The other night I repurchased a game I accidentally bought as a pirate version last year; Sins of a Solar Empire. I really enjoyed the game first time round, but eventually couldn’t keep up with the updates as my game was not legit’. I also took the opportunity to buy the recent expansion pack, Entrenchment. I’ve been playing a fair bit of it, and will post up some more stuff about it soon; suffice to say, I love the game. If anyone else out there has it and fancies an online game, please let me know!
Besides that, I played the demo of a game I have been looking forward to for some time; Batman: Arkham Asylum. In a word, it was brilliant. For a start, the demo is fantastic; it’s exactly what a demo should be. It gave you a proper taste of the game, enough so that you know what the full product will be like. It also left me wanting more; I instantly had to play through the demo again after I had finished it. After a third time through, I immediately jumped on play.com to pre-order it (though I’ve heard it may be available through Steam, so I might get it like that instead).
I must admit, after some of the more recent gameplay footage, I was starting to get a little worried about the game; it looked like it was beginning to turn into a console brawler. After playing the demo, I’m completely reassured that this isn’t the case. You have a very definite sense that you’re, without a doubt, Batman. The graphics bring the lantern-jawed superhero to life and he has a real sense of solidity that comes across in the sound and animation. While none of his close combat moves are that grisly or gruesome, you’ll definitely wince when one of Bruce’s collection of punches and kicks slam home. The little touches help, too; when you run down corridors, his cape flaps behind him, not to mention when you swoop down from above with wings spread to land feet-first on a goon. Gadgets are recreated faithfully, and the atmosphere is suitably grim and dark without going over the top.
The gameplay seems to be a satisfying mix of close-combat brawling, adventuring, and sneaking. Late in the demo, you’re presented with a room full of armed enemies, all of whom you have to incapacitate. You can run in fists first, Superman-like, but you won’t win any awards for style. Far more preferable is sneaking round on the rafters, swooping down to takeout an individual thug, before disappearing back into the shadows. You can hear the bad guys getting increasing worried as their friends seem to vanish (the demo isn’t really long enough to get a good idea of the AI) and even see their heart rates rise with your nifty detective vision. It retains the edge-of-your-seat feeling I get from a good stealth game, and keeps the ‘multiple path’ level design I’ve always loved in the Hitman franchise. The area at the end of the demo really does feel like a playground in which to hunt these bad guys, a chance to turn the table on the violent criminals.
Special mention has to go to the Joker, possibly my favourite comic book character, and definitely my favourite villain. He’s not the anarchistic terrorist from the recent Dark Knight film, he’s back to the over-the-top, mass-murdering, prancing, capering, chemically-scarred comicbook version. Believe me, though, this is no bad thing; we’re not talking Cesar Romano here, we’re talking The Killing Joke. He looks fantastic (the character graphics are truly superb), and his voice is just amazing; the voice-over is done by Mark Hamill (yes, that Mark Hamill) and once again proves that voice-over work should be done by professional voice-over actors; Mark Hamill played the Joker in the animated TV Series, a role he won massive acclaim for. All the (super) baddies look good, leaning more to their comic book versions (though Bane is the psychotic lump of man-flesh he was in the film), but I get the feeling the Joker is really going to steal the show.