Kotaku AU Games Of 2009: #1

This is it. We've reached the conclusion of the countdown of my personal picks for 2009. At #1 we find just one man, dressed like a lunatic and armed to the teeth...

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (360, PS3, PC)

So, Batman is my game of the year. The strange thing is it took me a while to warm to it. I loved the subdued opening as you escort the Joker deep into the bowels of Arkham, the stark contrast of his hyperactive chatter and Batman's monosyllabic responses serving brilliantly to establish the setup and unsettle you at the same time.

But the next hour or so felt too linear, my actions too prescribed. I wrote back in July about a scene in a preview build that made me feel like the designer was holding my hand and leading me throughout. No one, I argued, should be holding Batman's hand.

When I finally got my hands on the complete game, however, things changed. I started from the beginning again. I took my time to explore and soak up the atmosphere. I paused to listen to the interview tapes I found and read the character bios I'd unlocked. The more I played, the more I wanted to immerse myself in this stunningly detailed recreation of the Batman universe.

I soon grew to love the pacing. Arkham Asylum builds a steady rhythm with its beats of exploration, melee combat and stealth, punctuated by timely boss battles and other less conventional sequences.

I found myself returning to areas with each new tool I'd unlocked, eager to track down the Riddler trophies, scan the Chronicles of Arkham and hear more of Amadeus' mad tale, and solve the often exceptionally clever Riddler Challenges. The first time I realised there was a giant question mark to align and scan from the Penitentiary balcony was an awesome revelation.

I began to love the fluid, devastating combat and master the timing of my counters. The way each new combat set-piece would slowly escalate, adding more enemies and throwing different types into the mix, meant I constantly felt like I was learning new approaches and having to improve. Soon I would relish the opportunity to test myself against as many thugs as possible.

I would experiment with the stealth areas, marvelling at the breadth of possibilities to eliminate the Joker's henchmen. A favourite tactic was to glide kick an isolated thug, then spray some explosive gel on the ground next to him. By the time his companions had rushed over to investigate, I'd have slipped away and could detonate the gel and knock them all out.

I got a thrill out of the boss battles because they seemed so ridiculous and yet, ripped from the pages of a comic book, utterly appropriate. But better were the Scarecrow stages - an unexpected delight that grew increasingly surreal upon each return visit. Couple those with the shocking scene in the Morgue, and then the later, mindfuck sequence in Intensive Treatment, and Batman gave me many of the year's most memorable - and surprising - gaming moments.

Most of all, I loved Batman for the way it somehow managed to pull all these elements together in coherent fashion and ensure every single thing you did made sense in the context of Arkham Asylum. It's just so good at everything it attempts, it's terrifyingly close to being the perfect game.

Kotaku AU's Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.


Comments

    Yessssss, knew it. Praise to Batman!

      take that Unfarted 2! stupid ps3

    It was great and all that greatness in a licensed game deserves the top honours. I cant recall the last time a licensed game has done it. Not for ages!

    Reading through that makes me want to play it again. I just wish I could do a playthrough with everything unlocked. I'll miss some of the tools when I play it again :(

    Still haven't played this beyond the demo. Bad me!

    This is definately a must buy. Had loads of fun with it, and even after I finished the game I spent a few hours going through the additional challenges. This a game that is going to be played through at least 3 times.

    A worthy No. 1,
    but I have to assume that whoever came up with this list, simply hasn't played Uncharted2.

      I knew this would come up!

      I played and finished Uncharted 2. However, for me, it wasn't one of the ten best games I played this year. I understand why people like it - it's easy to play, you never get lost or confused, there are only a few moments of down time, the production values are first-rate. But I find some of the praise heaped on it to be quite baffling.

      Honestly, I found it little more than a competent shooter interspersed with some insipid environmental "puzzles". The story is told well, but it's just not a very interesting or memorable story. Uncharted 2 is all style and no substance.

