Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

Games based on the Batman series have been hit-and-miss, as is the case with most movie/comic book-based video games. The newest one, Arkham Asylum though, immediately made an impression even before it was released – the amount of polish that was thrown in the game’s pre-release media made it obvious that this one has been designed a bit more carefully and sensibly. Batman fans and video game fans alike were, naturally, very excited about the upcoming release of the title.

Gameplay

Batman: Arkham Asylum puts the player in the feet of our favorite comic book character, who’s on the trail of his arch nemesis the Joker yet again. The game is played from a third person perspective, and is a combination of action and stealth – there are scenes where you’ll be mopping the floor with your enemies, reliving your favorite scene from a Batman movie in your head, but at some other points of the game, you’ll be forced to lay low and sneak behind your enemies’ backs if you are to survive.

It wouldn’t have a true Batman feeling if it wasn’t packed full of gadgets though – Batman: Arkham Asylum gives you access to a small arsenal of unique high-tech toys made by Batman himself, including the all-famous Batarang. The Riddler makes a cameo in several places as well, leaving the player clues to guide them through the levels. You’ll have to solve some puzzles from time to time, though nothing too challenging – and the main focus is on the action and stealth elements. Also, you have access to a “Detective Mode”, which is sometimes required in order to progress through a specific area.

Graphics and System Requirements

The developers have utilized the latest Unreal Engine 3.5, spicing it up with some PhysX support (those of you who’ve got a PhysX component in their computer should enjoy a lot more eye candy and better framerates). The game looks terrific, mimicking the noir feeling of the movies and comic books almost perfectly. The asylum has been designed with lots of imagination – even though it’s a cliched, beaten-to-death setting for creepy games, it still feels fresh in this one.

Arm yourself with at least a 2.8 GHZ dual core processor and 3 GB of RAM, plus an ATi HD 4770 or better if you want to fully enjoy this game though – it is quite heavy on the computer and will make it cringe in the heavier scenes if you’re not prepared accordingly.

Other

If you’re playing on a console and not on the PC, you sadly won’t get to enjoy the PhysX effects, as they’re PC-exclusive. You won’t be missing out on that much though, mostly small details like leaves floating around, pieces of clothing getting torn apart realistically, etc – certainly nothing that’s absolutely necessary to experience the game in its fullest.

Conclusion

Batman fans who haven’t played this yet better take a few days off and hit the couch with the joystick – because once you’ve started up Batman: Arkham Asylum for the first time, it can be pretty damn hard to let go.

Bionic Commando Review

The newest Bionic Commando revives the series through a multitude of changes and improvements to the gameplay, the most notable of which was dropping the 2D sidescrolling premise and developing the game entirely in 3D. The final result is quite pleasing, as the game offers a delightful mix of action, adventure and exploration, while keeping the good, old-school platformer feeling despite no longer being confined to two dimensions.

Gameplay

Bionic Commando is played in 3D, with the character having various abilities that allow him to traverse the terrain with ease – the most notable of which is his “bionic arm”, which is primarily used for attacking but can also serve various other nifty purposes. To keep with the platformer style of play, falling damage has been completely removed, which has been explained by the character’s specialized boots. Some of the levels’ elements are designed to keep you moving along the main path, as otherwise the game could’ve become too non-linear, which wouldn’t have fit its style that well.

The storyline is a major aspect of Bionic Commando, and it’s been developed very deeply and intricately, managing to keep you guessing until the very end. The end of the game (we wouldn’t really count this as a spoiler) hints at a possible sequel, but nothing has been officially confirmed by the developers yet – so we guess we’ll have to wait and see about that, but if they manage to continue the story in an interesting enough way, they have our thumbs up for this.

Graphics and System Requirements

The game runs on the company’s own engine, called Diesel Engine – so far it’s only been featured in a handful of games, and Bionic Commando seems to represent it best so far – the advanced graphic effects can draw you to the screen with ease, and the level designers have really done their jobs well – the environments are rich and believable, and you feel truly immersed in the world that surrounds you, unlike what some other games achieve when they go for a linear plot.

In order to handle all this eye candy properly though, you’ll need the proper equipment if you’re a PC gamer – a relatively good computer is required to run Bionic Commando smoothly, and the engine isn’t particularly well-optimized for low-end hardware, so even though you can change a few graphics settings, you’ll still be left with mostly low framerates if your machine is a few years old.

Other

Be sure to give the multiplayer a go – it includes some of the classic game modes, like free for all deathmatch and team-based modes, and if you get bored after you’re done with the single player campaign, this should keep you interested for a good while afterwards.

