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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

June 2005

 

 

- One of the better Batman games to be released
- Game’s controls, particularly during fights work well with more than the standard punch/kick buttons available

 

 

- Way too linear; the game practically pushes you in the right direction each step of the way
- Gameplay doesn’t offer much challenge, including puzzle elements that are anything but puzzling
- Not a long adventure, clocking in around 10 hours of playing time
- Not very original: borrows heavily from Splinter Cell and Burnout games

 

 

Review: Batman Vengeance (GC)

Review: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (XB)

Review: Spider-Man 2 (XB)

Review: Alien Hominid (GC)

Review: Viewtiful Joe 2 (GC)

 

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Batman Begins

Score: 7.7 / 10

 

Spider-Man fans have been treated to two spectacular movies and a whole lineup of wonderful web slinging video games to match. But the fate of the Dark Knight of Gotham City haven’t been as kind. Despite the first two Batman movies being very good “comic book hero” movies, the franchise was bataranged into the pit of movie awfulness by the last two, Batman Forever and the movie that killed the Batman movie franchise for nearly a decade, the reprehensible Batman & Robin. And with the nearly-unwatchable movies came a seeming curse of gaming gloom, because with maybe one or two exceptions, Batman licensed video games have been terrible at best.

 

batman begins review          batman begins review


2005’s return of the Batman movie franchise with Batman Begins came with hope for the Batman-based video game, especially considering that publisher Electronic Arts has had success in the usually awful movie-licensed gaming genre, as seen with their terrific Lord of the Rings trilogy game adaptations.

And yes, the same old EA magic strikes again in Batman Begins, but not with the same enchanting results as were thrust upon either Spider-Man of The Lord of the Rings. Batman Begins may be the best Batman game to be released, but that’s not saying much.

It copies too much from both Splinter Cell and Burnout, won’t take long to complete, is linear to a fault, and doesn’t present much of a formidable challenge to the skills of veteran gamers. But despite these deficiencies, Batman Begins allows you to play an immersive “interactive” version of the movie, with a very good game story plotted out and good in-game dialogue (from game writer JT Petty, who wrote the Splinter Cell script), plenty of actual movie scenes spliced into the game, and the voices from the actual movie actors. The gameplay, particularly during fights, can be entertaining in its own right, too.

In the end, Batman Begins fails to soar into the atmosphere of stellar gaming that is Splinter Cell, which Batman Begins desperately wanted to be its true identity under its dark cape of typical movie-licensed gaming (which is to say, not much more than mediocre).

 

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The story follows the movie plot, but with an assist from Petty’s writing skills to flesh it out in game-form. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how the game ends. Gameplay 95% of the time follows a Splinter Cell model. As Batman, a superhero without any special powers, you’ve got to use your stealth skills and intelligence to defeat enemies. The game’s “catch” is to use fear as a weapon.

So, every time you come up against a batch of bad guys, you can use some element of the environment (blowing up gas canisters, knocking down scaffolding) to send the “fear of the bat” into your enemies.  Doing so 

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will cause them to drop weapons, especially guns (Batman doesn’t hold up too well to gun fire) and makes it easier to then bring them down. The more scared they are (shown by their heart-rate on a meter) the easier they are to beat. Once you disable their use of weaponry, you’ll take them on in hand-to-hand combat, if you haven’t used a stealth attack to quietly take them out from behind already.

Controls, when in hand-to-hand battle, perform well, much like a good fighting game. There’s a bit more complexity than the standard punch and kick controls, with the ability to hit multiple enemies at once and specialized finishing moves (that play out in a mini cut-scene). Batman also can use his own arsenal of utility belt “bat weapons”, such as smoke grenades and flashbangs, which give him a temporary advantage. Again, Splinter Cell players will be completely familiar with the gameplay, although Batman won’t uses any deadly force himself via a gun or other method. Batman’s a little touched in the head, just not touched in the head enough to kill.

 

batman begins review          batman begins review


That last 5% of gameplay will be in the few levels you must get behind the wheel of the Batmobile. Thankfully, there’s not many of these driving levels, because even using the Burnout engine, these driving missions prove relatively pointless. You must drive a predetermined path and take out either bad guys or cops driving their own vehicles by smashing into them.

As linear as the driving levels are, the rest of the game is worse in its on-a-rail approach. Batman Begins practically pulls you by your utility belt through the game, offering no alternative methods to attain a particular objective. Don’t know how you’re going to breathe in a smoke-and-fire engulfed room that you must enter? Move a few steps and the batarang icon flashes, heavily “hinting” that it’s time to use your batarang on the vase near the window. Throw your batarang, break the vase out the window, and smoke’s all cleared! There are plenty of similar instances spread throughout the whole game. With an abundance of help from the game itself, you don’t need too much gaming savvy to play your way through Batman Begins.

You really have to be trying not to succeed to have difficulty in Batman Begins. The enemies are easy to beat once you’ve sufficiently put the scare of the bat into them. Even other Splinter Cell-inspired features, like picking locks and hacking computers, offer no challenge at all. Batman Begins is just too easy to defeat, evident in most gamers probably needing no more than 10 hours (if that) to complete the game.

At least the game’s a visual treat, featuring good in-game graphics and cut-scenes and bonus movie footage. Get a bag of popcorn, a big box of Jujubes, a super-sized soda along with your GameCube controller, because you’ll see a movie-quality show when you’re playing Batman Begins.

Both in the movie and video game renditions, Batman Begins has started its trek towards respectability for Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. A much longer adventure free from the shackles of a movie tie-in with a higher degree of challenge and less linear, more open gameplay could have made the Batman Begins game a A+ title. But while it has its dark side, Batman Begins is enough of a good time to keeps gamers from needing to visit Arkham Asylum because of the maddening effects of a terrible Batman video game. If you enjoyed the newest Batman movie and want to “play” it in game form, Batman Begins will satisfy your inner batty desires.

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(July 10, 2005)

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