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Xbox Review: Batman Vengeance

by The Cookie Snatcher on Feb. 26, 2002 @ 8:15 a.m. PST

Based on the Emmy-award winning Warner Bros. animated series The New Batman Adventures and featuring the DC Comics legendary hero, Ubi Soft is developing the first 3D Batman title for Microsoft's Xbox, Batman: Vengeance. Developed internally in Ubi Soft's Montreal studios, with a story scripted specifically for the game. Does this game live up to the hype or should we hide it inside our batcave?!

Platform: XBOX
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Ubi Soft

It has been far too long since a game that had the pretension to adorn the infamous name of "Batman" was true to the franchise's legacy. I find it hard to believe that any iteration of the game, short of the original N.E.S. version is worth its weight in bat-feed. Nevertheless, we must keep an open mind my fellow bat-friends, what with the introduction of such radically improved videogame hardware and all. So does it live up to the legendary legacy? To paraphrase: no. Batman: Vengeance does, however, show considerable improvement over its countless inferior predecessors. With any luck, this game will mark the outset of high quality Batman videogames for the future.

Batman: Vengeance is based on Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's critically acclaimed cartoon, and as such, this game has a lot to live up to. Ubi Soft did a terrific job of recreating the mood and overall feel of the series. Had they put as much time and effort in the gameplay department, this game could have been great. As it sits, Vengeance is little more then a mildly entertaining platform/FPS game that will undoubtedly sell through the roof due to its monolithic fan-base potential and the fact that this game is being ported to every last NextGEN system, GBA included.

The fisticuffs combat system in the game is so sluggish that it's practically turn based. Punching, kicking, and blocking are your only options and most fights amount to nothing more then punching -- blocking -- punching -- blocking ... you get the idea. Not exactly the dark knight's most memorable moments.

As a whole, the gameplay is lethargic and inaccurate. At times, you will come across parts where the game has the audacity to present you with acrobatic platforming demands that would be better suited for a Mario game, inevitably leading to taking unnecessary damage or having to re-do parts of the game countless times. Let this be a message to all game developers: bad gameplay costs lives!

The prerendered cut-scenes are splendidly executed, and they are aesthetically true to the animated series while being rendered in 3D. The visuals and audibles integrate seamlessly, leaving you anxious to progress just so you can watch the next cut-scene. Alas, artistically impressive prerendered cinemas do not a good game make.

The controllable character animations are so impressive that you'd swear you were watching an episode of the animated series ... that is, if the person playing the game is skilled enough to overcome the nagging gameplay issues. You're not going to find 4-pass bump mapping, or NVIDIA-charged pixel shaders in Batman:Vengeance, but thats not what the game is about. What it sets out to accomplish is to recreate the visual feel of the animated series, and it has accomplished this task, with polygons to spare.

 

Thanks to the NV20's graphical processing power, the Xbox version's visuals are noticeably cleaner than its PS2 and GameCube counterparts. Aliasing is hardly visible, and thanks to the built-in hard drive, load times are also less time-consuming.

A significant portion of the sound has a distinctive, organic-gritty ambience about it, which goes nice with its dark semi-serious visuals. The music is true to the animated series with dramatic, sweeping scores. Overall, WBIE did an excellent job of reproducing the animated series in the audio department. Voice-overs are equally impressive with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill onboard to reprise their roles as Batman and The Joker, respectively.

Towards the last quarter of the game, the difficulty gets ramped up to the stature of "frustratingly-annoyingly difficult." It would have been one thing if it were entertainingly challenging, but when you have to restart entire levels because of unresponsive play control or shoddy level design, then you start to second-guess why you're even playing the game in the first place. Expect to clock in substantial amounts of time in completing this game, mainly due to the aforementioned issues.

The bonuses that the game offers are hardly worth the effort involved in obtaining them. Throughout the game, you will be awarded "points" based on different actions you take in the game -- the more points you accumulate, the more special power-moves you'll learn. The other bonus features come in the form of "cheats." Obtaining "cheats" is a matter of finding hidden envelopes scattered throughout the game's levels. Cheats allow you to do double-damage to enemies or make Batman invisible to enemies, among an assortment of equally unimpressive abilities. Perhaps they had a contest to see who could come up with the least creative bonuses. If that is the case, then I fervently applaud them.

To Ubi Soft's credit though, you can adjust the brightness through in-game controls, which makes it nice because you do not have to displace your TV's settings in order to view the game at optimal contrast.

Despite the games many inherent annoyances, there is a good game buried deep within the digital information stamped onto this DVD. If you can look past its denounceable play control, then you will find a smart, stylish, Batman experience that is, at its foundation, true to its namesake.

Score : 6.8/10

Wanna check the Batman manual .. get the scanned .PDF HERE

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