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PC Review - 'Batman Vengeance'

by Justin on Jan. 28, 2003 @ 12:21 a.m. PST

From the opening cinematics, players find themselves engulfed in Batmans world; the beginning of an episodic adventure of darkness, danger and deception. In the midst of one of The Jokers twisted schemes, during a struggle with Batman, The Joker falls from a bridge to his death. Crime sweeps Gotham City, as the likes of Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, and other notorious villains step up to fill The Jokers evil shoes. Does the Batman do well on the PC, or should this game be engulfed in darkness...

Genre: Action
Publisher: UbiSoft
Developer: UbiSoft
Release Date: 08-Oct-2002

As a child, I loved Batman. He was a great comic book hero, a great television hero, a great movie hero. His character has evolved over the years, from his initial outings as a crime-fighting good guy, to a dark, mysterious, troubled figure during the 1980's and '90's. In the nineties, Warner Brothers created a cartoon series that was rather entertaining and well-done. Batman Vengeance takes the look and feel from that cartoon and transforms it into a game. But how does it turn out?

The game gives us a story line reminiscent to those that are played out in the television series. Batman starts out by rescuing a girl named Mary from a treacherous building that’s about to blow. Who could have planted the explosives? Surely not the Joker and Harley Quinn, right? It’s a bit unfortunate that the writers of the story decided to use some of the most overused characters – there are a ton of cool villians that are rarely used! Nonetheless, the story plays out pretty well, and keeps you somewhat entertained. It’s nothing that is really all that clever or original, but it keeps you progressing through the game.

The game is actually a port of the console versions, which have been out for some time now. The game wasn't stunning by any means, and I'm afraid the control scheme doesn't help the game much. There are a number of problems with using the keyboard and mouse...the mouse is only used for things like aiming your batarangs and certain guns. The keyboard is used to move Batman and do a few other things. When using weapons, the game goes into a first-person view where you look around with the mouse and strafe and move to and fro with the keyboard. I don't understand why they didn't have Batman move forward, backward, and strafe using the keyboard, and look around using the mouse in third-person mode. Instead we get a horrible camera that's always seeing Batman running to the side. The easiest way to correct the camera is to enter first-person mode and exit, and that becomes annoying quickly. Unfortunately, it’s the only real way to adjust the camera.

It is nice that the developers tried to include a lot of Batman's trademark items, though, from his grappling hook to his batarangs, and even variations of those, such as electric batarangs. Often, though, the times in which you actually need to use these to progress are very straightforward. You can't attach the grappling hook to anything except for places that have a big, out-of-place Batman symbol. You can't even see the symbol unless you have the weapon selected, and after you get to the spot via hook, the symbol disappears. It's all a little silly, if you ask me, and makes the game feel very linear. Aiming weapons at enemies produces plain results, as well, as enemies hardly react to a hit. There’s no satisfying animation of thugs flying backwards as they’re hit, or even looking around to see where it came from. Ultimately, using these weapons becomes a bore.

Hand-to-hand combat in Batman Vengeance isn't stunning, either, I'm afraid. It may not be as frustrating as, say, Spider-Man: The Movie’s combat, but it’s still not very deep. We have one attack button, which will punch and kick. Aside from using weapons, that's pretty much all there is to fighting. After you knock an enemy out, you can tie him up so he can't come back after you, too - it's a somewhat neat touch, but really unnecessary. It's almost like the developers had an idea of Batman being an ass-kicking super hero, but then goes and makes sure you can't actually kill your enemies. I mean, come on! The enemies in Batman for the NES had flamethrowers and machine guns and all sorts of weapons, and Batman delivered the ass-whooping they deserved in that title. This game feels tame.

Level design is pretty decent, however, and has a nice Batman feel to it. It's pretty cool to be jumping on rooftops of skyscrapers or running around in the gang-infested streets. Again, I must say that the game is very straightforward, as there are hardly any varying paths or more ways to do things differently. It's unfortunate, and makes repeat plays a bit boring and predictable.

The graphics are by no means stunning, but they do work well to capture the same look that the cartoon has. Textures are often very simple, but it seems appropriate for a cartoony-feel. I think a cel-shaded technique would have worked very well in this game, but alas, they opted for a traditional 3D look. Most of the character models are okay, but not wonderful, often having pointy edges and somewhat stiff animation. Oh, and for some reason, the FMV cutscenes are very pixelated, like a really bad DVD transfer. I haven’t heard any complaints about that on the console versions, though, so it’s odd that it shows up this time around. It’s worth noting that Batman’s cape is animated very nicely, however, in all it’s flowing glory.

The music is nothing fantastic, but your brain won’t explode by listening to it. It gets the job done, but there’s nothing really memorable or noteworthy about it. The voices are good, though, and true to the television series. The cutscenes do help you feel that you’re playing through an episode of the show, and without good voices they wouldn’t have that impact. We get to hear Bruce Wayne, Batgirl, Alfred, Harley, and the Joker, among others.

Honestly, the game is by no means horrible. It’s strange that this PC version, despite being on the shelves a year after the console versions, is in some ways worse than them. They could have improved the controls and fixed up the graphics, and there’s no reason for the FMV scenes to be of such a bad quality.

But, if you’re looking for a fun little adventure, or a fan of the show, Batman Vengeance could fit the bill nicely. Sure, it has it’s fair share of problems: an annoying control scheme, very linear gameplay, a subpar combat system, and a presentation that could be better. If you’re interested, take a look. Just don’t expect a whole lot, and you should have a fair time with this.

Score: 6.5/10

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