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Rayman Legends - Ultimate Gaming Paradise

Rayman Legends

Rayman Legends is the next generation incarnation of the much-loved and classic retro title of the same name. It should be noted that the new ‘re-boot’ isn’t entirely new; Rayman Legends was released last year for the Nintendo Wii U. That being the case, the developers took advantage of the latest tranche of next gen console releases in order to placate the masses – so to speak. However, the game has been rather low-key. Ubisoft, the developer, hasn’t blown a fortune marketing the game. The title costs £ 25 from Amazon and the prerequisite ‘update’ when you first install the game takes less than a minute. How can a game that is literally ready to play, comes with a price tag that is nearly fifty percent cheaper than some other titles and is a bucket load of fun, not be a big hit?

Rayman Legends Xbox One Globox Vaas - Ultimate Gaming Paradise

There is something rather remarkable about Rayman Legends – it is a sequel to the Rayman Origins from 2011. However, the game is a somewhat ‘stand-alone’ title. Now I can understand why the criticisms. You’re Assassins Creeds, Tomb Raiders and Battlefield 4s have a playability aspect that is truly freestyle – you can go and explore whatever you like. The 2D dynamic of Rayman Legends is a throwback and has probably hindered the game’s wider successes. But read on fearless gamers; for this game, this pantheon of fun is in fact one of the best games available. The rendering is smart, the gameplay is fluid and it is a bucket load of fun. This title is completely epic.

UGP believes games have three unique elements that, when combined, make a great game – even greater! Therefore, using the UGP Ozone review system, which means we focus on three elements that surround; the perspective (the storyline), the difficulty (how challenging the gameplay was) and how indulgent the game is – we decided to put Rayman Legends to the Ultimate Gaming Paradise test!

 

THE STORYLINE?

The storyline is bonkers! It’s a collective of stand alone adventures that weave together to incorporate a wider narrative. However, you don’t need to know too much about the storyline. In a nutshell, Rayman and his pals are, as usual wandering aimlessly around the forest, when they discover a weird and whacky tent which is filled to the brim with bizarre paintings – each painting holds a story surrounding a mystical and enchanted world. They are sucked into the first painting and thus the game begins. After that it’s simple enough; Rayman and his buddies run and jump and punch their way through secrets and evil to save the day.

 

HOW CHALLENGING IS THE GAMEPLAY?

The 2D platform game is as old as the video game console genre. However, there is something rather unusual and therein nice about Rayman Legends. The lack of freestyle doesn’t hinder the gameplay. In fact, the constant thrust and pace of the game delivers a challenge in another way. It allows you to engage with Rayman and his actions because the controls are totally reliable and trustworthy – there’s no double tapping or missed actions like Tomb Raider or Battlefield. The platform genre, however, is challenged in this title. You see, Rayman does things Super Mario Bros didn’t. It’s a fluid gameplay that sees a plethora of different game styles. For example, you have all sorts of different challenges that really make it even more challenging – from puzzles to shooting – and it all helps create an atmosphere that sees you constantly challenged but in a way that is both responsive and reasonable.

 

Rayman Legends Xbox One Rayman Vaas - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseHOW INDULGENT IS THE GAME?

Rayman Legends is part of the Rayman heritage. Rayman has been around for nearly twenty years. It is a game that generations have come to play and love. However, retro fondness is only part of the fun factor of this title. You see, what makes this an epic title is how successful and accessible it has made the gameplay experience. It is a stunning visual treat and offers the best platfomer experience ever. This is what makes it an epic game and it is nothing but hours and hours of fun – granted there is no co-op or multiplayer, but really who is going to play Rayman online? It is a solid stand alone title that you can jump back and forth to between other games. More games should be like it, less serious and a bit more fun and laid back.

 

OUR VERDICT

Super Mario made the platform game. However, in an age of next-gen greatness, Rayman Legends really takes up the mantle of best platformer. It is a great game that brings a wondrous and brilliant world of imagination and fun to your Xbox One or PlayStation 4. It is not a serious title, you don’t have to worry about patch updates or in-game purchases, all you do is simply pick up your controller and start playing. It is a rare game in a video game world full of such developments. Ubisoft and the team behind Rayman should be praised for this title. Yes, its 2D and yes it’s a port from the Wii U version. Yes, graphics could be better. But these ‘issues’ don’t hinder the gameplay. The game offers a solid balance of indulgence, challenges and an entertaining storyline. This is one of 2014’s most surprising titles. As such, Ultimate Gaming Paradise can give Rayman Legends an epic review score of 9.5 out of 10.

