24 October 2011

Arkham: An Open and Shut Case

"None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me."
~Rorschach, Watchmen

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a lot of fun to play, mostly because it empowers the player to turn the whole predator/prey relationship on its head with a simple touch of a button.  The player - as Batman - haunts the halls of Arkham Asylum, putting the fear of God into the souls of Gotham's worst.

Having now played Arkham City, I think a great deal of that feeling came from its tight spaces and dark corners.  I say this because the sequel is very much the opposite of that: a sprawling metropolis with wide, open spaces, and very few places to hide.  One thing I do enjoy about the open world setting is the ability to grapple and glide across the city a la Spiderman 2. It is very true to the comics' depiction of Batman on patrol, stopping trouble wherever it lurks.  Granted, Arkham City itself serves more as an overworld linking those tight, dark spaces together, but it comes as no surprise to me that Arkham Asylum's stealthy brand of gameplay really shines through indoors.

The inverted takedown: Arkham's bread and butter

I'm sure I would have complained about the ridiculous number of gargoyles placed throughout Arkham Asylum's levels at some stage, but one thing that is glaringly absent from Arkham City's overworld play is the inverted takedown.  This is the one move that makes me feel like Batman, picking off thugs one by one, striking fear into the hearts of those remaining.

See, my Batman power fantasy is seriously disrupted by the fact that I am getting my ass kicked on a regular basis.  I chose the 'hard' difficulty because it came up by default, and I'm too stubborn to restart the game on a lower difficulty (because you can't change it mid-game).  I think probably the main difference between 'hard' and 'medium' is the sheer amount of punching and kicking that it takes to subdue an Arkham inmate.  Add to that the fact that I've not yet stumbled upon a method of whittling down large groups out in the open, and I'm left with a major fistfight on my hands at every turn.  These goons are nigh-on invincible, and it's near impossible to perform a takedown of any kind with at least three of them at your back at any time.

The Arkham Chopper: Gotham's Greatest Murderer

Once it took me so long to dismantle the horde that I was gattled to death by a helicopter at the fight's conclusion - very discouraging - I'm fairly certain it had travelled miles to reach me!  But who knows?  Maybe I'll be refined in the fire, as I was in Ninja Gaiden or Spartan: Total Warrior, and it will all become second nature.  In the meantime, though, the flow and pace of Arkham City is being severely hampered by its excruciating combat conditions.

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