete with, but that does not take much away from the acclaim.  I’ve always been fond of the Lego series.  I’ve never connected with them too drastically, but they’re typically cute and fun and they just keep getting better.  Some of their properties that they’ve made into Lego versions haven’t interested me too much, but this is Marvel.  Of course I’m in!  And it’s the best Lego game I’ve played.  The story is nothing too spectacular.  It’s basically just a “heroes save the world” deal.  Actually, it’s pretty much the story of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.  That’s really all it needs to be though.  What I appreciated about it is the funny little moments they can install into the story.  I still think I liked them better when they couldn’t talk because they were pretty good at adding comedy without it.  But they’re not too shabby with dialogue either.  Having Hulk yell, “HULK SMASH UGLY SIDEBURNS!” when he meets Wolverine is pretty funny.  They also used Nick Fury in some hilarious ways.  Though he had nothing to do with the game, the character of Nick Fury is typically played by Samuel L. Jackson, and Traveller’s Tales used that for some comedy that would be well over the heads of the children that might typically play their games, making some nice references to Pulp Fiction and Snakes on a Plane.

One of the things I appreciated the most about this game was the fan service.  They referenced everything they could think to reference from the Marvel universe, and more specifically the Marvel movies.  There was a part where the Hulk punches the Green Goblin as he punched Thor in the Avengers, Thor arrives into the game like he does in Thor: The Dark World and even in a similar setting, the Put Up Your Dukes level is right out of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one of the times you rescue Stan Lee is a reference to when he drank the infected juice in the Hulk movie, the chess set where we find Stan at one point might be a subtle reference to his cameo in the Avengers, and the game even has a mid-credit sequence like the greater majority of comic book movies.  Also, there are achievements for doing the Fastball Special (throwing Wolverine at an enemy as Colossus) and for having Captain America and Human Torch on the same team (because both are played by Chris Evans in the movies).

Now, all of those references could not have been recognized if it were not for some extreme levels of nerdiness.  That nerdiness also caused a few problems with this game.  At one point, Gambit stops the Juggernaut dead in his tracks by dropping a chandelier on him.  As big of a fan of Gambit as I am, that just doesn’t happen.  Once the Juggernaut starts moving, nothing can stop him!  He’s the Juggernaut, bitch!  Also, why is the X-Men airplane called the X-Jet now?  Is it not still the Blackbird?  And since when is the X-Mansion on the island of Manhattan?!  I also had a lot of problems arise from what the characters were able to do.  First of all, Spider-Man has genius-level intellect.  Why do I have to switch to that lame ass Mister Fantastic in order to use a control panel?  And while we’re on the subject: I know you probably felt the need to make Mister Fantastic seem useful, but since when can he turn himself into complex machines like an electric screwdriver?  That doesn’t even make sense!  …The rest of the game is perfectly logical to me though…  I also thought Mystique should’ve been more useful.  She can basically just sneak past things.  Shouldn’t she at least be able to turn into people with claws to use the claw switches?  She turned into Wolverine and had claws in the first X-Men movie!  I also didn’t like that Jean Grey didn’t have the special senses to detect switches like Spider-Man and Wolverine.  How does that make sense?  She has EXTRA Sensory Perception!  That’s like two more sensories!  And even worse, how can she take fire damage when you pick the version of Jean Grey that’s the Phoenix?  She flew into the Sun as the Phoenix!  And how does Iron Man get frozen?!  He fixed that icing problem in Iron Man 1!  And how does Magneto not fly?!  I AM THE KING OF NERDS!!

Admittedly, the look of the game doesn’t quite live up to next gen expectations.  It looks about as good as recent Lego games have on current/previous gen consoles.  It’s the look they’re going for and I don’t really knock it for that.  It’s kind of for kids, so it’s supposed to have a really colorful and not necessarily photorealistic look.  Also, it’s a Lego game.  How do you go photorealistic with that?  And this one is different from any others I’ve played because they let you play around in a sandbox Manhattan between story missions, and that is just fine by me.  I got to jet through the streets as Iron Man and the Silver Surfer!  Although I was a little bit bothered that the Silver Surfer’s flying sounded a little like a vacuum cleaner.  Is he the Silver Maid or something?  I thought all maids were brown!  BOOM!

The game is really fun and kept me interested right up to the point where I got 100% on the achievements.  I can’t really keep wasting time on a game when I’m not getting no chievos no more!  There were a couple of minor problems with the game.  Sometimes the camera didn’t want to play along, or more accurately to let you see what you were playing.  I also had a common problem where my character would choose to target my ally relentlessly when I was surrounded by enemies.  I also got irritated in the first level because they kept putting up reminders when I was the Hulk that I could hold Y to turn back into Bruce Banner.  Why would I ever want to do that?  You realize that I’m currently the Hulk, right?