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Lara Croft Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

TOMB RAIDER DEFINITIVE EDITION: A REVIEW

For those who have missed Lara Croft and her rather unique physiology – do not despair our Tomb Raiding heroine is back – and back with some serious attitude and some, well, serious balls! Lara Croft has returned after a long sabbatical. In late 2013, Square Enix released a ‘re-booted’ Tomb Raider title. It was met with lukewarm reception on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. However, the release of the ‘next-gen consoles’ a few months later caused Square Enix a little headache; should they wait, or should they port? They ported and ‘refined’, which is probably the most apt description for Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.

UGP believes games have three unique elements that, when combined, makes a great game – even greater! Therefore, using the UGP Ozone review system, which means we focus on three elements that surround the perspective (the storyline), the difficulty (how challenging the gameplay was) and how indulgent the game is – we decided to put Tomb Raider Definitive Edition to the ultimate gaming paradise test!

 

THE STORYLINE?

tomb-raider-definitive-edition-gas_tunnel2It all starts on a boat sailing to Japan – a young and fresh faced Lara Croft is with friends on a somewhat ‘gap year-esqe’ archaeological trip. This being a Lara Croft title, lets just say the boat doesn’t quite arrive at it’s intended destination. In fact, it sinks. Poor Lara, washes up on a remote island with her buddies. The island is inhabited, they soon discover, by tribal psychos and hordes of killer animals. The premise of the game, without giving too much away, is an introduction to Lara, before fame and fortune, and how she became the skilled tomb raider she later becomes. This is a brutal game – Lara starts the game in agony and it continues to get worse for the girl. Her survival skills – and yours as the game player – are tested to extreme limits. This is a dark period in Lara’s life and as such, the storyline is a continuous survival centric affair. The peaks, the rapids, the wolves and upgrading equipment all make this ‘survival’ theme so pressing and yet so fulfilling. For fans of Lara Croft, this storyline will not disappoint.

 

HOW CHALLENGING IS THE GAMEPLAY?

The platformer format has for several years now been influenced – for better or worse – by the experiences of Assassins Creed. This ‘freestyle’ approach, many argue, has helped to ‘speed up’ the gameplay and thus, as some point out, has made old fashioned gaming functionality – like combo buttons – obsolete. For those who want good ol’ fashioned platformer fun with ample challenges, you can do no wrong with Tomb Raider Definitive Edition. The game is really difficult, the lack of freestyle play attributes adds to this challenge. Many critics claim this is a reason behind the game’s so-called failure. However, I disagree; the game is difficult, but it’s a difficulty based on a more ‘hands-on’ approach. You need to hit the X button, for example, to grab ledges or pull on your axe to climb terrain. You need to cycle through your armory, you don’t automatically switch  to your gun when your bow runs empty. It’s refreshing yet deeply challenging – and I’d even say this is what gives it its ‘edge’. You see, this game is not like Mirrors Edge or Assassins Creed where our protagonist can accomplish great feats without any kind of issue or even breaking a sweat. Lara ‘feels’ everything and since you are in a perpetual ‘survivalist’ mode. It’s not meant to be ‘easy going’. This difficulty, whilst it can annoy the hell out you as you re-do some part three or four times before getting it right, this is what makes the game so epic. You feel accomplishment when you get there – and when you call the coast guard or other secrets you’ll understand and feel the accomplishment of getting Lara out of there in a somewhat safe and sound manner.

 

Tomb-Raider-Wallpapers-Game-Definition-EditionHOW INDULGENT IS THE GAME?

Lara Croft is a legacy title that a generation of gamers can engage with. From the 90s PC or PlayStation One to the PS4s or Xbox Ones, Tomb Raider has a large following and it has a long and proud history of gaming excellence. This plays a part in the fun factor of this title. You see, it’s bloody hard and in some parts painful to complete. However, as I have already said, this is all part of the charm. This is why Tomb Raider is fun. The Definitive Edition really brings the Lara Croft ‘fun-ness’ to the forefront. It allows a whole new generation to experience Lara – older gamers might feel though that they’re next generation gamer counterparts might be loosing out, if one considers for a moment Lara’s somewhat PC-inspired reduction in the boob department. That aside, the game is an indulgent title that echoes the successes of the past whilst rebooting a franchise that deserves a proud future.

