Batman is a Jerk…

Gaming has been host to plenty of superheroes. For the most part, their games have been either entertaining or mildly annoying. Batman has produced a couple of pretty good hits, but his big turnaround happened with the Batman: Arkham series. Traveler’s Tales, developers behind the Lego games, must have never got the memo.

When I started off with Lego Batman 2, I didn’t really know what to expect. I gave up the Lego games because they were all essentially the same. I gave this a shot because a friend of mine came over and urged me to play it. Well, not only is Lego Batman 2 a fairly mundane and annoying game, but the story ruins it.

For starters, Superman makes absolutely no sense in regards to the game. There are numerous puzzles where Batman and Robin will be trapped on the other side of a pit of fire, yet Superman cannot fly them across.

Traveler’s Tales has never been at the absolute cusp of quality, but its games have had charm to spare and plenty of low-pressure fun. Lego Batman 2, though, reverses that. Batman is portrayed as a headstrong blowhard and Superman is a bumbling idiot. Poor Robin has to deal with these people and you wonder why he hasn’t quit yet.

There is one instance early on in the game where Batman throws Robin off of a platform and jumps after him. They are pretty much dead at this point, but then Superman sweeps in. Batman has no regard for Robin’s wellbeing and ends up looking like a jerk.

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After that level, Batman learns that The Joker and Lex Luthor are planning on using Kryptonite to power some gun that disintegrates objects. Robin knows this is Superman’s weakness and tries to persuade Batman to tell him. Batman yells about how they aren’t calling Superman and ends up looking selfish. Some kind of hero, right?

To make matters worse, the rest of the Justice League are only present for two levels. Their role in the plotline is so contrived and ham-fisted that I wonder why Traveler’s Tales even bothered. I understand that having all these characters gives the game a greater longevity, but when their powers end up replacing all of Batman’s suits, you wonder why they weren’t called in sooner.

That’s my chief problem with this game: necessity. I fully understand that no game is ever a required part of being alive, but what exactly does Lego Batman 2 provide over its predecessor? A large, Lego-fied Gotham City isn’t enough to keep me going.

There are so many instances of lazy writing that I don’t even know where to begin. One of the very first levels has you building Robin’s helicopter so that you can chase Joker. You manage that and Batman ends up almost falling into the ocean. Well, he thankfully calls his own jet in at the last second. Wait, why didn’t he do that to begin with?

Later, Batman and Superman somehow trade places to fool Joker and Lex Luthor into revealing their plan. The plot works and the two heroes then give chase to the villains. But wait, The Joker used Kryptonite to weaken Superman, who ends up being crushed by an anvil when he’s Batman. Shouldn’t he be dead?

The final nail in the coffin is how the last boss is defeated. Batman calls down a laser from space with the help of the Justice League. A giant robot is rampaging throughout Gotham and Batman waits until the very last second to utilize his laser … which could have ended the conflict immediately … and was extremely easy to acquire.

Really, what does this all say about the actual gameplay segments? Well, with Superman in tow, why are there segments where he is arbitrarily disabled? Superman cannot walk through electricity. I guess it must be made of Kryptonite. Hell, the Man of Steel can’t even swim!

Then you have the Justice League member, Cyborg, who can use Superman’s laser eye technique. Well, that’s just wonderful. Why bother with Superman? Oh, he can fly. Well, so can Wonder Woman and Green Lantern!

Lego Batman 2 is so dedicated to stuffing the roster full of characters that it forgets that these heroes should have individuality. All the villains manage to have distinct battles, so why can’t the heroes have some form of differentiation?

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Then the floaty controls come into play and make you wonder why the entire thing couldn’t just be built around Superman. I know that an already easy game would be practically on auto-pilot at that point, but I’m so sick of backtracking with Robin’s stupid hamster ball thing when Superman can just pick him up.

I will say that the co-op works surprisingly well. For once, you aren’t locked to a single screen. The game has some weird split that tries to morph the screen based on a character’s position in the room, but it beats being confined to a small box. It also makes the other player envious that he can’t fly!

On the whole, I do not like Lego Batman 2. It tries very hard to provide a different world for a Lego game, but sticks to artificial puzzle challenge to lengthen the game. When the universe of the game contradicts the powers of its heroes, you know something is wrong.

I JUST CAN’T WAIT, but I probably should…

Daft Punk’s newest album will be releasing this coming Tuesday. Expectations are astronomical, which is astounding since the group’s last album came out eight years ago. I am a huge fan of their work, with their eclectic blend of electronic sounds having changed my outlook on music.

To say I’m excited is an understatement. The anticipation has been boiling in me since I heard about the new album in March. I may have spoiled the fun a little by bootlegging the release, but I did already pre-order the disc. Regardless, I’m shocked at how the end result turned out, considering the amount of hype behind this release.