      It was never in contention to make my top ten. In fact, it wasn't even on the shortlist of 25 I put together a couple of weeks ago.

        A bit why some of us seem to be baffled why the gaming press is going gaga over Bayonetta... now you know how we feel David

          I've got to agree with you there Dan. I enjoyed playing through the old DMC's and the God of War series, but Bayonetta simply just felt like an extremely stylised version of DMC/GoW/all those types. Sure its definitely a good game but deserving of all the praise? not so sure about that...

          I loved UC2 but I still don't think all the praise was deserving. Yeah that sounds a bit odd but I loved it because I loved the first one and I thought they both played rather similarly - except the first one got 8's-9's from everywhere and not 10's *shrugs* people like different things

            I hear you brother. Bayonetta is just urrgh trying to hard I reckon...
            But like you said, each to their own.

            Speacking of these types of games, I played the demo of Dantes inferno and that is sweeeeeet

        Uncharted 2 didn't even make your Top 25 shortlist?

        I thought it was a fantastic game to play from start to finish it was rock solid. It improved upon all aspects of the original, it had gorgeous graphics, tight controls and a great narrative. I feel it has set a standard for third-person action/adventure games to follow.

        I'm curious to find out what did make your shortlist of 25 considering Uncharted 2 missed out.

        Any chance you could post it?

        I agree about the Environmental Puzzles. Some of them are really bad.

        But how do you fault it as a shooter? Do you not like non-FP shooters?

        For me, there was heaps of variety to the shooting action. From dodging Helicopters/tanks, to the various moving platforms during the game. Not to mention the added stealth element.

        The climbing adds a cool new element to the multiplayer.
        The coop missions were fun.
        The developers improved on pretty much every element of this game over the original, including some of the most impressive graphics seen in a game.

        Compare that to two sequels that have been criticized as being little more than expansion packs for their predessesors.
        Another game where the developer had to post a 'how to play'.

        'memorable story'?
        And I'm halfway through AC2, and I don't know why my character is killing people. Haven't I already gotten revenge? I just seem to run into people who want someone dead, and ezio says 'why not'.

        Didn't really intend to sound so argumentative, we obviously just have different tastes.
        Like all the people I know simply don't appreciate Flower at all. Glad it got a mention here.

        I agree, I probably wouldn't have bought the game had it not come included with my slim, but I still enjoyed it all the same.

        not even in your 25? "not a very interesting or memorable story" really? did you even play this game through? the story was EPIC!

        For a game that starts ands ends with one-button combat system, your comment about Uncharted 2 lacking substance is sounding a bit shaky there David.

          Which one button do you press to punch, counter, stun, use cover, perform ground and stealth takedowns, and throw the batarang? I'm curious.

            I think he was talking about Flower.

              Nope, my mistake

            Sorry perhaps I should've elaborated, this is the comabat system: you punch with the left click (PC) in a rhythm so you do combos and occasionally spam the cape (space bar) to do a stun. Boss fights are all derivatives of Bane: throw batarang wait till he's stunned and punch him rinse and repeat about 6 times. (left click + 3 for batarang)

            In fact the developers themselves have praised their efforts for making a system that requires as little actions as possibles. Not criticising your choice David, just felt Batman wasn't as great or deep as you made it out to be.

              Sure the bosses weren't great, probs the worst part of the game for me, but the combat system was as awesome as you made it. You COULD just keep spamming punch, but that'd be nowhere near the fun you get from actually USING the tools at your disposal.

              You know, it's just a sign of a developer making a game accessible to an audience of hardcore and casual gamers to compensate for different levels of skill. The only reason Batman wasn't as deep for you as it was for David was because you didn't let it be.

          Haha, owned.

            Lol i know right!

            As much as i love Uncharted 2 and am shocked with its lack of prescence on this list... i completely understand.

            Everyone has different tastes and therefore, the fact that David didn't include it shouldn't be criticized. We can post our opinion in these comments, but it seems everyone is just angry because it wasn't mentioned.

