Quick reviews: Red Dead Redemption and Batman: Arkham Asylum for Xbox 360

Red Dead Redemption
developer: Rockstar San Diego
publisher: Rockstar
system: Xbox 360 (also available on PlayStation 3)

RDR is basically Grand Theft Auto in the Old West and that’s a good thing.  Most GTA games are strictly city-based but GTA: San Andreas featured a wide-open wilderness in-between cities, peppered with small towns and highways.  To some degree, that’s what RDR is all about.  That does NOT make the game boring or empty, though.  It seems there’s always something going on in the deserts and countrysides.  You can be minding your own business riding your horse and come across a stagecoach robbery that you can choose to foil or ignore.  Strangers will approach you, sometimes for help, sometimes to rob you.  There are animals to hunt and plants to collect but this is strictly optional.  Everything I’m describing takes place in the world at large, outside of missions and the main game.  The characters are well done but you might end up hating some of them for the wrong reasons.  Unlike GTA games, RDR allows you to follow the straight and narrow.  It’s up to you, really.  Most of the missions involve killing, but the victims are lowlife scum.  Outside of missions, you take a real risk by murdering regular folks, as the law does not forget.  Even if you evade the authorities, a bounty will be placed on yer ass, making life difficult until you pay it off.

It’s a good game!


Batman: Arkham Asylum
developer: Rocksteady
publisher: Eidos
system: Xbox 360 (also available for PlayStation 3)

This game got great reviews and I can see why.  BAA feels like 1/3 Metroid (due to exploration, gradual item acquisition, and Metroid Prime-type scanning modes), 1/3 Metal Gear (due to sneaking around and crawling through ducts) and 1/3 good, old-fashioned brawler. I do NOT mean to imply that the game is derivative.  It took these strong aspects and synthesized them into something new and fun.

Voice work is present almost all the time and much of it provided by ye ol’ Batman: The Animated Series cast, Mark Hammill, Kevin Controy, etc.  Several big-name villains are present, namely Joker, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Szasz, Bane, Scarecrow and Killer Croc.  I think this is one of those lame occasions when you can say the setting is something of a character, as well.  Arkham really has a presence and provides so much of the identity of the game.  This isn’t necessarily always a great thing, though.  From certain vantage points on Arkham Island, the player can spy downtown Gotham and it seems like a letdown not to be able to explore that wild city.  I think Rocksteady should definitely create a sandbox Batman game.

The brawling setup is really simple, there’s basically a counter button and an attack button but the action is addictive and on-screen representation of your input is INSANE.  Basically, Batman has what seems to be dozens of moves at his disposal and he will use them almost randomly.  If you walk up to one dude and push attack three times you might see a totally different move set from the last time you pushed attack three times on some guy.  This little touch makes a big difference and offers a visual treat.

Play it!

3 responses to “Quick reviews: Red Dead Redemption and Batman: Arkham Asylum for Xbox 360

  1. Wuih..your review so helpful. Thanks

  2. For those of you out there who might be stuck staring at and/or listening to the TV as your s/o plays video games (sure, you could go to a different room during game time, but then you’d hardly ever see your dearheart), both of the above-reviewed games are actually entertaining to WATCH, even if you don’t get involved in the game-play.

    Red Dead Redemption

    Good: Watching RDR is pretty much like viewing a Western film. The main character is rather likeable, and it’s kind of the classic storyline of a bad guy, changed by the love of a good woman, then forced to confront his past. The good news for those of you who might be irritated by the laughable females in GTA games is that their counterparts in RDR are realistic, bordering on plain-looking.

    Bad: I have to admit that I turned away whenever it was time to hunt — but that’s just the result of being conditioned and desensitized to human-on-human violence while simultaneously despising human-on-animal aggression, right?

    Bad: Also, as with most video games, the story can be kind of predictable. It’s easy to tell who is going to turn on whom, how the whole thing will end, etc.

    Good: Nonetheless, it’s enjoyable to watch the plot unfold, and the fact that whoever is playing can decide what side-missions to undertake makes it a little more like a choose-your-own-adventure.

    Bad–> Neutral: The “Western accents” are pretty awful, but you get used to them quickly, and it becomes less distracting as the game progresses.

    Overview: As far as passive viewing goes, this might be one of my favorite video games of all time.

    Batman: Arkham Asylum

    Bad –> Neutral: Well, right off the bat, you’re dealing with typical GTA female characters. I don’t mind this, myself, because I think they’re pretty funny. Instead of coming across as hot, they just seem over-the-top, and that’s kind of fun. But if you’re annoyed by that type of thing, this game will be harder to watch for you.

    Bad: Also, some of the voices are irritating — I suppose they’re the same voice-over artists used for the Batman cartoon, but since I’ve not watched THAT since the early 90s, I’m not impressed. Harley Quinn is, by far, the most annoying character AND voice in the whole game.

    Bad: As with many video games, the same one-liners get repeated over and over again within a relatively short timeframe. Also, there are several fight scenes which look nearly identical, and that gets old really fast.

    Good: I did like the choice of characters, because they were ones I recognized from the campy live action show and the aforementioned 90s cartoon-viewership, as well as from some of the movies.

    Bad: I missed Catwoman, but I guess she’s not in the asylum?

    Good: Anyway, the atmosphere was nice — dark and moody. Scarecrow was twisted, and I think his whole persona was portrayed rather well, including the use of his fear gas (or whatever you call it). The Joker was pretty good, too, and I liked that he remained hidden for much of the game, making Harley to do his dirty work.

    Overview: Although BAA was less like a film than RDR, it was MORE so than many other video games — and in that respect, it was interesting. Not my favorite, but still a good watch.

  3. Patricia, I really like the idea of a “he said-she said” video game column. Get to it!

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