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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Barcelona Saved, Gotham City Awaits!

After reserving Batman: Arkham Asylum at my local Best Buy yesterday, I found myself unable to pick up my copy before closing time. I managed to get out to my local Wal-mart in search of a PS3 copy of the game and was dismayed to find out that they were sold out. At a $38.83 price tag, it's no wonder that there were no copies of left.

Disheartened, I made one final stop at the nearby Loblaws grocery store to buy some ice cream. I was sad and ice cream makes bad things better. After grabbing a couple liters of neopolitain ice cream (my wife leaves me most of the chocolate), I decided to stroll into the electronics section...just in case, y'know?

I made my way to the console gaming section. I was expecting to see Batman: Arkham Asylum either sold out or being sold at a $69.99 price point. And then I saw them: two copies of the game, one for the Xbox 360 and the other for the PS3. I picked up the PS3 copy then looked at the price: $38.83! I love it when big chain stores compete for my dollar! I quickly bought the last PS3 copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum and hurried home with ice cream and video game in tow.

Ironically, I didn't even play the game last night. I had already made plans to watch a movie with my wife. I also wanted to finish up Wheelman before delving into the Batman's nightmarish entrapment at Arkham Asylum.

Before this site turns into a beacon of "all-Batman, all-the-time", let me say a few words on Wheelman.

First off, it's a very good game. Graphics are great, gameplay is pretty damned slick in most cases, and the VO is more often good than bad. I liked that the game allowed for instant teleportation to any and all missions and activities found on the map. I found the game's checkpoints to be fairly forgiving. All in all, Wheelman is a well-done open-world game that actually improves quite a bit on the typical GTA-style sandbox game.

But that's not to say Wheelman is without any flaws.

First and foremost, the game's story is a little wonky. I had trouble following some of the plot lines yet still found many the story's more obvious parts a little too cliche and stale. Thankfully, Vin Diesel's cocky Milo character makes every scene strangely watchable. I don't get it: I guess I'm just a big Vin Diesel fan...?

Besides the cookie-cutter plot, I had issues with the game's balancing of mission difficulty. Of the twenty-nine missions in the game, there are five missions that are incredibly difficult and frustrating. Two of the difficult missions hit you out of nowhere while progressing through the story. Everything's going smoothly until - WHAM! - you find yourself failing over and over again. Thankfully, the checkpoint system works pretty well...though not as well as you might like while getting pounded by these missions.

The last three missions in the game are also quite sick. The last mission is probably the easiest of the three. I will give one warning regarding the penultimate mission, however: it is quite long and very aggravating. It took me roughly one and a half hours to complete it. During this time, I could not save my game. Is Vin Diesel a big Final Fantasy fan? I can't really confirm that the game didn't auto-save at each checkpoint but I wasn't about to test that theory after fighting my way through some of the toughest gaming action I've faced in a long while.

All said and done, I would recommend buying Wheelman if you're a fan of intense driving action, big explosions, slow-mo gun fights, open-world games, and/or Vin Diesel. If you can get the game for $40 or less, you really can't go wrong with this title. Wheelman definitely exceeded my expectations in many ways while rarely falling short over the 20 hours that I spent playing it.

But now it's time to put wheelmen, Barcelona, and Vin Diesel behind me.

Gotham City needs its hero and I know someone willing and able to do the job...