This post is on a different topic than what I usually blog about, for a change. I don’t have a lot of free time these days, what with chemistry and music taking up the majority of my waking hours, but occasionally, when I can find the time, I do like to kick back and relax with video games to take my mind off things. Lately, I’ve been getting back into console gaming, and picked up Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City for Xbox 360. I’ve played through both of these games over the past 2-3 months, and, I have to say, am highly impressed by both of them. The graphics quality of both games is outstanding – I play Xbox games connected to my parents’ 47″ HDTV with a HDMI connection, and the image quality, resolution, and detail is fantastic. Normally I have noticed that games in a series tend to get progressively more mediocre in some aspects (such as Prince of Persia), but this is not so in this case.
As an aside, I’ll mention my beef with the Prince of Persia series. I’ve been a fan of the series, having played the original in MS-DOS since the age of 5. I played my way through Prince of Persia 3D, which has some of the worst graphics and combat for a game that is supposed to revolve around fighting guards. I wanted to play The Sands of Time when it came out but could not, since my computer’s graphics card at the time was not up to the task. Thus, the first game out of the Sands of Time trilogy that I played was Warrior Within. I am still impressed with the effort that Ubisoft put into the combat for that game – it is probably the predecessor for most of the freeform combat that we see in action games today. The graphics did leave a lot to be desired – I felt that they lacked the polish and finish that Sands of Time had. In fact, if I had to rank the graphics in the series, it would go Sands of Time > Warrior Within >> The Two Thrones. As I played through the series again, starting with Sands of Time, I got the sense that Ubisoft developers were increasingly rushed as the series progressed. My favorite game out of the series, however, is Warrior Within, if only due to the extremely well-developed combat system (although this may be biased due to nostalgia). Two Thrones was rendered unfinishable due to a glitch in the game towards the end that prevents you from being able to complete a difficult jump. I tried and retried this many times and ultimately gave up in disgust – shows that Ubisoft did not do adequate playtesting before release, reaffirming my gut feelings that the developers were rushing the game to store shelves.
Anyway, the Batman games are very good, and highly recommended for anyone into action games. I initally got Arkham Asylum on Steam, but found that the controls were inverted on my gamepad. I have gotten used to playing these kinds of games on a gamepad since I played through the Assassin’s Creed series, and could not make the switch to keyboard (I tried it initially and found it too clumsy). I found online that other people experienced the same problem that I had, and the solution was not trivial (it involved modifying a .BAT file, if I remember correctly). So, to others, save yourself the trouble, and just get the games on console – the Rocksteady developers did not do adequate playtesting for the PC version and still have not addressed this bug. I have no complaints about the gameplay on Xbox, however. The controls are intuitive and fairly easy to grasp.
I recently played through Arkham City on the “Hard” difficulty level, and found it a significant challenge, due to the difficulty of the combat. This forces you to get better though, and develop very fast reflexes. Hopefully this will also pay off in other areas…