            Just because nearly every gaming critic praised Uncharted for all its glory, doesn't mean David has too. But i'm sure Dave would also praise Uncharted 2 but obviously see more faults compared to fans. Just like i don't see much wrong with Halo, yet other people who don't really like it, do see things wrong.

            You can praise a game but you don't have to love it or like it. But people are clearly getting this list confused - it's Dave's PERSONAL favourite games. Not the "Best-of list thats going to be exactly the same as the other critics". It all comes down to choice and taste.

            Besides, this article is about Batman being #1. Do none of you not think Batman warrants this position?

        I'll pay the comment on Uncharted 2 (said something similar in the comments only a week or so ago). It's very cinematic... if you go WHOA COOL at stuff like the run-and-gun opening moment of chapter 5 then it's your #1 game of the year, and if you don't then it isn't. I didn't. But the price it pays for cinema is putting you on rails and a combat system which leading to cinematic battles results in taking ludicrous amounts of damage and using up stupid amounts of time in cover recovering from that (and then watching someone nearly die from a grenade in a cutscene who has practically stood on a dozen of the things in the last hour without being scratched).

        I think if you only played 3 hours of Dragon Age you didn't give it enough. In that time you would have seen an origin story and maybe got through Ostagar (if that), so the only core cast member you would have had for any length of time is Alistair. If Alistair is not your favourite guy (and he wasn't mine, the only character I didn't get above +50 giving the responses I give naturally, despite being plied with gifts)...

        Oh, and you can ESC through dialogue, which is handy the 10th time you speak to the same f'n merchant (did you play on console or PC by the way? Play it on PC. I can't imagine trying to play this properly on console, and I suspect the console/PC divide has caused quite some differences of opinion on this game).

        But yeah 3 hours is not enough for this, it's not like Uncharted 2 where you've basically seen everything the game has to offer after 3 hours because that's 20% of the game, 3 hours into DA is just warming up. It would have been like giving Deus Ex only 3 hours. I know people who gave up on Deus Ex because they didn't like the opening Liberty Island level. Trust me, give it more than 3 hours, you'll like it (whether or not top 10 level is up to you, of course!)

          Okay, you cannot compare the length of Uncharted and Dragon Age. It's almost illegal.

          Two completely different genres in video games. RPGs being a genre that by default should give a gamer over 20-30+ hours of main gameplay.

          Uncharted 2 is by no means, no where near the classification of an RPG. For its genre, it is an unbelievably long game. And longer than 3 hours which isn't 20% of the game for the record. What difficulty were you playing on? And besides, it also offers online multiplayer which is where a lot of gameplay goes towards some gamers.

          Some people argue over whether online multiplayer should count towards a price/length of a game. I believe for genres like FPS and a game like Uncharted, it should. That doesn't mean a 5 hour campaign should occur, i would want more than that. But 10 hours with online multiplayer is well deserving of a $99 price tag.

      I'm with you Ben. Not trying to say Uncharted 2 should have been in number 1 spot (imo it would be) but skipping it from the list is mind numbing. Not going to go into why it's such an awesome game... you can go to any other website in the world to tell you that.

    I really do need to pick this up, although God only knows when I'll find time to play it. I saw it cheap in EB yesterday but that was at the counter where someone else had already literally picked up the last copy in store!

    David, be interested to see why Uncharted 2 and DA:O didn't make the 10 for you personally, not so much why they didn't win GOTY but what you didn't like about them (or didn't like about them enough!).

      Dragon Age just didn't grab me. Admittedly I have only played it for maybe three hours, but I really struggled to get into it. I didn't find myself engaged by the world, nor any of the characters I'd met in that time... and I hated the dialogue system, as I've mentioned previously.

      But I will give it another chance, perhaps over the next couple of weeks before Mass Effect 2 comes out.

        I loved Dragon Age and finished it in around 70 hours. However I agree that the dialogue system was, for me, horrible particularly since it was developed by the same company that produced Mass Effect and it's glorious dialogue system.

