Category Archives: Comics

Batman: Arkham Asylum Mini-Review

Every night that I play Batman: Arkham Asylum, a little Xbox oval pops up on my screen to tell me “friends playing this game.”  This is a newish addition to the Xbox Live communication functionality, but with this game, I hardly need to see it. It’s redundant. Whenever I play Batman, all of my friends who have their Xboxes turned on are playing Batman and nothing else.Batman

There is a good reason for this. With some games, you get a beautiful presentation, but behind the pretty facade, there isn’t always enough game to match it. With Batman, you get a gorgeous facade that is intricately tied into every aspect of the game. So not only is there pretty eye candy grabbing your attention all the time, it ties into functional aspects.

Find a Riddler item? You’ll hear an audio response from the Riddler and a menu pulls up to show you what it was.  A quick legion of bats flies by to note you’ve collected something else, and because of these simple little things, you’re drawn just a little deeper into Batman’s world.

I’m only 22% through the game, but I am so impressed by the well-thought out overall world of Arkham Asylum. If you die? During the reloading screen the Joker appears and gives you shit, until the retry button appears. What about water or falling off a cliff? If you fall in water, a cutscene shows you climbing out of it. Oh, the game is telling me not to go in the water. I don’t die like in old GTA games, and there are no invisible walls preventing me from the water–like in a dozen other games. If I fall off a cliff, in slow motion I’ll have the option or using the grappling gun to save myself. Similar to the water scenario, I’ll climb back up. These seems like natural, logical ideas, but how many games have actually done this?

Those are the little things that add up, but Rocksteady nailed all the big ones, too. Batman isn’t just a beat’em-up, it’s a Batman game — one part action, one part detective story, one part adventure, and one part living comic book. Rocksteady really knows its Batman characters and it has done an excellent, excellent job at not only getting their looks right, but capturing them the way they would be in the comics; this too is another thing that most comic book games miss.

Come to think of it, DC has been pretty screwed when it comes to video games. I mean, the best comic book games are, what? Spider-Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance? Not bad, but there hasn’t been a good Spider-man since like 2004, and once you’ve played Ultimate Alliance, erm, I mean Marvel’s Ultimate Diablo, you’ve played them all. Batman has never been handled so well or transposed into the videogame format as he has been in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Thank you, Rocksteady, for making the best Batman game I’ve ever played.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Collector’s Junk

Yesterday afternoon I bought the last copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum from the local EB Games store. It was the Xbox 360 Collector’s Edition, $40 more than the standard price. I was sick of waiting for Eidos to send the game my way, so I spent my Edge Card savings and traded in some games (Transformers, MLB 2K9, and a few others I knew I wouldn’t touch again).  The game is beautifully crafted, presents everything with an amazing amount of class and style, and the actual gameplay mechanics and design are superbly done and make sense for the Batman character.Batman

But this Collector’s package is pure lunacy. For $40 more I got a huge, space-taking Batarang-shaped box and a whole lot of bat-shaped foam.  With a game DVD came an “extras DVD”, which I have not explored yet, a plastic mounted batarang, a leather-bound bookelt, a faux psychologists diary of sorts that lists the line-up of baddies Batman faces in the game and their prognosis. By the way, the diary includes Batman as a potential candidate for the Asylum. The package also includes two stickers, with redemption codes for free downloadable multiplayer modes, and some other crap.

Those extra levels are cool. And I love Batman stuff, but this Collector’s business is crazy making behavior; this stuff is totally worthless and it’s a waste of resources. I shouldn’t bitch, because after all, I didn’t actually spend any money on the thing, but still. It’s junky stuff. For instance, if you simply play the game you’ll collect all the villain cards and get the same information digitally; you don’t need a leather bound book, too.  The plastic mounted batarang just takes space. It’s not good for anything, like the Lord of the Rings bookends, or the Twisted Metal business card holder made of chains and sheet metal (and which is sort of ugly). And everything except the two DLC levels are pretty much fluff. I guess I’ll just put that old batarang up next to my Master Chief SPARTAN helmet. Blech.

