Holy licensed game, Batman!
Fear. We all have it, and some of us use it to our advantage, whether it be spooking a friend on Halloween, teasing a younger sibling, or in Batman’s case, blowing up the support of a water tower to get a group of thugs to drop their guns. In the most recent Electronic Arts game-movie tie-in, we get to don the famous suit and become the Dark Knight, even if it sometimes feels like we’re repeating the same strategy over and over again.
Just like the movie of the same name, Batman Begins is about Bruce Wayne’s early days in his war against crime in Gotham City. From training in the Himalayas to rescuing his lady-love from the diabolical Scarecrow, you’ll have to hone your skills as a crime fighter, mostly in the ways of stealth.
And it’s here, where the game focuses almost wholly on stealth, where we see the title’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. I’d say 75% of the game revolves around an action that can best be described in the sequence below:
1. Spot thugs
2.Wander around and look for something to blow up or cut
3.Use a batarang (which can only be used for cutting/blowing things up, much to my dismay)
4.Thugs drop their guns and rush toward you (leaving their guns behind)
At first it’s pretty fun, and I genuinely like the whole spook factor, but about halfway through the game when I realized this was it, I started to become annoyed that developer Eurocom had basically rehashed the same process into an entire title. Don’t get me wrong, there’ll be different situations to scare people (set off a gas leak, blow up a dinosaur skeleton), but because you follow the same steps every time, it becomes a chore.
You’ll have a few gadgets with which to work with (lock pick, Electro-Hack, Camera Hack), but using them just consists of pressing X at the right time, again, making it less of a challenge and more of a chore. Add to this the fact that the game is completely linear (there will only be one path to follow at all times), and you’ve got a pretty generic piece of software.
Luckily there is a saving grace, and that’s the Batmobile levels, which can best be described as Burnout with a tank. The purpose of these levels will be to avoid taking too much damage to the vehicle (which is quite impossible, since the armor level is absurdly high) while trying to find a target to blow up with your missles. You can feel free to completely destroy any surrounding vehicles in the process; in some cases you’ll have to, as a bunch of henchmen will be trying to run you off the road. Even if they’re few and far between and aren’t necessarily packed with innovation, I walked away with most of my fond memories focused on those levels. Fortunately, after beating the first driving level, you unlock each respective level for replay and Time Trials in the Bonus section, along with alternate costumes, movie clips, and the Gallery of Fear, where you can see all of your victims screaming in agony (not as creepy as it sounds).
Controlling Batman has its ups and downs. On one hand, when it comes to exploration, it’s pretty responsive, and the camera stays where it needs to stay for optimum movement. On the other hand, when your stance changes to combat mode, everything goes out of whack, since you can’t target any one specific enemy, and you’ll often find yourself jumping in the air just to try and get a good look at your surroundings thanks to the glitchy camera. As far as the Batmobile goes, though, it’s got the best handling I’ve ever felt on a car going upwards of 160 miles per hour.
Luckily, the rest of the game is aces. The visuals are outstanding, from perfect modeling transitions from the big screen to the game, to amazingly detailed environments that perfectly illustrate Gotham City. The audio presentation is great as well, with all of the actors reprising their role from the film, making the voice performances top notch (especially Michael Caine’s, whose hilarious quips really lighten the mood during more serious moments).
Overall, Batman Begins is a game that has a great set of concepts, but inevitably falls short once you realize there’s not much to it, and that you’re essentially traveling along a linear path and repeating the same process over and over again until you reach the end, with your only occasional relief being the driving sessions. And thank goodness for them, because if it wasn’t for those Batmobile levels, I’d deem the whole package as being overwhelmingly average. In the end, this may be the best Batman game released, but that really isn’t saying much.