 

OUR VERDICT

A lot has been ‘reported’ about benchmark differences. There might be millisecond differences between HD gameplay on PS4 and Xbox One but I couldn’t for the life of me really see a difference. It should also be noted that it is nice not to see a title with horrendous, Ryse-esqe, in-game purchases. It’s a solid platform title and one that brings together a great storyline with challenging aspects that really puts gamers – especially in the post-Assassins Creed environment – on the back foot by really challenging their gameplay. Finally, this title is fun; you might not be thinking that as your racing down a rapid or climbing a huge radio tower, but it is – it’s enthralling and full of suspense that really gets you on edge of your seat and this pushes you on. Its a great title only let down by on-screen instruction lags when in training camps. As such Ultimate Gaming Paradise can give Tomb Raider a solid: 9 out of 10.

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disney_infinity_video_game_characters-1920x1080

DISNEY INFINITY – Great if you’ve ever wanted to be Lightening McQueen but bad if you don’t like being fleeced!

With over a million copies of the starter pack sold worldwide, Disney Infinity is Disney-Pixar’s new and innovative gaming platform that is really getting kids and parents both entertained and angry. Think Skylanders but with a Disney twist. It is a really imaginative way of being allowed to explore the worlds of Disney movies in detail. For example, have you ever wanted to scare people with the duo from Monsters Inc? Do you want to ward off evil villains from The Incredibles, whilst wearing spandex? What about finding out where all those hidden rum depositories are in Pirates of the Caribbean? Lets rate Disney Infinity Starter Pack for Xbox 360 using the “all-new” Ultimate Gaming Paradise Ozone review system.

The Storyline

Disney-Infinity-image-disney-infinity-1920-1080The storyline is a new(ish) take on the platform game by integrating multimedia with collectible toys. These plastic toys ‘unlock’ characters/abilities that allow you to experience more and more. Now here is the downside. If you want to be ‘Wreck it Ralph’, then you need to spend £ 9.99 for the toy. There are lots of these toys. The starter pack comes with Jack Sparrow, Sully and Mr Incredible. However, if you want Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Vanellope, Davy Jones, Else, The Sorcerers Apprentice, Rapunzel, Cars (from Lightning McQueen to Doc Hudson) to the characters from Frozen you are going to have to spend £9.99 on each and EVERY one!

The upside is that when you place, say Buzz Lightyear, on your Infinity Base (a wicked piece of tech that uses Near Field Technology (NFT) to help you unlock your character as each figure has a microchip that can, contactlessly, engage with the NFT base), you unlock the entire Toy Story saga. This means you say hello to the aliens, to Mr Potato Head, Slinky and of course Woody. It’s great – whatever you want to do, be it free play or adventures (from racing against each other to more) you are free to explore the world of Toy Story. So whatever your (or your kids) favourite Disney Pixar movie is, there is a world of fun awaiting you. It should be noted that there is a lack of ‘legacy’ characters. You won’t find Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Raffiki from The Lion King or even Merlin from The Sword in the Stone. It’s pretty much (apart from The Sorcerers Apprentice) all post Pixar movies. This is a big downside.

The Challenges

It must be noted that this is a kids’ game, that said it is a rather challenging, and in parts, difficult game to play. Disney Infinity has elements of conformity and of creativity. For example, the “Toy Box” setting (nothing to do with Toy Story per se) allows you to mix and match and create whatever universe of fun you deem suitable. Therefore, you can play and interact with characters from the entire universe – so for example you could be Jack Sparrow playing with Buzz Lightyear in the world of Cars. This means you can build castles, islands, boats, buildings or anything you can imagine. This element of the game allows for the full creativity of you (or your child’s) imagination to be unleashed.

“Power Discs” are another addition, our starter pack had Rapunzel which meant you got to interact with the world of Rapunzel – which was somewhat wonderful as you got to really explore the entirety of the world from the comfort of your seat. Another additional perk of these discs is that they offer three types of qualities. They include toys, customisation and abilities. For example, toys can give you new objects or vehicles that you can use whilst an ability gives you new additions to your characters from health boosts to loot collection skills. Finally, customisation allows you to add themes to your “Toy Box” – this is far and away the best perk of the discs. It should be noted that these “Power Discs” also cost money. You are looking at £ 3.49 for a two pack of “Power Discs” – this is another drawback of the game!