        Why is my character the only one in the entire world that communicates by holding up signs!

        Give Dragon Age some time, I’m assuming that after about 3 hours you’re maybe just finished Ostagar?. Its one of those games that once you get invested with the characters and setting you want to find out what happens next. The characters and their dialogue seems slim at first, but that’s what Bioware went for, If your character in the game makes no attempt to get to know these characters they won’t let you in on any details about their story. Just about every character in the game is secretive at first about themselves. I loved the fact that the experiences you take in the game actually shape the dialogue you can have and how all the other characters treat you. Once you get to about level 10 you have to start making some tactical decisions about the skills and talents you want and how to distribute your stats.

        Granted Dragon Age is pretty unapologetic if you’re not already a fan of RPG games. But I just let myself be immersed into the world and characters.

      dont buy this game! rent it. you could finish it in one night, 2 max and experience all the important enjoyable moments provided they haven't already been spoiled, (in which case don't even bother)

        Do not believe this man. He knows not of which he speaks.

    Great article David, thanks for sharing your top 10!

    This one surprised me though. A game I didn't really give much of a chance. Like you said earlier in the article, you found the beginning to be quite linear. So did I, and I stopped playing because of it.

    After this though, I'll definitely be going back to finish this one off.

    Uncharted 2 is dissapointingly absent from the list.

    its sitting in my cupboard untouched even :( other things came first and now ive got tv woes, upgraded to 42" but its f****d and they wont do anything about it,,,, sigh

    Just a shame it had some of the most disappointing boss fights in gaming history. Fighting goons while the boss looks on? Check. Dodging the boss so they run into a wall? Check. Hell, the last boss just had you fight goons and friggin' run away from him when he jumps down. You'd think they could have at least thought of something fresh to do for that, but no. That was the biggest disappointment of the game for me.
    Then there was Killer Croc. They spend half the game telling you how dangerous he is and then the entire section with him is just walking slowly and hitting him with the batarang when he shows up. You don't even need to aim the damn thing. Just tapping it so it homes in on him when you're not even facing him when you throw it knocks him away without fail. That was easily the worst area in the game.

    It's a shame some things were so bad when so much of the game was so good.

    ..riiiight

    So this was all a deliberate ploy to stir up controversy by not adding Uncharted 2 to the list? Nice work David!

    I can imagine the flame wars in this thread now...

      Nah, no flamewar here. DW is entitled to his opinion, as much as any of the rest of us. Different people will enjoy different games, and it looks like he didn't enjoy UW2 as much as some others.

      He has me intrigued by Batman though. I'll definitely have to give it a try now.

    awesome game. this has inspired another playthrough.

    1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (360, PS3)

    ...PC?! Jeeze.

      Fixed!

    Well deserved. Screw Uncharted, this is definitely GOTY 09.

      Dude you have admitted many a time that you do not own a PS3, so I highly doubt that you have played Uncharted 2 to the end, if at all. Your 'screw uncharted' comment is nonsense.

      David is entitled to his opinion, I would not agree with it though, but that is the point of opinions. However, Joshua how about forming a rational opinion and not just sucking up to the man giving you prizes.

        Matthew is my new hero. You said what we were all thinking :D

    I enjoyed reading your top 10 – I agreed with you on most stuff, esp Flower and AC2, but I disagree with Batman – it's too derivative of far better games (Metroid Prime, Bioshock) I didn't enjoy the combat,and I never felt compelled to continue playing it.

    Leaving out Uncharted 2 for being too linear is like bagging a rollercoaster because it's on rails. (In saying that, I hated Modern Warfare 2 for precisely the same reason as you seem to dislike UC2).

    But yeah, a list is a list, and I enjoyed reading it!

    FARCRYING out loud! Didn't see that one coming. I was half expecting UC2 for the top of the podium.

