Except he doesn't really dress as a bat though does he? Unless there's a species of flying mammal out there known for wearing a cape, spiky metal gauntlets and underwear over their pants. That gear he's wearing is basically a custom Solid Snake style sneaking suit with a really hot and uncomfortable looking armoured cowl in the place of Snake's stylish bandana. Sure it has thin pointy ears sticking out the top of it, but bats don't even have thin pointy ears so...
And as far as the whole 'violent vigilante' thing goes, well if I was skilled enough to effortlessly take out a whole room full of evil ninjas with both my arms tied behind my back while simultaneously disarming a nuke using only my mouth and a half a toothpick, I'd probably go fight crime too. If only because I didn't want to get drowned/poisoned/frozen etc. every week by a supervillain's nefarious scheme while Gotham's finest were busy tripping over each other.
(Click the pics to expand them into semi-glorious 1280x800 res images.)
The video clip is all made up to look like real time in-game graphics, but I'm on to them (the widescreen bars and blurriness was my biggest clue). Oh, plus the fact that there's no way a game from 2009 is going to look this good in-game on my ancient rig.
Anyway the game has decided to do the old Half-Life trick of forcing me to sit through a long unskippable intro sequence where I'm basically being taken along for a non-interactive ride through a huge underground high security facility to establish the setting and the set up. It lasts about the same time too I believe: seven whole minutes of the Joker taking the piss out of every guard he meets along the way, while taunting Batman on not having figured out his scheme yet. And yet somehow this isn't getting old.
It doesn't hurt that it's got Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reading dialogue scripted by Paul Dini: the same team who gifted humanity with the legendary Batman: The Animated Series cartoon during the 90s. Basically this couldn't be more of an authentic Batman story if they'd gotten the Nolan brothers and Christian Bale working on it.
Fortunately Batman's got a little voice in his head that tells him what the controls are and even highlights enemies that are about to strike him. When the blue lightning bolts appear above someone's head all I have to do is hit the counter button and...
Unfortunately Batman's near-superhuman awareness of his surroundings does seem to have limits, as he appears to have just stomped on that poor unconscious guard's head.
Not that I can breeze through it without paying attention, Batman is very capable of getting punched in the face I fail to counter at the right moment, and I do like to flip over people's heads to get into a better location.
Well I sure beat the shit out of those tutorial enemies and I did so with an excessive amount of grace and finesse. Not that there's any other way to fight in this game.
By the way Batman isn't actually killing any of these people. He's had ninja training, he knows how to apply foot to face without causing permanent damage. Because it's fiction, and concussion isn't a thing in fiction.
Even if I could climb back out through that broken window up there that Commissioner Gordon's currently peering out of, there's nothing back there but a locked door anyway. So we're both trapped unless I get the security lockdown sorted out, and that means playing right into the Joker's hands.
Uh, one small problem with that though: I'm using a controller, but the prompts have all switched to keyboard and mouse controls because I keep hitting a key to take my screenshots, so... I don't actually know what button activates my glide kick. Oh well, I guess I'll just drop down, walk over and punch him.
Incidentally, mouse and keyboard controls actually work just fine for the game in my opinion. It's not a game that requires a controller, though there's no advantage to having precision mouse aiming either.
TEN MINUTES LATER.
Well this is great: I finally managed to catch up to the Joker, and he goes and sends a boss out to distract me! I don't recognise this guy from any of the Batman stories I know, but I've seen him in a hundred other video games. He's that guy who you likes to charge at you from across the room, so you dodge out of the way and let him knock himself senseless on the wall behind you, then kick him in the ass when he's struggling to recover.
Personally I could've done without this kind of thing in the game at all, but it's nice to know I'm getting it out of the way early.
I like how it adds fact sheets for each of the characters as I meet them, if only because it lets me know if they really are from the comics, or if they were just made up for the game. So far they've all been existing characters, which is interesting considering I haven't even heard of half of them. Not knowing the backstory hasn't mattered one bit for me though so far, as the game's been very good at providing the necessary info as the story's progressed.
It actually reminds me of Metal Gear Solid a little in its structure and its approach to narrative. I even make codec calls to a tech expert on the outside, though they take place while I'm wandering around instead of a separate screen. Incidentally there's no dialogue choices in this either, I just enter into a conversation and then sit through it until it's over. Personally I think this is a missed opportunity, as I think it would've added a little more depth and replay value if players had the freedom to reply with "I am the Bat" in each and every conversation.
Well, I guess variety is good.
SIX MINUTES LATER.
Ocarina of Time (and possibly other Zelda games too!)
So it seems that I've gone from brawling, stalking, boss fighting, and dot following, to an obstacle course.
SEVERAL FLOORS LATER.