With games, I’ve ruined more than a few titles simply because I wanted them too much. 2011 changed my idea of how I should focus my energy on gaming. I still love the medium, but I just tend to not get too eager about anything. I cannot live through another Uncharted 3 incident again.

I had become a massive Uncharted nut during the course of this generation. The game was the first thing I beat on PS3 (before I even owned the console myself) and I blitzed through the campaign in such a fast time that I needed to play everything again just to remember the best moments.

Then Naughty Dog went and upped the game with Uncharted 2 and lifted my expectations of what a scripted, third-person, cover-based shooter should be. I was annoyed at the lack of flexibility in the setpieces, but blown away by how wonderful-looking they were and how fantastic the game felt.

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How can you ruin this? Easily, it turns out.

When Uncharted 3 released, though, everything just felt wrong. Drake moved awkwardly, the controls were never as concise as I remember them being in 2 and the enemy AI took a dramatic step backwards in terms of tactics. Even the cover system became completely worthless with how the level design was.

That was just the biggest disappointment. I was also hotly anticipating Skyrim and I left that game wondering why I even cared. A rushed story with barely a hint of comprehension, a lack of innovative ideas that used to define Elder Scrolls and a generally boring game world just culminated in a game I had to force myself to finish (and at 28 hours, that was a lot of determination).

Oddly enough, Saints Row: The Third was another game I truly desired. I have such fond memories of destroying Saints Row 2 with my friend, Dan. We spent most of my college days goofing off on the Xbox 360 and just plowing through Saints Row because of how absurd the game was. The campaign was a great riff on the realism that Grand Theft Auto was drifting towards, not to mention Volition implemented some smart improvements in terms of playability.

Then THQ became greedy. Somewhere along the line, it joined the ranks of Activision and Capcom in regards to DLC policies. Saints Row: The Third is too long, but feels devoid of content. I believe the campaign lasts around 13 hours, but there are maybe half of the side missions that 2 had. Some of those side missions pad out the campaign, making most missions feel disconnected.

The game also performs miserably on the Xbox 360. I later played through it on PC, but my own memories of the experience tainted the entire game. I could not shake off the feeling of being let down by a game I wanted. Nothing was going to replace that.

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DLC ONLY, SUCKA!

If I never had any expectations for these games, I may have enjoyed them. The hardest part of evaluating any piece of media is removing your preconceptions before going in. This is nigh-on impossible for the average person, but gaming has almost seemed different to me.

Usually with sequels, general improvements are par for the course. Even if you feel that the game isn’t as creative as the predecessor, playing feels like a joy because everything is refined. Every game I mentioned above is a victim of the current game industry’s insistence on DLC.

I suppose Uncharted 3 did feature a full campaign, but the multiplayer component handles far better. The controls aren’t sloppy and the level design is tight, other than the lack of maps (which got rectified by plenty of DLC). The general feeling I get is that Naughty Dog wanted the game to sell more map packs instead of provide the tight, scripted and funny campaign that the previous games had.

Bethesda happens to be a product of its own ambition. Oblivion redefined the Western RPG and Fallout 3 showed that first-person shooters could adapt to the RPG template very well. Both of those games followed an oddly similar template, though, and after trekking through three individual Bethesda games before touching Skyrim, I feel that the company just has no tricks left.

Oblivion started the DLC craze and Skyrim just put it into overdrive. I haven’t heard a single good thing about any of the packs released and they all feel like content that could have been included in the base game. I remember mods for Oblivion that allowed you to own homes, yet Bethesda made sure to not include that in vanilla Skyrim.

I remember other moments in my life where anticipation ruined the final outcome. Halo 2 stands as the worst let-down of my teenage life. I was never a giant fan of Halo, but the first game was so much fun with friends and was wholly unique for a console FPS that everyone had to have the sequel.

When that day came, though, I was treated to sloppy graphics, copy and paste level design and a very strange game feel (the field of view is zoomed in too far). The rest of the game continues down this path, too, making for a wholly polished but entirely soulless story.

Not to mention the game doesn’t even have a conclusion, but I couldn’t stand anything else about the experience. The multiplayer may have been a monumental achievement for consoles, but the balance of the weapons is ludicrous. Whoever has the biggest weapon wins, every time. There is no hope for someone spawning with the dingy pistol.

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Working all the way towards nothing. Feels great, right?

Why bring this all up? Well, along with Daft Punk’s latest material finally getting unleashed on the world, Microsoft is set to reveal the next Xbox on Tuesday. The Internet is buzzing about how badly Microsoft ruined goodwill and how all the rumors of always online might be enough to spur people away from another Xbox.

I cannot say I have much anticipation for whatever this next generation brings. Maybe that will work in my favor. I do not regret buying a Wii U, but I can’t claim to be infatuated with the device. Nintendo definitely dropped the ball in that regard.

So hopefully Microsoft does something right. Even if they don’t, I know that for once in my life, the sting of disappointment will not be festering within me. I’m glad I finally got over that, too.