Disney Infinity Cars

The Fun Factor

You can be Buzz Lightyear or Sully, or even Lightning McQueen, how fun is that. It cannot be stated enough that Disney Infinity is the definition of fun, whilst Call of Duty: Ghosts or FIFA has an edge, if you want a laugh out loud game that’s simple, unobtrusive and unrestricted you can do no wrong getting this game. I spent time with my niece playing this game and she loved every minute of it. She found the “Toy Box” mode enthralling – really I could have left the house, caught a plane to Tokyo, flown there and back again and she wouldn’t have even noticed I’d gone! It’s a deeply enthralling game for the little ones and for any big kids out there it is also hugely entertaining.

The Verdict

It’s fun… I cannot praise it enough. I was Jack Sparrow for a day! I was Syndrome from The Incredibles and I could be Mickey Mouse or any other character, I can explore, imagine and create Disney worlds and mix and match until my hearts content. It’s also very challenging – the creativity is what makes this title so challenging. The “Power Discs” add to the complexity of the game as much as the game modes themselves. The storyline is unique as it is not set. Other game titles have a pre-defined story (even free-play titles have a certain element of conformity). However, this is not the case in Disney Infinity, you can place whatever character you want on your “Infinity Portal” and you’re good to go! That said, as with all reviews, there is always a flaw. The Skylanders issue, of creating a game and having additional figures as additional game add-ons created a new genre. However, Disney seems to have taken the commercialized route a bit further. The Xbox 360 Disney Infinity Starter Pack with the game, the “Infinity Portal”, three figures and a “Power Disc” costs £ 41.99. Each figure thereafter costs £9.99 whilst every two-pack of “Power Discs” costs £ 3.49. It would cost, if you are that way financially inclined to buy for yourself or your (wealthy) little ones a grand total of £ 366.60 for the entire collection. That’s a lot of money and I think this is the biggest issue with the game. We cannot fault how clever, challenging and fun the game is. However, the cost associated with the game really undermines the experience. Pester power, something kids are really good at, will cause parents a lot of anxiety and I don’t think Disney should have put parents under such pressure. So, due to the product pricing of the game, I have to give it a lowly seven out of ten.

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Skylanders Swap Force Art- - Ultimate Gaming Paradise

SKYLANDERS: Swap Force – A Great Game but incredibly costly for Mum and Dad!

I hate in-game purchases, I despise DLC upgrades packs and I detest ‘add-on’ purchases for games and consoles. Therefore, when my niece came to stay with me and my partner for the weekend, I eyed-up her Skylanders rucksack with distaste. Low and behold she opened up the rucksack and out came Skylanders – the game. According to the missus, I had a pretty disgusted look upon my face. However, when my niece, smiling as sweet as a buttercup, looked up longingly, I caved-in and let her play Skylanders on my Xbox One. I was intrigued, so after my niece had given up and went off to do other things, I decided, for the sake of journalistic gusto, to step up to the plate and give it a damn good go.

Skylanders_SWAP_Force_Boom_Jet.jpg  - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseFor those who have been living a hermetic lifestyle, Skylanders Swap Force is the next incarnation of the Skylanders franchise. The game is a platform video gamer, published by Activision. It is the third in the series of Skylander titles. It’s pretty easy – you use a Swap Force Portal (a USB device) to swap figures. Once you place your plastic figure on the portal they come alive on screen. Each figure is unique and has different abilities and attributes. However, what is different with Swap Force is that each figure can be split in half. You can change top and bottom halves on a figure to strengthen their skill base. There are sixteen characters – however you can use older games figures as well.

The game is pretty unique – it’s fun, fresh and vigorously entertaining. Therefore, the swapability is enthused with dynamism as you can create over 150 different combinations of characters – some “Swap Zones” require different skill sets to enter. Therefore, it is a game that offers challenges and it offers fun. Once I realised this, I decided that UGP needed a review. Skylanders is not a new game – it’s a spin-off with it’s heritage in the 90s PS title Spyro the Dragon. It’s a platform game and has a very surreal retro look and feel (that is not to say the graphics are retro). It is a very connected game. The story is simple, the Skylanders are on a ‘quest’ to stop the wonderfully entitled Koas from doing very naughty things. In order to stop Koas, the Skylanders need to travel through a multitude of make-believe inspired levels. The Skylanders need to help one another out and they need to battle Koas’ minions whilst collecting treasure – which lets the Skylanders buy abilities and items. It’s pretty simple really. The name of the game is quite literally; divide and conquer. All you need to do is to create the right Skylander (with the right skills) to win the day!