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is currently my favorite Xbone game by leaps and bounds.  It’s not hard to do when everything else on the system turned out to be okay at best, but the game is still entirely enjoyable.  The story is simple but peppered with some enjoyable humor, the game looks good though not quite next gen quality yet, and it’s lots of fun to play.  I got hours of enjoyment out of this game and lost track of most of those hours after I started playing and realized shortly after that it was 4 in the morning.  And it’s an easy 1000 achievements for you achievement whores like me.  Don’t try to act like you’re too adult to enjoy this game!  It’s fun for the whole family!  Lego Marvel Super Heroes gets “Excelsior!” out of “I’m still hungry!  I need something to eat!”

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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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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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Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (2012)

Where Does He Get These Unbreakable Toys?

Today’s game comes as a surprise to even me. I have no idea why I like this game type, but I’ve always been a fan of them. The games are fairly obviously geared towards children, and they’ve also made somewhere in the range of 100 games on the same premise, but I still find them to generally be some goofy fun. But after having played 7,000 games based on the same cute idea, will I feel like I’ve been beaten over the head with them? Will I still enjoy it? And will I be able to follow the story when I missed the first game? We’ll find out as I review Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, written by Jon Burton and David A. Goodman, developed by Traveller’s Tales, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and starring the voices of Troy Baker, Charlie Schlatter, Clancy Brown, Christopher Corey Smith, Travis Willingham, Anna Vocino, Rob Paulsen, Nolan North, Kari Wahlgren, and Fred Tatasciore.

A “Man of the Year” competition in Gotham City is broken up by a group of villains – the Joker (Christopher Corey Smith), Harley Quinn (Laura Bailey), the Riddler (Rob Paulsen), Two-Face (Troy Baker), and the Penguin (Steven Blum). Batman and Robin (Charlie Schlatter) respond to the call. They take out the villains and send them back to Arkham Asylum. Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) then shows up and frees the Joker with a weapon called “The Deconstructor”, which tears apart objects and is powered by Kryptonite. Luthor and the Joker intend to get Luthor elected as President using the Joker’s laughing gas. With the help of the rest of the Justice League, Batman, Robin, and Superman (Travis Willingham) need to shut that shit right on down.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Lego games. Most of them are super easy to come up with since they’re mostly just movies like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Lord of the Rings, retold with Legos and goofiness. This game sets itself apart from the others in the story department, but not always in ways that I appreciate. I thought they did the story fairly well. It was a pretty basic and unsurprising story. It’s basically just Batman and Robin trying to stop the Joker. Then Lex Luthor comes along and Superman joins in. Then things get a little out of hand for them and the rest of the Justice League shows up at the end to clean things up. There’s also a fairly sizeable subplot about Batman’s feelings of inadequacy towards Superman. But I can’t say I expected anything else. It is aimed more at kids, after all. But it also had plenty enough cute little funny moments that I’ve come to expect from the Lego games to make it enjoyable. But along with their slightly more involved original story came something I had not seen in one of the Lego games before: talking. The other games were so good at telling a story and being cute and funny without the use of words, even when they were telling the more epic story of some classic movies like Star Wars. I don’t know if this is the first game where they used the spoken word, but I’d actually prefer them going back to the art of mime. It was cuter and funnier that way, and it’s a little strange to see Lego creatures speaking.

