Tuesday, 31 July 2012

New From Rocksteady: Batman 3: Bats and Bolts

A disturbing premonition has hit me. Most gamers will be aware of a breakout game from Rocksteady studios called Batman: Arkham Asylum which combined compulsively enjoyable freeflow combat, surprsingly enjoyable 'predator' stealth sections and a huge dollop of wonderfully integrated Batman lore. Further still the sequel, Batman: Arkham City, added a whole host of additional gameplay features and content and on the whole a fairly good sequel. But allow me if you will, to compare these two games to another series. Let's talk a bit about Banjo-Kazooie.

Famous in it's own right for introducing cross-species freeflow combat.
Just like the first Batman Arkham series game, Banjo-Kazooie was just bursting with stylish environments and innovative gameplay mechanics. Where Batman had any amount of ways to navigate areas, discover secrets and generally kick some asses, the bear and bird duo had any amount of ways to do overcome their own challenges in creative ways. The tones of the two games may be vastly different but, where Batman has gadgets and special takedowns, Banjo has a bird in a backpack that can do some unsightly things with eggs.

Although the second game is a touch darker in tone as it happens.
 Okay so that in itself isn't a strong comparison. Many games gradually give the player more techniques to play around with as progress is made but the reason Banjo and Bats have a fair bit more in common is that their sequels evoke much of the same responses from players. First of all the scale of both sequels dwarfs that of the original games. Banjo-Tooie goes all out with the size of some of their levels and arguably most of Banjo-Kazooie could squeeze into at most a couple of the worlds in Tooie. The scale was such that is was overwhelming to a fault and developers Rare, even at the height of their pre-splintered powers struggled to fill in all that virtual space, much unlike Banjo-Kazooie, where literally every inch of the game world was considered to be a flawless platforming masterpiece with no wasted space. Scooch over to Arkham City and although we are treated to a much expanded overworld in the shape of North Gotham and many more Riddler Challenges than the first game, but again we find that where all this content isn't just tiring to play through it can feel like filler material at times. Although both sequels are real treats to fans of the first games, they both feel like they are stretching too far at times.

Much like Animal Crossing's next title Animal Space Colony. Keep it simple guys!
 Also, both games have main protagonists that pretty much pick up where they left off in terms of character ability. Banjo retains all of the abilities he and Kazooie had learnt in the first game only to learn a whole host of new moves to compliment the old. Batman has very much the same treatment in Arkham City, retaining most gadgets and moves and simply extending the variety of ways he can brawl in the street and sneak up on armed guards. Another thing to note is that although both games do provide some token navigational challenges which require the older move set, a lot of the show stopping attention is brought upon the new moves as one might expect.

So where does this leave us? 'Banjo-Threeie' was cryptically hinted at the end of Tooie, but what we were in fact treated to was a Nuts and Bolts, which was a big pile of nothing involved building cars out of Lego bricks and not having any fun. After playing all the way through Arkham City, without giving anything away, we were treated to a hint of what may be in the third instalment of the series in the form of the smallest of teasers. Let's just hope that instead of more seamless combat action and great detective intrigues we aren't treated to something like Batman goes to NASCAR or Batman and Reliant Robin. I'd rather the third title didn't get released in that case, which may explain why Half-Life 3, Team Fortress 3, Portal 3 or Half-Life: Episode 3 aren't ever likely to see the light of day. Perhaps Valve can't fight the urge to make their third franchise titles into crappy half-racing, half-bullshit nonsense. Another mystery solved! See you next time.

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