    I can understand though. Batman was a good choice as I guess from the start there were no expectations. It slipped under the radar and wasn't overhyped until people started playing it.

    I wouldn't put it on my number 1 spot though. Here is my top 5 in case anyone cares:

    5. Frenzic - A puzzle game on the iphone. I spend a lot of time playing this when I am waiting around for things, and for a game that I can keep coming back to is a winner for me. Add to this a global and local scoreboard, it keeps things competitive.

    And the rest which I know you would all know:

    4. Batman AA

    3. Uncharted 2

    2. Modern Warfare 2 - I love the series like a lot of people out there. Nothing groundbreaking within the game, but for a game that you sink so many hours in to it has to be good.

    1. Assassins Creed 2, which I mentioned in another post was a bit of a creeper for me. It wasn't until the end when I was gobsmacked that I reflected on the game and how much it sucked me in to the story.

    Its great to see that someone took the time to polish a truly memorable character such as Batman. Not only did the new series of films show the darker side of the real batman, but the game merged both the cartoonish appearance and the dark, raw and powerful sides to the ultimate anti-hero.

    This game is deserved of the #1 spot IMHO. A well rounded game with a great look and feel as well as a control structure that doesnt leave you mashing buttons trying to attempt outrageous combos.

    This top 10 has given me a whole list of games to finish off now! Cheers DW

    This game for me, and for most people it seems, was very unexpectedly awesome, and is pretty much the only game I've played with numerous collectables that I haven't had to even think twice about going for 100% completion so to speak. The extra info and audio clips in them were well worth it.

    Even if it did make me switch off my computer very quickly during the start of "that" (incredible) cut-scene which made me think that my graphics card was about to die on me (it wouldn't have been the first time)!

    Batman is my game of the year as well. It felt so much like the first Metal Gear Solid, but everything was done soooo well.

    In this comment: We compare what horrible gamers we actually are by counting how many games we've actually played in this top ten.

    For me, one game, Borderlands, squeezing in at #10.
    Heck yeah.

      Hmm, 7/10. Only missing ODST, Flower and Demon's Souls (which is on it's way from PlayAsia as we speak).

      And I wonder where all my time goes...

      ODST, Guerilla, Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Shadow Complex, AC II.

      So that's 7/10 for me. Missing Flower, Demon's Souls and the House of the Dead, as I don't own a PS3 and my Wii hasn't seen use in ages.

    Was very happy to see this win GOTY. I know many people here were looking for Unchartered 2 to take the gold. However as i have said before is a bloody brilliant game that sucks you in, but it just started gathering dust after i had finished the SP and had a go at the MP. I am still playing some Batman even now - even after earning the full 1000G on the PC version.

    Also in reply to the comments about DA:O. I liked the game myself - but i did not nowhere enjoy it as much as i did Mass Effect and if the hype for the sequel (which is almost beyond critical level for me) is to be believed i am thinking that it is going to be the best RPG in the last decade.

    I just hope that ME2 just doesn't get forgotten at the end of this year when GOTY 2010 pops up.

    Glad someone gave Batman the nod.

    For me UC2 and MW2 are the 2 best games this year for single and multiplyaer respectively. But Batman was awesome and I expected it to win a few game of the year nods. The boss battles really did let it down, they were so anticlimatic, especially the final Joker battle, but the Scarecrow stages are truly inspired and up there with the best moments of the last 12 months.

    For christ's sake guys and gals, lay off the Goose.

    It's his PERSONAL top ten list. It's what HE enjoyed most. Stop getting so upset and defensive that he didn't choose the game you chose as your #1, #2, #3 etc.

    If it bugs you so much, use this opportunity to post your personal top 10 to compare with everyone else and stop acting like spoilt brats.

    We all knew that one of them would be left off the list as of yesterday, so no matter what this was everyone would be complaining anyway. what we all should have done is used the time between yesterday and today to accept that one of them just wasn't going to cut it for Dave.

    So c'mon guys, chill and let us know what are your top tens?

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