For the story changes that they’ve made, they were mostly unwilling to make any to the gameplay itself. Of course, I like the gameplay. It’s simple and unchallenging, but it’s still enjoyable. The bulk of the game is as simple as pressing X a lot to break things, and occasionally holding B to put things together. That’s how all of the Lego games work. They add a little bit of puzzle solving into the equation by making each character able to do different things, and in the case of this game they make Batman and Robin particularly versatile because they can do many different things by finding special suits, such as Batman’s Power Suit that allows him to shoot explosives, or Robin’s Acrobat Suit that allows him to swing from poles on the wall … and create a giant plastic ball for some reason. This creates a mild level of puzzle solving … at least until Superman joins your team. He exemplifies the reason I hate him: he does almost everything and is immortal. He doesn’t need a Hazard Suit filled with water to put out fire; he’ll just breathe on it. He doesn’t need an Ice Suit to freeze water; his breath will do that too. He can fly and reach places Batman and Robin can’t, and kind of eliminates the need to use the Acrobat Suit to reach those same heights. And what’s more is he can’t be damaged, so the ease of the game up to that point is increased because I can put my controller down and come back later and still not have taken any damage from the hordes of enemies around me. And this pretty much forces me to play as him because I can’t wrap my brain around not playing the immortal character that does everything that’s readily available to me. Once you finish the game and unlock the other characters, the need for Batman and Robin is almost erased entirely, which is weird because this is supposed to be Batman’s game. You don’t need the Bat Suit to break glass because you have Man Bat and Black Canary, you don’t need the Power Suit because the Penguin has explosives, you barely need the Hazard Suit because Aquaman can clean up toxic waste with his water blasts, and you don’t need the Ice Suit with Mr. Freeze around. Why bother finding a suit when I can just hold Y and switch to the character immediately? There were also things in the game that would bother a comic book nerd like myself. First of all is a complaint that some comic nerds got from the first Tim Burton Batman movie: Batman doesn’t use guns! You can’t just throw guns on the Batmobile and the Batwing all willy nilly like! I know that the enemies were just technically breaking up into Lego pieces because this is a kid’s game, but that’s the equivalent of killing in this game, and Batman doesn’t do that either. I was also confused by the fact that Wonder Woman could fly. As far as I knew, Wonder Woman’s version of flight is having a stupid invisible jet plane, and they even put that plane into the game as an unlockable vehicle. Turns out (after some Wikipedia research) they did make Wonder Woman able to fly, but it still stuck out for me as not right. Also, what’s the point with the stupid combo things? Beating enemies in quick succession made multipliers show up on the screen, but they didn’t do anything so I didn’t see the point. All it let you do is a finishing move of sorts that got you an achievement, but besides that it seemed to have no point.

Speaking of achievements and things that have no real point, one of my favorite things about the majority of the Lego games is how easy the achievements are to get. The greater majority of the games that I’ve completed 100% are Lego games, and this one keeps with the same tradition. I was able to get all of the achievements for the game in about 2 days. It’s basically just beating the game and unlocking all of the characters. The only thing that may keep people from going for them is the fact that you have to collect 250 gold bricks in the game, but even that doesn’t take very long. It just requires the patience to collect them.

The look and sound of the game were as good as a Lego game can muster. Around the time of the Pirates of the Caribbean games, they started putting their silly-looking Lego characters into landscapes that were actually very pretty as opposed to Lego backdrops that weren’t that visually compelling. They keep that up here. I also kind of liked the voice acting in the game (even though I didn’t like that there WAS voice acting in the game) because the voices were either of the people that typically voice the characters in the cartoons or they sounded a lot like them. I actually thought the guy doing the Joker’s voice was Mark Hamill for a while, although that thought kind of broke down as time went on. The person that did Harley Quinn’s voice didn’t do a very good job representing that voice, which makes me sad because I really like Harley’s voice. Also, the guy that does the Riddler’s voice? His name is Robert Paulsen. …Or at least Rob Paulsen. Does anyone else get that joke? The music was also nice in the game, particularly when you were flying around the city as that douche nozzle Superman because they used the famous music John Williams made for the movies, and that’s just a kick ass orchestration.

I think that about covers it. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes doesn’t break any new ground, but I still find myself charmed by the series. The story is basic, and it bummed me out that they actually made the characters speak, but it’s still cute and amusing and the gameplay, though very easy, always manages to keep me interested. Plus, it’s super easy achievements, and I’m always on board for that. If you’ve liked the Lego games in the past, or you have kids that you want to play some games that you might enjoy yourself when they’re not playing, or you just want some easy achievements, then Lego Batman 2 gets my seal of approval. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes gets “I can see you smirking in there. X-ray vision” out of “I’d have to be crazy to say no to that offer. Unless you’re just one of the voices in my head. In which case, I’m crazy anyway!”

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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.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

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!

F.E.A.R. 3 (2011)

GameFly got me a game I’ve been looking to get my hands on since it came out in the form of F.E.A.R. 3 (which you will hopefully excuse me for just calling FEAR 3 from now on), brought to us by Day 1 Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

FEAR 3 is the 3rd in the series, if I may surprise you for a second.  For a little background, at least what I can remember: FEAR 1 starts you as the nameless protagonist called Point Man, who is a new member to a faction of military that deals in paranormal threats.  But there’s a twist to Point Man; his fantastic reflexes (shown in the game by slowing down the action for everyone but Point Man, allowing him to beat some ass).  Well he makes his way through the game with a Ring-esque little girl with black hair covering her face and a red dress, named Alma, popping up and submitting him to horrors and nightmares with her intense telepathic and telekinetic abilities until he sabotages a reactor to destroy her and her son, Paxton Fettel.  Well it doesn’t work.  FEAR 2 is almost a prequel but kind of happens alongside the first.  You play as Michael Becket, a Delta Force operator, who is sent to retrieve some lady that has something to do with the program that made Alma so angry.  Right before he gets her out, the reactor explosion from FEAR happens and he’s knocked out.  He wakes up in a facility that gives him abilities similar to Point Man’s reflexes, and he uses them to escape.  Then Alma starts hounding him ’cause she’s got a crush.  She drops her little girl facade and shows her skinny naked girl image.  To try to get her off his jock, he tries getting into a psychic amplifier.  She finds him as he’s strapped down and rapes him.  Then she’s preggers.

