Checkpoint: Wimbledon 2015 Edition

Checkpoint: Wimbledon 2015 Edition

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I consider Roger Federer the greatest of all time but he’s “over the hump”. He doesn’t have the consistency that we’re used to seeing and seems to spray his shots wide more these days. I don’t expect him to win majors anymore but I expect him to get into the quarters in most if not all the tournaments that he enters. And yet he’s surprising me with his second place ranking in the world and currently in the thick of it with Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.

Novak is an unbreakable wall and yet somehow Roger managed to eke out a tie break from him. If this quality of play keeps up this could end up being one of the all time great matches of this tournament.

Thank goodness I was in the frame of mind to watch it. It’s been a restless few weeks.

I finished Batman: Arkham Knight. I liked it and I’m considering going back to mop up the remaining content to see what the Riddler has in store for me.

I finally checked out Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. It’s easily the best playing Metal Gear Solid to date but hearing the voice of Kiefer Sutherland instead of David Hayter was weird. I didn’t spend the time to replay or explore as I usually do. I didn’t even play as stealthy. I wrapped up this “prologue” within an hour and came away optimistic for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain later this year.

Then I played The Stanley Parable for an hour or so. With that, I couldn’t help but replay it several times to soak up the different paths and endings. What a novel game!

Batman: Arkham Knight PS4 Review

Batman: Arkham Knight PS4 Review

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Batman: Arkham Knight is the Batman game that I was looking for in Batman: Arkham City. Arkham City was small and felt too dense with stuff with little to no story tie-ins. Arkham Knight finally gave us a sprawling Gotham, the Batmobile and convincing reasons for me to engage with everything. It was really close to being the definitive Batman experience.

My criticisms of Arkham City stemmed from the fact that it felt unfocused and wasn’t the intricately designed game that was Arkham Asylum. Arkham Knight didn’t recapture the tight knit   package of Arkham Asylum but I felt the Batmobile helped bridge that gap. I enjoyed using the Batmobile.

I found myself driving around the city instead of gliding because it felt satisfying to drift around corners and crash through things. I found the APC chases exciting as I was fending off henchmen with side swipes, dodging RPG shots and trying to stay on target so that I could launch my immobilizers. The obstacle races required a soft touch but were just short enough that I felt challenged but not frustrated. Generous checkpointing helped but I understand why people were frustrated with each new obstacle.

If I told you that the Batmobile could turn into a tank with a touch of button, shoot high velocity rounds and machine guns in 2013, I’m sure a lot of people would have been over the moon with that idea. The post-release reality was divisive and I am on the side that enjoyed the tank battles — it clicked with me. It was the drive to “headshot” or one hit kill every tank that kept me going. The enemy telegraphed their shots, so it felt like a turn based bullet hell where I had to navigate a maze of oncoming fire while finding a way to retaliate. I enjoyed the challenge but I recognize that there was too much of it. I think I wiped out well over 500 unmanned vehicles by the end of the game.

Last but not least, the Batmobile was also Batman’s newest gadget. Like the Batclaw, explosive gel and Batterang, the Batmobile also served as the solution to many of the game’s puzzles. Figuring out how to get the Batmobile to various places felt a little contrived in spots but I thought it was clever overall. I don’t know how a giant tank manages to stay on a roof without collapsing through, but I didn’t care. Driving on a roof was bad ass.

I caused myself several bouts of frustration with the hand-to-hand combat because I decided to play on hard difficulty but forgot about combo specials for a fair chunk of it which made the game needlessly difficult for myself. The inclusion of medics that can revive and buff their allies with electric shields caused all kinds of grief for me. So I did what Batman would do. I scoped out each situation and prepped like the Dark Knight would and balanced the odds a bit. I felt powerful but I didn’t feel like I was overpowered because the inclusion of those new enemy types like the medic forced me to use Batman’s powers with more precision.