Skylanders-sf-skylanders-swap-force

The gameplay is quite unique, that I didn’t realise. I spent some time with my niece drawing (when not playing Skylanders) and her imagination was wondrous. She drew pictures of dinosaurs, of pop stars, of knights and dragons, of wizards and birds. This ‘unlimited capacity’ to envisage a world of enlightenment is the reason why Skylanders is so popular. It allows children the scope to play with different genres of toys in one central premise. This multi-genre narrative captivates adults and children through being fun – it is this fun’ness that really makes the game a success.

Now, whilst the visual element was stunning, the storyline intriguing and strangely comforting with a large dollop of fun, there is another more suspect issue facing this game. Money! Parents will buy this game for their kids. Adults can play it, but it’s really a kids game. Therefore, you need to know the cost:

The Skylanders Swap Force starter pack, with three figures, the disc and the portal cost £ 55. If you want all sixteen characters you will have to buy thirteen more characters individually. These rang from £8 to £ 22.31 on Amazon UK. Therefore, a quick calculation finds it could cost approximately £ 124 to buy all the figures. Therefore, you’re looking at around £ 160 to fully kit out your Skylanders Swap Force collection. This is a lot of money. In fact, this is approximately the average UK part-time worker’s weekly income. Therefore, pester power and children wanting what they see on TV and in school will be a big factor in the Skylanders experience – the game isn’t cheap and you need to be aware that it can cost. However, it should be noted that you don’t need all the characters to complete the game. In fact you don’t need the full set. That said, you get out what you put in. Therefore, for the best experience it has been designed to favour the full collection in terms of entertainment value.

REVIEW VERDICT

UGP believes games have three unique elements that, when combined, makes a great game – even greater! Therefore, using the UGP Triple Lock, which means we focus on three elements, that surrounded the perspective (the storyline), the difficulty (how challenging the game play was) and how indulgent the game was. I can say that the game offers a fun and fantastic storyline – something, quite literally, for the whole family. The challenging element of the gameplay and storyline really means you can work on the swapping element to really find the right Skylander, which means you have invested and the result is epic. Finally, the game is fun, fun and more fun! It would, on it’s own, get 9 out of 10. However, as a hater of additional purchases I find the applicability of further purchases  in a kids game rather baffling. The pester power issue is apt and the necessity to purchase figures to continue game functionality means the pressure element is an unfair stress for mums and dads. Therefore, due to the extra expense to experience epic gameplay, I have revised the review verdict to 7 out of 10.

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Lego Marvel Superheroes

Lego Marvel Superheroes

I’m Stan Lee, and I’m in peril….again.  It’s the Stranger Danger level in Lego Marvel Superheroes and I’m locked in a coffin.  Luckily, Ironman is around to set me free, so I live to draw another day.

When I was a lad, Lego was so easy. I had blocks of 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8 dots and a few other flat sections.  I could build houses and garages, and shops and towers…..lots of towers. Then Lego introduced wheels and it all got really interesting, and the advent of technic Lego heralded a whole new era of the toy everyone loves.  But then in 1997 Lego Creator launched on the PC, and now I could build anything I wanted, but I just couldn’t store the finished article next to my bed.  Had Lego games left it there, it would have become a quaint oddity amongst the growing and increasingly complex gaming world, but the Lego Executives shrewdly saw that gaming was going to be bigger than movies and that was a huge slice of revenue to walk away from.

First, the designers tackled racing games but quickly moved on to focusing on animation of the small figures in proper gaming situations. Rock Raiders sold well on the PC and PlayStation but the real genius came with major movie tie-ins and in 2001, Lego Creator: Harry Potter launched and was snapped up by an adoring games community.  Since then, Lego has tied into many of the major franchises like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Batman.  When Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes launched on all major consoles in 2012, I remained a tad disappointed; the gameplay was great, but as a Marvelite rather than an avid fan of the less outrageous DC Universe, I felt a little let down.  The Marvel characters are just so bonkers, it’s almost as though they were designed for something as weird as Lego games.  Having an indestructible superhero in the shape of Superman is kinda obvious, but designing a fella with bad attitude and a healing factor, and then coat his bones and claws in an indestructible metal is just thinking right outside the box.  The release and subsequent success of Avengers Assemble in the 2012 convinced Warner Bros that this was a title worth pursuing in the world of Lego, and I got my wish.