Now that we’re up to speed, FEAR 3 puts us back in as Point Man who is basically haunted by his brother, Paxton Fettel, who he killed in one of the earlier games.  Point Man is Fettel’s older brother and so is also Alma’s son.  Point Man has been captured by Armacham Security and is getting his face punched up until the ghost of Fettel takes over one of the guards and kills the other.  Point Man and Fettel then excape.  They soon meet up with a friend of Point Man’s from FEAR 1, a woman FEAR operative named Jin.  She shows him footage of Michael Becket talking about how he was raped by Alma and now she’s knocked up with what one can assume is the antichrist.  Point Man and Fettel then go after Becket to find out what’s going on and try to stop the baby’s birth, though each has different reasons.

FEAR 3 is a first-person shooter that adds the twist of slo-mo, at the time and especially now a somewhat overused gimmick in the gaming world.  I don’t know when it started in gaming, but it started around the time the Matrix came out and every game tried to take a swing at it, most successfully with FEAR and Max Payne.  This game plays very well.  The slo-mo is great in a sticky situation and would be welcome (if well done) in may shooters.  The only problem I had with the gameplay was the control scheme, and it’s not so much this game’s fault as it is a problem with all FPS’s.  Why can’t these things get on board with each other?  You can scarcely go from one FPS to another without the controls changing so drastically that you accidentally throw a grenade and kill yourself when trying to run.  The weapons are mostly standard with a few new additions.  It, of course, has your shotguns, pistols, assault rifles, SMG’s, but then adds some giant lightning laser gun and, my favorite, the Penetrator.  This is a type of gun you see in a few other shooters, but I love any weapon that can potentially pin an enemy’s corpse to a wall.  There are also a few, sparse parts in the game where you can hop in a Mechanized suit to wreak some havoc.  It’s fun enough, but I think I’d like it better without.

FEAR 3 is also set up to be a co-operative game, where players can choose to be Point Man or his brother, Fettel.  I never played co-op, but I did play a level as Fettel, and it was lame.  Most people will (appropriately) not remember a game called Geist for the GameCube, but it kind of handles like that, but it loses the parts of playing as a ghost that are interesting.  Fettel basically controls just like Point Man if you slapped a red film over his eyes and made it so he can’t pick up guns.  Instead, you’re a ghost and can do damage in that form but you can also possess enemies and kill people as them.  What the game forgets is that, when playing as Point Man, no one could see Fettel, he could walk through walls, and he couldn’t be shot.  But this is not the case when you control Fettel, and that’s the balls.  And only the ending changes when you play as Fettel, so why bother.  Just look up the ending on Wikipedia or YouTube.

It’s the style of the game that sets FEAR apart from similar shooters.  Since FEAR 1 (with varying degrees of success), the game has attempted to combine your regular action-shooter with a horror movie.  FEAR was most successful at this, at times having genuine scares in it.  FEAR 3: pretty light on scares in my opinion.  If they make another game, they should probably focus more on that.  And it’s not the atmosphere either.  The graphics and lighting are top of the line.  The music supports the scary.  But they just didn’t put that much of it in.  The creepiest moment was in an airport when on one of those moving walkways, you could look over and see little girl Alma on the opposite direction walkway just staring at you creepily.  Though not scary, the third level was in what appeared to be a haunted CostCo, which I liked seeing.  Next up?  Haunted Best Buy.  And the song that runs over the end credits is “Mother” by Danzig, which is both awesome AND appropriate.

Another part of the game that kept me interested was the point system.  Even in single player campaign the player was collecting points and leveling up as someone would in multiplayer on a game like Call of Duty.  I liked this a lot.  It keeps me interested in the game to not just be running through a game, killing randoms, and trying to finish the story.  This way I’m going through trying to get a certain type of kill with a certain type of weapon and it keeps me attentive.  One complaint about this was that you could find collectable dead bodies and “Psychic Link” with them, which would just give you points.  This only bothers me because it seems like you could do something cooler with this like get visions of memories from these bodies or something.

As for multiplayer: didn’t play it.  Not interested.  No opinion.

So, all in all, this is a great game with a good story you should probably take a look at.  And even more so if you’ve played the other FEAR games and need to keep up with the story.  I love this series once I’ve added up the sum of it’s parts.  I just think they should get back to their scary roots and take a step away from the action.  We have enough action shooters already.  So, all things considered, you should at least give this game a rental, if not a purchase.  I support either decision.  …Out of 34.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.