Conclusion

Some of you may be a bit disappointed that they’re losing the sidescrolling aspect of the game – others will surely welcome the change and the innovations to the gameplay. Regardless of how you see the new style of gameplay, make sure you give Bionic Commando a try.

Brutal Legend Review

Action-adventure games are a popular genre today, but those designed like Brutal Legend are surely not something you get every day. The game is designed by heavy metal fans, aimed at other lovers of the musical genre, and if that sounds strange to you, you’re right to some extent – there is no other game quite like Brutal Legend on the market right now, and we doubt there will be any time soon.

Gameplay

You play the role of Eddie, a heavy metal fan who’s been designed after actor Jack Black, who also provides his voice for the character. After a series of events, Eddie finds himself in a fantasy world that he has to make his way out of, saving the world while he’s at it. The environment Eddie finds himself in has been designed after various heavy metal album covers, and mimics the grim and moody style in general – while also putting an artistic twist to it.

Eddie can use his powers to save the humans from a certain doom, using a giant battle axe or an electric guitar that can provide him with magical powers. The world you can explore is huge, and spans over a large playable area that you’re free to explore and discover some hidden goodies that can make your life easier. While most of the game is played like a third-person action-adventure game, there are some times where you’ll be switched to a strategy-like perspective, and you’ll have to solve your quests using a bit more logical thinking and less brute force than usual.

Graphics and System Requirements

Like we mentioned earlier, the graphics of the game have been inspired by popular heavy metal album covers, and the game’s overall style resembles such drawings as well – you can find elements of hell and demons all around, and despite that it still feels light-hearted and fun, and not depressing and serious like you would expect from a game based on such settings.

You’ll get to enjoy some very convincingly-designed characters, based on various real-life artists and bands, some of whom have also provided their voices for the game, much like Jack Black himself. The overall atmosphere this all creates is a complete blast, and the game just grabs you and sucks you into its environment, refusing to let go until you’ve finished it.

Other

One major aspect of this game is its soundtrack – you’d expect them to have something unique in that department, but what you’ll get will likely completely blow you away – over a hundred heavy metal tracks, coming from all sorts of well-known and less popular artists, all finely picked to match the action at all times. You should never get bored of listening to the background music as you’re “axing” your way through another horde of enemies, and this adds that little extra touch of greatness to the game.

Conclusion

Forget about those generic shooters and adventures that give you yet another rifle to shoot your enemies with – immerse yourself in a world so unique and lovely, you’ll be coming back for more and more.

Colin McRae: Dirt 2 Review

The Colin McRae series of video games has enjoyed tremendous popularity while it was active, releasing multiple games that have all been huge hits with racing fans. After the tragic death of Colin McRae himself though, the series was halted for a while and there were no new games on the market with his name. Colin McRae: Dirt 2 is the first to be released since then, and many fans were wondering what to expect after the pause, and whether the series has managed to retain its integrity.

Gameplay

The new Colin McRae puts an equal focus on multiplayer as well as singleplayer, and you can play all of the available game modes against computer-controlled opponents, or real live humans online. The feeling of the driving, and the overall level of immersion in the game, have been tremendously improved – the game’s powered by an all-new engine that can handle physics very realistically, so expect to be able to perform various real-life stunts that were previously not very easy to do due to limitations of the game’s technology.

Some of you will surely involve one of the new racing modes, Raid, which puts players behind the wheels of some very impressive-looking and quite largely sized machines, on medium-long races that will test your skills in some more unforgiving environments. There are also several extra game modes, and the overall replay value is very high and the game has a lot of potential for entertaining you.

Graphics and System Requirements

The new engine does its job perfectly when it comes to pleasing your eyes – you’ll see lots of effects, realistic collisions between the vehicles, and impressive representation of weather effects. The engine is especially capable when it comes to drawing detail over distance, as you’ll be able to see some very finely detailed elements of your surroundings even at longer ranges.

As you’re probably guessing though, this does come with its price – you won’t get to enjoy the new Colin McRae if you’re running on an old machine. Even the minimum requirements will leave some disappointed, so those of you who’re planning on playing it on the PC should prepare themselves with at least a Radeon HD 5750, or Nvidia’s equivalent which would be anything above their GeForce 400 series.

Other

The mobile versions of the game are somewhat stripped down as you might expect, but they still replicate the actual game quite closely. We were very impressed by the graphics the PSP version offers, as it managed to bring some very good-looking eye candy on the screen without compromising framerates in any way (though the loading times were somewhat longer than usual)

Conclusion

Rally fans have been waiting for this for quite a while – and if you’re one of them, then you should already be on your way to getting your hands on the new Colin McRae: Dirt 2 – it’s definitely worth every penny.