Still, it's not all been pain and no gain, I found a weird stone tablet with a weird diary entry encoded onto it in weird cryptic symbols, written by the spirit of Amadeus Arkham himself apparently. Fortunately my batsuit can replay the written message as a System Shock 2/Doom 3/Bioshock etc. style audio diary, so I can listen to his ramblings as I go.
Speaking of spying on the mentally disturbed from the shadows, look what I've found! It's one of Joker's henchmen who's strayed too far from his friends. Attacking a group would be suicide, but if I can knock this guy out before his friends catch sight of me, I should be able to make my escape safely back to the ceiling.
Sure his friends will soon find the body and realise I'm here, but I'm counting on it. This isn't about getting through a room without leaving a trace, it's about scaring the shit out of people and preying on them when they panic and make a mistake.
It seems that another nutcase criminal, the Riddler, is also out and about in the facility and he's issued a challenge to me via my suit's codec thing. His riddle is so painfully easy to solve that it seems to actually be hurting him that I haven't figured it out yet. I mean sure a 'Sharply observed portrait' clearly refers to a portrait of Warden Sharp, I get that, but first I have to find the thing.
I have to wonder if the developers deliberately made this painting take a few seconds to find, as Riddler seems pretty quick to freak out over my stupidity and basically yell out the answer at me. Then again this is only a tutorial riddle to introduce the concept and I need solve it to progress in the game, so it makes sense they wouldn't want to hold players up for long.
Metroid's power-up based approach to unlocking rooms rather than the Metal Gear keycard route. The Riddler trophy will just have to wait until I find a way to blow open walls.
On the plus side, I'm going to eventually find an item that blows open walls!
That moon looks bloody huge too now that I think about it, though it definitely adds to the eerie ambience. Plus I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason why Batman's back is lit up by moonlight despite the fact he's facing towards the moon. Probably because it looks cool.
Psychonauts, the game has an overworld broken up into a few different hub areas, connected by gates. Though unlike Psychonauts, in this I have a Batmobile parked outside and some assholes are apparently on their way to smash it to pieces.
Forget saving my friend Gordon, I have to protect my ride!
Actually I'm just going to press X a bunch of times until they fall down, but I'm going to do with a scowl on my face. Actually, where's a guard tower at? I want to shower them with batarangs from on high, then glide kick one in the face as he's looking up.
Also hey, the game has an model viewer! I love these things. I haven't unlocked anyone but Batman and his car yet, but that just makes me more motivated to keep making progress. I'm not seeing it as a flaw.
Anyway, that's the car situation resolved, onto the next job. What was I doing again? Oh right, saving one of my few close friends from a psychopath who has every intention of killing him just for laughs. Fortunately Commissioner Gordon's no idiot and has left me a trail of tobacco to follow in Detective Mode (brown vision this time).
The game is afoot!
Well I found him, though just a little bit too late to save his life. Well that's depressing. Now I'm definitely getting Metal Gear Solid deja-vu.
Though there's one thing about this I don't quite get: when did my eyes start glowing? Also when did the walls of reality start to collapse around me to reveal that I'm trapped in a twisted nightmare world?
Anyway, another surprise genre shift! Now the game's gone side view and I have to make my way around the outside of these floating platforms, darting between gaps in the wall when Scarecrow has his head turned. Reminds me of that Gurlugon Snake Tales level in Metal Gear Solid 2 actually. Apparently I'm fighting a metaphorical battle in Batman's own imagination to help him recover from the toxin. I'm sure completing this stealth action challenge is just the thing he needs to snap him out of it.
Guess who's back? Yep it's the boss who likes to run into walls, this time portrayed by Bane. Only this time I have to fight off goons at the same time. I can handle one or the other, but both at once is giving me trouble.
I gotta say that this is the first part of the game I haven't entirely enjoyed, but then it's a boss fight and my brain is hard-wired to hate them for whatever reason, so I'm the worst person to judge if the game's actually doing anything wrong here. But it's not just the repeated spinal trauma that's frustrating me here though, that's for sure.
Alright let's try this again then. I have a theory that there's some indication of when it's safe to come over and hit him without suffering immediate and brutal retaliation, so I'm going to investigate...
So overall what did I think about the first 10% or so of Batman: Arkham Asylum then? Well at the risk of revealing the dark truth that I'm actually a dumb casual modern gamer, I have to say that I loved the shit out of this game. I found the gameplay to be fantastic, the game looks and sounds like it cost a fortune to make (in the best way), and even the story didn't make me roll my eyes. It stands well above the average franchise tie-in and is almost certainly better than any comic book game that came before it.
It's not flawless though.
Other than that, I give it two and half thumbs up. Would recommend. I am the Bat.
Well that's all the words I've got for today, but if you want to say something about Batman: Arkham Asylum or the site in general then be my guest. That's what the comment box is for after all.