So it was with unbridled joy that I tore the cellophane off my copy of Lego Marvel Superheroes and stuck the disc in the Xbox; does heaven get any better than this?   Rather than loosely following the stories of their franchises, Marvel Superheroes has its own plot revolving around Dr Doom creating a super weapon to destroy the earth…..or is he?  The plot takes various turns throughout its course and is very satisfying and well thought out as a story in its own right.  The structure and game are really quite easy; as I progressed through the levels, I unlocked more characters and became able to use their different skills to accomplish the needs of the story.  I start off with Hulk and Ironman in a face-off with principle baddies Sandman and Abomination at New York’s Grand Central Station in a level cheekily entitled “Sand Central Station” and move off through the lovingly detailed vistas as my quest to find power cubes from the Silver Lego Marvel Superheroes Charactersboard continues.

Humour is evident throughout the whole game, with many visual gags running through as themes. Aimed primarily at seven year olds, the humour isn’t too complex – the super weapon that Dr Doom is building is called “Dr Doom’s Doom Ray…..of DOOM!” and so forth.   Which brings us neatly back to Stan Lee who is placed “….in peril” throughout the different levels of the game, and it becomes a chuckle riddled side venture to see if you can find him.  Sometimes he’s obvious, though less easy to get to, sometimes he’s hidden away somewhere.  Invariably, he jumps out of what peril there was to utter a corny line (“I was nearly toast – BURNT TOAST”) or simply “Excelsior!” before running off to the next peril.

In all I got to play 150 separate main characters which encompass much of the Marvel Universe, with such diverse individuals as Fandral and Squirrel Girl (I’m not kidding here) as well as the better known mainstays of the genre.  While all this character-swapping is fun, it becomes increasingly complex as I tried to figure out which character to use for which situation.   They are kind of split into groups such as flight, strength, fire and so on, so in reality there is always more than one character who can accomplish whatever task you are undertaking.   With some tasks you have to think a little laterally – Hulk is great at smashing but his alter-ego Bruce Banner is great at computer hacking, so never forget that you’ve got him.

Set in an open–world play area of New York, Asgard and an asteroid, Lego Marvel Superheroes looks great and is constantly entertaining.  There are a few gripes such as the secondary figures around the main character that you are playing seeming to have only limited AI and attacking the droves of baddies in a haphazard way, and sometimes characters get stuck, which once required a restart to resolve, but on the whole I found it smooth to play.

Developed once again by Travellers’ Tales and published through Warner Bros, Lego Marvel Superheroes is available on all major platforms including the 3DS and Wii U, so there is no excuse not to play it.  Just as with the small plastic bricks that preceded it, Lego Marvel Superheroes is a joy to play whether you’re seven or seventy.

Now where is that pesky Stan Lee this time???  EXCELSIOR!!!

 

 

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Batman: Arkham Origins

We stepped from the late showing at the cinema, tottie and I, and she snuggled in close. “What do you want to do now” she asked, all sensual-eyes and bee-stung lips.  I considered carefully before replying; “I wanna go to the 24-hour superstore and buy Batman: Arkham Origins” I replied chirpily.

I was looking forward to the new Batman title and simply had to have it right then.  Maybe love would have blossomed had I decided instead on an out-of-the-way restaurant or a quiet bottle of wine somewhere, but one thing is absolutely certain – my thumbs wouldn’t have been as sore.

The release of Batman: Arkham Origins has been long anticipated and I eagerly tore the security tape from my copy. Unlike Arkham City and Arkham Asylum before, this title has been developed without the assistance of Rocksteady, and it feels different to those previous two Batman outings.  The graphics, while flawless and fast, are a little different somehow, and the secondary characters seem to have been rotoscoped in some way Borderlands-style a little, making their features a tad indistinct. Not that it matters because I’m gonna pummel them even more indistinct anyway, but it makes the game have a slightly odd feel compared to ‘Asylum’ or ‘City’.

