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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Ubisoft

 

Developer

Ubisoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q1 2002

 

 

- Could be a lost episode of The Animated Series
- Looks and sounds great
- Lots of solid bat-action

 

 

- Not as wide open as it could be
- Some areas ride on rail or rely too much on jumping puzzles
- The “breakout” move is hard to execute

 

 

Review: Blade II (XBox)

Review: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (XBox)

Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)

 

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Batman Vengeance

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

batman-vengeance-1.jpg (29246 bytes)          batman-vengeance-2.jpg (18898 bytes)

 

It’s not every game that keeps me glued to my seat into the small hours of the morning. Admittedly, I’m a huge Batman fan -- The Animated Series especially -- so everything I say comes from that perspective – you’ve been warned. I also reviewed the GameCube version of Batman Vengeance (BV). If I was a cynical son of a bitch I’d just get out my “5” stamp and describe BV as a port and lacking originality. But I won’t because I haven’t reached that level of cynicism.

BV puts you in the cape and cowl of comic-doms greatest detective knee-deep in a plot hatched by one of his greatest enemies, The Joker. Things progress naturally from there with other super-villains, like Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, getting involved. This could easily have been a story for a two-part episode of The

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Animated Series.

The look and feel of Gotham City as seen in the cartoon series has been nailed. Lots of dark brooding buildings with spotlights swirling – it recreates the city perfectly. Batman is superbly animated. (I especially like the way he bolts up ladders and the method he uses on the descent.) Everything he does is fluid and even his multi-purpose cape reacts realistically no matter if Batman’s using

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it to float to a lower level or just pummeling a bad guy. Adding further to BV’s credibility is the original cast returning to do the voice work, which includes Mark Hamill as Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. And I shouldn’t forget the pre-rendered cutscenes that, although not as sharp as they probably could be, are fun to watch and makes me yearn for the day when a 3D version of The Animated Series is announced.

On the control side of things, there’s a learning curve but it’s not steep. However, attention should be paid to all the moves Batman has at his disposal – nearly half of which are accessible during first-person mode. The first-person mode is how Batman performs all his bat-grappling and batarang throwing (among other things). People that played Halo will have no problem getting a handle on this mode. But the real action happens in the 3rd Person where Batman can sneak around, jump and clobber bad guys with an assortment of punch, kick, special and aerial attacks. The transition between these two is entirely smooth and activated with a single button press. The single biggest problem with the control is executing the "break out" move. When Joker is sitting on Batman's chest pounding his face in, rapidly pressing a button would have been preferable to rapidly flicking the left thumbstick to throw him off (or bust out of a block of ice). The flicking is supposed to simulate a rocking motion, leading up to a blow-out of energy, but it's just too hard to do properly.

 

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Besides the up close and personal crime fighting approach, Batman also uses his ever-trusty Batmobile, and Batplane. These sections are less open than the other modes – in fact, it’s like riding on rails. There’s an extremely narrow path to take and all Batman really has to do is avoid obstacles. For the most part, these sections are short and to the point so actually getting frustrated by any of them shouldn’t happen.

Puzzles aren’t too taxing – a bit of trial and error is required most times. Even with the trial and error puzzles, nothing ever gets too frustrating. There’s a good mix of puzzles though. At the start of one level Batman is tasked with unlocking a series of Rubik’s Cube type locks and at the conclusion he must attack Mr. Freeze indirectly using the environment to finish him off. Mostly, Batman will need to seek out keys and unlock doors.

Even as a Batman fan I have to admit that there’s room for improvement. For one, the sound is incredibly muted. I had to put the volume on my TV way up to make out what was being said – even after adjusting the speech, sound effect and music levels to put the soundtrack in the background where it belongs. And then the problem of the jumping puzzles. Jumping puzzles practically define the platformer genre but toward the end they seem to be relied on exclusively to draw out the action. BV is a linear experience which limits it’s replay factor, but because of the good story I didn’t mind the linear nature much – it just makes me more adamant that there should be a sequel!

The developers at Ubisoft are obviously Batman fans because they’ve made a game that sticks close to the source material while weaving a solid story and giving gamers a chance to play an episode of The Animated Series. If Batman fans don’t buy it outright (which I’d recommend), they should at least rent it a few times.

- Omni
(August 17, 2002)

 

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