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343 Industries Sparks Halo Legends, Bungie

Microsoft’s Halo series just fastened a powerful spark plug to its massive engine.  In conjunction with a recent rumor about 343 Industries (343 referring to Halo’s mad bot Guilty Spark), and a San Diego Comic-Con announcement about Halo Legends, an anime-style series consisting of seven short films, Microsoft today announced the official creation of 343 Industries, helmed by everyone’s favorite Halo artist and message board master, Frank O’Connor. O’Connor is 343 Industries’ creative director, first revealed in the LA Times.

The master expands his legend.

The master expands his legend.

“343 Industries is the publisher of the blockbuster Halo series of videogames and, as part of Microsoft Game Studios, oversees the Halo franchise, including novels, comics, licensed collectibles, apparel and more,” Microsoft said in a press release today. “343 Industries is home to world-class developers working on future Halo projects, including Halo Legends and Halo Waypoint, as well as partnering with renowned developers such as Bungie LLC and Robot Entertainment to produce Halo games for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live.”

“If you look at how George Lucas held on to ‘Star Wars,’ not just to make money from action figures but to control the direction the universe went in, you can see why we think it’s pretty vital,” Frank O’Connor told the LA Times. “Luckily, Microsoft has the resources to enable us to do that.”

Halo Legends is in development with five animation production houses: Bones, Casio Entertainment, Production I.G., Studio4 C, and Toei Animation. Microsoft will supervise, approve, and manage the Halo property–including all art, presentation, and written material.

After a good long stint working as a social media manager at Bungie, Frank O’Connor left Bungie (about 8 months ago) to work at Microsoft. It wasn’t just an ordinary side-stepping job, it turns out. Put that together with Bungie’s separation from Microsoft to become its own studio, and now it all makes sense.

Bungie split from Microsoft to become more independent and gain a little more control over its destiny (although arguably all we have seen is more Halo games, and Halo 3: ODST seems a little like contract filler, to be fair). With O’Connor at MS looking over what is essentially a new publishing division at MS, Bungie is very likely going to be under different restrictions (fewer), and have better management over its properties than before. It’s essentially a custom publishing brand specifically made for Bungie.

Better custom management by a Bungie insider who knows games? Sounds like a great idea to me. Congratulations, Frankie!

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Comic-Con: Uncharted 2 Makes Waves

After receiving the Game Critics award for best of show at E3, Sony and Naughty Dog have moved onward and southward, down to the San Diego Comic-Con to show off never-seen-before gameplay footage of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Said footage, according to the Official PlayStation Blog, is also hands-on. Feeling lucky (punk)?

uncharted2_boxartRecently, Sony Computer Entertainment America announced Uncharted 2: Among Thieves will ship exclusively to the PlayStation 3 October 13.

Naughty Dog’s Nolan North, Claudia Black, Emily Rose and Robin Atkin Downes will be at the Comic-Con Uncharted panel at 5:30 PM, Thursday, July 23, in room 6A on the Upper Level of the San Diego Convention Center. Sadly, I’ll only be there in spirit.

Sony’s social media writer Chris Morell announced there will be a Create a Comic Contest and other Sony events. Gamers and comic book fans also can get hands-on time with God of War III, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Gran Turismo PSP, and LittleBigPlanet PSP.

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Iron Man 2 (The Game) Is Better, Stronger, Faster

Iron Man, the movie, rocked the Casbah. It was a supreme surprise. Robert Downey, Jr. sparked the normally stoic, dislikable drunkard/millionaire Tony Stark to life with a quirky genius and refreshing inventiveness. Iron Man the movie has become one of my all-time favorite comic book movies.

Iron Man, the first Sega video game, sucked big sweaty elephant balls. It was all of the bad things that videogames shouldn’t be: unfocused, repetitive, uninspiring. It made you feel like Iron Man was a pretty lame super-hero as he fought endless waves of stupid thugs from five miles away. Who would want to play another Sega Iron Man game again?

