A recent update was released that seems to have solved the UDP data issue with the OnLive console. I still run into the occasional connectivity issue; hopefully that can be worked out over time. Anyway, in addition to being able to use the console now, I finally got a chance to dig into Arkham City.
There are so many good things to say about this game that it’s probably easier to write about the things that bothered me than to write about all of the things that I liked. To keep this blog entry manageable, I’ll stick to a short punchlist of likes and dislikes.
The Spidermanification of Batman
I was often frustrated in Arkham Asylum that you couldn’t shoot the grapnel while flying through the air. I thought it would make an excellent addition to the game, and would make sneaking around that much easier to do.
In Arkham City, They give you this functionality, and this simple ability makes me never worry about jumping into the air. If I start to see a problem, I can easily fly toward a building and shoot the hook upward. This prevents me from accidently flying into the middle of a 10 man group while in a weakened state.
As I move through the city, I can’t help but feel like I’m playing a Spiderman game. The freedom of flying through the air and then grappeling into the nearest building is quite enjoyable. The only difference is that Batman has the added ability to glide, which makes him that much better.
More Iconic Villains
With Arkham Asylum, I was kind of surprised that Two-Face, Penguin, and Mr. Freeze were missing from the game. They included characters like Szasz and Killer Croc; it only made sense to me that they would include those villains from the old series, too. That said, I do think they benefited from saving those characters for the sequel, as it prevented them from needing to dig too deep into the well of obscurity.
The Best Fighting System in Gaming
I try to be careful about slinging hyperbole like this on a blog, but I think it is justified in this instance. As I played through both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, I was amazed by the way you could counter any attack from any angle without it looking jerky. I don’t know how much motion capture they had to use to make it work, but it’s amazingly smooth.
I’d love to see a Bruce Lee game based on this fighting system.
I noticed that Catwoman was distinctly missing from Arkham Asylum, though her bio was unlockable if you could find her goggles. Catwoman was always such an iconic figure in the Batman world, and her omission surprised me. So when I discovered that catwoman is not only in Arkham City, but was a playable character, I was champing at the bit to get started.
I’m amazed at how feminine and feline they made her movements. Her run, with her elbows in and her palms facing outward, remind me of the movements of the elementalist in Guild Wars. To model her crawl, I feel like they must have put the motion capture reflective markers onto a feral cat and had it stalk a mouse. I actually found myself having her character crawl for no reason other than to see that animation. Simply amazing.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine. There were a few things that bothered me about the game.
When I finished Arkham Asylum, the only problem that I found with the control scheme was the demand for the middle mouse button. I use a Logitech trackball, and I simply don’t have a middle mouse button. Fortunately, Batman: Arkham Asylum allowed me to fix this problem by changing the keybinding.
Unfortunately, the option to change the keybinding has been removed in Arkham City, and it is impossible to use the secondary function of some gadgets without the middle mouse button. I’ve actually had to switch to the OnLive Console just to get over certain “humps” in the game. then switch back to the PC for the comfortable controls. While I don’t mind using the console controller, I generally dislike being forced to switch controls mid-game.
I don’t see how it is possible that a game is made today without the option to change the keybinding. There is NO excuse for that. The problem is even worse for an OnLive game because all of the game files are online; I can’t simply go into an ini file and change the key binding manually (like I did with Second Life). Game designers, PLEASE get this into your heads: let the user change the keybinding. I promise you, nobody will ever complain that you included the option.
The older I get and the more years hat I spend as a father, the more I realize that I liked the old Adam West version of Batman. Since the 1980s, we’ve seen Batman take on a bit of an edge, and I don’t know that I care for it. To be clear, we’re not talk about Kratos-level of cruelty; it’s just that, sometimes, he can be a jerk for no reason. I especially didn’t care for his treatment of Mr. Freeze when they met up, or his treatment of Riddler’s goons. You’ll see it when you play.
Batman: Arkham City comes close to Portal 2 for the Game of the Year 2011 for me. I really like this game, and I think most other gamers will, too.