The third outing for the caped crusader is a throwback affair to pre-Batman Gotham City, where criminals huddle in groups and discuss the possibility of there really being a “Bat Man” tearing their kin a new arse.  Batman looks leaner and has fashionable stubble dotting his normally clean-shaven phizog, but he has all the power and moves that set him above the forces of anarchy in Gotham.  As I progress through the game, I find that in return for punching out henchmen and completing levels, I get the chance to upgrade my armour and access new gadgets, but my hunt for new moves proved fruitless and it seems that there are no new strike combinations.  The attack and defence moves I had are just the same as in previous games. I just had more opportunity to use them, against tougher assailants.

There are new gadgets for me to acquire as I progress and the shock gloves are among the best of these. While not actually an instant win device, they are pretty close to it as they discharge a huge shock to an enemy and incapacitate even bosses, almost immediately. There is a danger of over-using them a tad, once I had won them, making forthcoming brawls a lot more shocking in nature.  The remote grapple is also neat and I found more uses for it as I progressed, moving from simple take downs to moving equipment and street furniture as needed to help me overcome obstacles I encountered.

Game play itself is smooth and intuitive with the next objective fairly obvious. Within a minute of entering the world of Batman: Arkham Origins, I was thrust into a full scale punch-up at Blackgate Correctional Facility and it’s mostly fighty from there on. Great news for the fighting fan in me but bad news for my thumbs; after an hours playing it felt as though RSI had set in, I had used X and Y buttons so much (on the Xbox) to attack and defend.  In addition, this game has thugs in body armour who take three times the pasting of standard thugs – more bad news for my thumbs!   I know it’s against his ethos, but I think Batman seriously needs some heavy weapons to deal with this kind of thing.  In a rock-paper-scissors-type scenario, .44-magnum beats baseball bat every time!

This time out, Batman is up against eight assassins all tasked with ridding the world of him on Christmas Eve for a cool $500,000 bounty.  The money is fronted by Black Mask – the games supposed main antagonist, but as the game unfolds, it turns out to not be that straightforward.  The assassins manifest as level bosses, so having fought my way through countless minions to get to them, I was assured of at least eight hard and extended fights with each one at measured intervals.

I carried on, hurtling through the vast Gotham sky line via either grapple-gun or the Batwing as I unravel a convoluted plot that takes me all over the city and involves just about everyone in the Batman universe to some degree.   Through a combination of thumping people and detective mode I worked Batman through the story to head towards my ultimate goal which will see my eventual grudging acceptance by the forces of law and order and my own realising that I can’t take on the whole of Gotham’s underworld on my own.

There’s nothing too taxing in detective parts since Batman invariably has something in his arsenal that helps him figure it out, and I actually found many clues merely by a little searching around the area to find the information I need to progress.  Warner Brothers claim to have intentionally dumbed-down the investigative sections so as to make for seamless game play, which, overall, it does.  I found that I wasn’t spending so much time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be looking for in these sections as I had in the previous games, and soon uncovered the next objective from a titbit of information.   I also got plenty of opportunity to plan sneak attacks on unsuspecting enemies, but for a supposed open-world game, it is surprisingly linear. Open world would imply that I have a number of options to stealth-attack a thug, but in reality, the limited number of artefacts I found to grapple on to or walls that I could burst through meant that there is usually only one way to do it.

The main problem with Batman: Arkham Origins is that it’s not so much that it’s more of the same, it’s just, well, the same!  While I had a blast following the main story and engaging in the side missions, the Batman universe isn’t really big enough to keep supporting ventures into the same city to fight the same characters in a slightly different order and with a few new accessories.  Like the Fish ‘n Chips option on a country-pub menu, with the current Batman franchise I knew exactly what I was going to get, cos’ it’s just like I had last time.

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not a terrible game, but then it’s not a brilliant game either. I liked and enjoyed the two previous outings – which are still due to happen on Batman’s timeline – and I enjoyed this too, but it didn’t strike me as being either different or a massive leap forward.  Warner Bothers Games, Montreal has developed a perfectly workman-like game with plenty of fun and one that examines a few issues from the inception of the Batman legend, but having grabbed the mantle, they haven’t done too much with it.

Batman: Arkham Origins is cited as being about relationships and how Batman’s on-going interactions with his main protagonists were forged; perhaps I should have considered my own relationship instead and left it on the shelf of that 24-hour store.

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