Can Sega pull off a kick-ass Iron-Man 2 video game?

Can Sega pull off a kick-ass Iron Man 2 video game? My fingers are crossed.

“The world has changed, Jarvis. The crazies are getting smarter. I’m not alone anymore,” says Downey, Jr. in this first reveal trailer on Sega’s home page.

Hm… does this actually look, dare I say, intriguing? In a cynical world, no one in their right mind should give Sega a second chance after the first game’s poor effort. But things change, publishers learn lessons, people get inspired, and sequels shouldn’t be prejudged.

In Iron Man 2, developed by Sega’s San Francisco Studio–formerly known as Secret Level–a completely new creative lead heads up a mostly new dev team. The game is designed on a completely new, built-from-the ground-up engine, and gamers should get to play in the new Mark IV armor.  The game isn’t based on the movie, but shares elements of it, giving Sega wiggle room to do cool things in the game that it was restricted from doing the first time around (causing some of the first game’s issues).

For instance, Iron Man confronts Crimson Dynamo, as revealed in the first trailer, a character who isn’t in the movie (or so we have heard). From the video it appears that Sega has imbued Iron Man with a sense of power, enabling him to defeat enemies by blasting straight through them, ripping off their heads, and pummeling them to pieces. That’s sounds cool by me.

The story is penned by Iron Man comic book writer Matt Fraction, which means it will be more true to the character, his strengths and weaknesses, than anyone else is likely to pull off. Add to that the ability to research, create, and modify custom weapons for your suit before each mission and already this game sounds better.

A video game trailer can be deceiving. But this Iron Man 2 video does look bitchin’. Should we believe in Iron Man 2? I’m hoping Sega can pull it off, and I know it knows the first game stunk. So I am truly hoping they’re using that game as fuel to construct a truly kick-ass Iron Man 2 that’s worthy of the first movie and the Iron Man comic book legacy.

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God of War Comic Penned by Marv Wolfman

Known for his comic book work on The New Teen Titans, the novelization of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Superman Returns, Marv Wolfman is a well loved and well known comic book scribe. So, is it a departure for him to pen a comic book based on a video game? I guess when that video game is God of War–with all its drama, fighting, and super hero action, well no. Not when put that way.Teentitans_2

DC Comics, along with Sony Computer Entertainment America, announced prior to the San Diego Comic-Con that God of War the comic will be penned by Wolfman in a six-chapter mini-series starting this October and finishing in March 2010 when God of War III launches for PS3.

God of War will run on DC’s Wildstorm imprint.

“When I heard a rumor that Wildstorm was going to do God of War as a comic, I began to lobby for it as I never have before,” said Wolfman, “I love the games–been playing them since the first one came out –  the setting, the mythology, the action and Kratos’ personal story. And I can write the comic without button mashing! My thumb thanks you.”

“God of War is a terrific franchise property; it’s really built for comics!” said Hank Kanalz, vice president and general manager of WildStorm. “There are so many story opportunities — many of which Marv is mining for this mini-series. Sony has really crafted a rich world to explore, and we plan on doing so!”

DC did not announce who would draw the comic or what the storyline would be, but I’ll speculate and say that it’s likely the story will lead up to God of War III in some secret side path fashion.

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Warner Brothers Green Lights Lantern

greenlantern_posterWarner Bros. and game developer Double Helix have partnered to create an action-based video game slated around the comic book hero Green Lantern, VentureBeat has learned.

The video game is believed to be linked to the official Green Lantern movie scheduled for a June 17, 2011 release. The movie is to be directed by Martin Campbell (director of the Casino Royale and GoldenEye films) with a screenplay penned by screenwriters Greg Berlanti and Michael Green.

Both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game are in the works. As far as we know, there has never been a video game that focuses solely on Green Lantern, which is one of DC Comics’ oldest superheroes.

For the full story, see VentureBeat.com.

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