I have nothing but the most glowing praise for Arkham Knight’s visuals and its performance. I was reminded of their debut title, Arkham Asylum and how well it ran on the PlayStation 3. It looked great and ran very well which is a lot more than I can say about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I realize the scope of the two games are completely different but the fact that Rocksteady put in the effort to stay as close as possible to 30 FPS is impressive and appreciated.

My initial source of Batman knowledge came from the animated series of the 1990s and Batman: Returns. I never bothered to go down the route of comics. The latest injection of Batman info came from therecent Nolan films and Rocksteady’s Arkham games. I pick up so much Batman knowledge through the course of the game and even more when I dive into the dossiers. The different Robins, the ongoing relationship between Batman and Joker and the power of the Scarecrow became more prominent to me because of Arkham Knight.
I liked the story of Arkham Knight but there are glaring issues with continuity that were exacerbated by the overly dramatic spin on the villains and their powers through both the story and gameplay reasons. Where did the Arkham Knight get all this money? How was he able to convince such a large force to follow him? Why wasn’t everyone affected by the neurotoxin when all hell broke loose? You had to live moment to moment with this game; don’t connect the dots or else things begin to fall apart.

And for the most part, the game’s structure allowed for that kind of hopping. After each story beat, I was able to switch away from the main objective and go hunt down other threats across Gotham. The Penguin and Two-Face were up to no good again and nobody was going to disarm those mines strewn across the three islands of Gotham.

It took three games but I finally felt compelled to finish the Riddler challenges and all the other challenges to unlock an additional story beat. I doubt it’s a huge pay off but there’s something enticing me to go back. But I want to maintain my sanity and leave that final set of loose ends for another day. I felt satisfied nonetheless and that’s how a final chapter of a trilogy should feel. I felt Rock Steady did all they could for Batman in this game. They gave me a sizeable Gotham city to live out my Batman fantasies and all that entails.

Verdict:
I Like It

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Unreal Uncharted Edition

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It’s magical until somebody points it out. It’s even more impressive when somebody points it out.

And that’s how I feel about the recently released Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End extended E3 2015 gameplay video. Say what you will about the actual gameplay (I’m still excited for this kind scripted action) but you cannot deny the technical and artistic expertise at work here. Just keeping in mind the fact that the cutscenes are rendered in real-time is enough drop jaws. This NX Gamer walkthrough does an excellent job explaining the latest tricks in Naughty Dog’s arsenal. If you’re interested in in 20+ minute videos that scrutinize graphics, then give that video a look.

I’m equally impressed with Batman: Arkham Knight which is essentially this 2011 Unreal Engine 3.0 technical demo brought to life. I didn’t even put the two together until Digital Foundry pointed out in their Face Off.

These consoles are quite limited in horsepower but as always, it’s what developers do with that horsepower that matters. Arkham Knight looks good and runs well and it’s no wonder that people are focusing on the divisive Batmobile more than anything else. And that’s how it should be.

Checkpoint: Became the Batman Edition

Checkpoint: Became the Batman Edition

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I watched Tim Burton’s 1989 classic, Batman, for the first time last night. It was a fun movie. Batman: Returns was my first Batman film and thought going back to the 1989 film was unnecessary. I was wrong. Batman (1989) might be the superior Burton Batman film for Jack Nicholson’s performance but I do love Danny Devito’s disgusting take on Penguin. I’ll have to rewatch Returns for a proper assessment — at this point it may be two decades since I saw that movie.

It’s a flawed movie that violates Batman’s “no killing” code without regard but I when Jack Nicholson’s dancing and prancing like a lunatic, I’m willing to forgive. Jack carried the film and I was pleasantly surprised how well he fit into that role.

With Batman in the brain, I decided to shelve The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for now and start on Batman: Arkham Knight. I tolerated the framerate issues but when I caught wind of a substantial patch coming, I thought it was a good time to switchover to Arkham Knight.

I’m really enjoying Arkham Knight thus far. It’s a gorgeous game and it also runs very well. The scope is different between the two games but it does make me hope that CD Projekt RED can get its framerate issues in order.

 

 

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