29 November 2011

A Tale of Two Games

New video games in my house are pretty rare outside of a sudden and/or unexpected cash influx, and to get two new games inside of a month is like finding the Loch Ness monster hanging out with Bigfoot. Yet, here we are, as I've acquired both Batman: Arkham City and WWE '12. Both are sequels to popular franchise games, but that's about the only thing the two have in common.

Arkham City takes place a year after the events of 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum and opens the world to include a large portion of Gotham City's slums, which have been converted to an enormous prison/police-state. It's a tremendous concept, with gameplay that builds on the original and then exceeds it. There's a very defined version of Batman and his outlying universe that Rocksteady is creating with these games. While it's not the version of Batman I envision of the character due to him generally being a jerk to everyone all of the time and how he oddly feels compelled to save a girl he kind of likes instead of the hundreds of people dying at one point in the story, I dig that the creators are forging their own mythos that plays somewhere in between the comic books and the Christopher Nolan movies.

Additionally, the downloadable content provides some awesome alternatives for the challenge maps as a way to keep them from being too repetitive. Playing as Robin or Nightwing makes the game worthwhile since each one has unique gadgets and different fighting animations. My hope is that Rocksteady continues to pump out the DLC on a regular basis, maybe adding a new side mission or two in addition to the challenge maps because I don't want to have to wait another two years for the next sequel, which will be interesting since the next step up would be Arkham State, and I can't imagine what the scope of that game might entail.

WWE '12, on the other hand, feels like a mixed bag of a game, albeit one that's starting to grow on me. THQ, the folks in charge of both the WWE and UFC license, always appear to have the best of intentions but somehow manage to fall just a little bit short in their sports entertainment endeavors. Their latest addition is an attempt at a reboot by turning away from the Smackdown vs. RAW name they've employed for the last seven years. Unfortunately, it's not a reboot that is successful in reinventing the game, but there are some improvements that don't have me completely hating it as much as my initial impression led me to believe.

Let's look at the positives first. The game has the WWE presentation down. It looks about as perfect as fake fighting which attempts to portray itself as real but also tries not to be real ever can possibly get. The entrances capture every nuance of each wrestler, the moves are easily identifiable, and the level of customization has never been higher. As a visual experience, WWE '12 is the best wrestling game ever produced. THQ has also improved the WWE Universe mode, where you can customize and book three different television shows that build to the monthly pay per view, over last year's initial foray. To top it all off, both The Rock and Brock Lesnar are in the game, which is what really sold me on buying it the first week. The latter is an especially popular guy to make as a created superstar, so it's pretty awesome that we get the real deal this time around. Yet, the game is far from perfect.

One of the main reasons why I don't purchase games too often is because the replay factor on the games I like is really high. WWE or UFC games lend themselves to both long or short periods of play time, so playing one match or a series of them isn't a problem. But WWE '12 changes the gameplay to the point that I almost took the game back the day I purchased it. Cooler heads prevailed since the new grapple system clearly requires a learning curve that I was too stubborn to accept. Even though it was a blow to my pride, I switched the difficulty to Easy for the time being until I start to improve.

At the same time, there are still a ton of problems with playing the game. Running strikes and grapples are nearly impossible to vary thanks to the new tap and hold methods of implementation. Most of the time when I attempt the secondary running strike or grapple, I still end up attempting the standard one. For a game touting that players will have to vary their attack when facing the AI, this doesn't help. The reversals are also spotty (or I just stink at them) despite hitting the right trigger at the prompt on a fairly consistent basis.

By far the worst aspect of the game is the new dynamic camera system that's supposed to approximate WWE television presentation. Instead of the standard elevated camera utilized in the past, the game now takes the approach of WWE TV by showing most of the match from the hard camera side. While this works for their show, it completely robs the player of any depth perception and destroys any possibility of a match that flows as a quality wrestling showcase. Instead, there are tons of missed moves and comical pratfalls that makes playing more frustrating than fun. The camera also doesn't adjust when folks uninvolved in the action, like a tag partner or manager, stand in the way. In an effort to portray realism (ironic considering the subject matter of pro wrestling) by not having tag partners become translucent, they wind up interfering in huge way. Additionally, the referee is always in the way of the action in the match, which I don't remember ever being a problem in a WWE game before.

I guess I still need more time with WWE '12. Maybe getting used to the new control scheme will alleviate some of these problems. Once UFC Undisputed 3 comes out in February, though, I doubt I'll continue playing WWE '12.

Monday, November 14 - You took the Fahrenheit 451 final and I checked your agendas. These should be entered into the grade book by the end of the week.

Tuesday, November 15 - After receiving a list of words from The Sniper, you worked with a partner to predict the usage and utilize words in context.

Wednesday, November 16 - You continued the work from the day before and also determined the definitions of a new set of words based on the way they were used in context.

Thursday, November 17 - Having completed the assignment from the previous two days, we read The Sniper together as a class.

Friday, November 18 - We read the story called The Last Spin, which served as an introduction to our Juvenile Justice unit we started the following week.

Monday, November 28 - After completing a quick write discussing punishment differences for adults and people your age, we determined the characteristics of a child, an adult and a juvenile. Our goal was to figure out for ourselves the factors that make up a juvenile and how to differentiate between the three different concepts.

Monday, November 14 - You completed the final timed writing and turned in your books for the last annotation check. Please make sure to finish reading the book even if you didn't complete the annotations. Missing out on that 25 point annotation check is one thing, but if you don't finish reading the book, it will seriously hinder your ability to do well on the culminating paper.

Tuesday, November 15 - After turning in the final article selection assignment, you received a final work day to complete the CD Creation project.

Wednesday, November 16 - We discussed in-text citations and how to properly implement them in your paper.

Thursday, November 17 - You turned in your CD Creation project. We then continued reading through Beowulf.

Friday, November 18 - We completed reading Beowulf and you received time to complete the dialectical journals, which I will collect on Wednesday, November 30.

Monday, November 28 - You received the guidelines for a properly formatted works cited page.

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