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I guess I just like liking things

Sgt. Batman's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Batman’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

I go into certain games expecting to like them: Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell, and the Arkham series. If they never changed their basic play dynamics, I would play them through just for the opportunity to have more story. As such, I tend to be more forgiving of any flaws the game might have, and my biggest gripes are along the lines of “there are too many new things.”

So my hopes for this game were high way before I ever got to play it. More Batman is a good thing, I figure (conveniently forgetting Batmans Forever and & Robin). Even though it wasn’t being made by the same people as the previous two Arkham games, the new guys were using the same base, so I figured it would be okay. And it is! Mostly.

As the name of the game implies, it takes place early in Batman’s career, before there’s an official Arkham Asylum. There are enough dangerous types out and about in Gotham to warrant its creation, though, and things are more complicated than usual because Black Mask has but out a $50 million contract on Batman’s head, and it’s brought a bunch of assassins out of the woodwork. Batman needs to get to the bottom of what’s going on while trying to stay alive and trying to protect the people of Gotham. Meanwhile, Anarky has bombs scheduled to go off and some guy named “Enigma” is threatening to blackmail everyone in Gotham who is even slightly important. Add crooked cops into the mix and it seems like a lot to handle, but it’s just another day for Batman. Oh, except that it’s Christmas Eve and Alfred’s hassling him to get home for Christmas ham and presents.

If you’ve played the previous games in the series you’re not in for too many surprises here. (If you haven’t played the previous games in the series you’ve done yourself a serious disservice and need to get crackin’ on both of them straightaway.) There’s a new fast travel system involving a pretty sweet-looking Batjet, but you can still just glide from point to point if you’d rather. The part of Gotham you get to zip around in is pretty large, though, so you’re going to want to unlock the fast travel points as soon as you’re able.

Batman has all kinds of gadgets, of course, and the majority of them have been seen in previous games. My absolute favorite new addition are the shock gloves. Once he gets the shock gloves he’s not only able to charge generators to open doors or move elevators, he’s also able to use them while punching people. Even better, shock gloves can punch people wielding knives, holding shields, or wearing armor, so it’s easy to rack up some long combo strings. In fact, I think this is the first game in the series I’ve gotten a combo longer than 50 because I stink at timing and combos. I wish the shock gloves would all the time, but after exhausting the charge, you have to let them recharge – and you recharge them by punching people. Batman teaches us that most problems can be solved by punching. You might think this takes away from his “World’s Greatest Detective” title, but nobody else figured out that punching solves most problems, so I think it’s actually more proof.

The new crime scene scenarios are a larger version of things that showed up in previous games, and even though they’re simple to the point of almost being “press X to Jason” events, it adds a nice layer. It will be interesting to see if these are expanded even further in future games.

I really enjoyed the game and the story, which is why it was so, so frustrating to get through. This is without a doubt the buggiest, glitchiest, freezingest game I have ever played. Sometimes the simple act of swing from a building was too much for it, and I would have to reboot my Xbox, reload the game, and hope the last save point wasn’t too far back. There were times I had to do this a couple of times in not even an hour. On top of that, other glitches make trying to finish the game literally impossible. Sure, I was finally able to get through the main story, but one of the Enigma trophies that I collected is now showing as being uncollected. This wouldn’t be a bad thing if I could just go collect it again, but it isn’t there any longer. So apart from starting a whole new game and collecting all grillion trophies again (and hoping it didn’t glitch again), there is no way for me to finish the Enigma storyline. It’s sitting at 99% and will apparently be thus until the end of time. I can’t tell you how frustrating this is.

There was an 8Mb patch released this week, but I couldn’t tell you what it did. I know for a fact it didn’t fix the Enigma trophy issue. It may have fixed the freezing issue, but I don’t know that for sure.

So I can recommend the game for the most part, I guess? It depends how much of the game you were planning to play, I suppose. Maybe the PC and PS3 versions don’t have this problem? Maybe no other Xbox owners have the problem, either?  All I know is what I went through.

But it might be somewhat telling that after I got as far as I could with my original game, I started a new on on Game+ mode.

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