Batman Begins

Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PSP, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: Eurocom / Vicarious Visions


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Xbox Review - 'Batman Begins'

by Jordan Van Nest on June 30, 2005 @ 12:04 a.m. PDT

The Batman Begins film explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight's emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents' murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: June 14, 2005

Xbox | GameCube | GBA | PlayStation 2

For decades, shadow has engulfed the dark city of Gotham. Crime and corruption seemingly propel the inhabitants of the city forever downwards in a spiral of misery, a spiral with no exit in sight. The very streets themselves are run through a fear which can only be harnessed by the most ruthless of men- drug-dealers, psychotic killers, and criminal masterminds. It is this fear which allows them to stay atop of the city. This fear ensures their power. And it is this fear which will be used against them. For somewhere high above, against the dark silhouette of the sky, a black caped figure silently glides through the air, armed with a new kind of fear, a fear more terrible than death itself. His name will soon be on the hearts and minds of all those in Gotham. The legend has begun.

Following the debut of the blockbuster film, Batman Begins attempts to fill in the holes from the movie while generating the same sense of awe, and most importantly, fear, that the movie created. However, while expectations for the recent movie were undoubtedly huge, the same could not be said about the recently released game. Why? Well, taking into account the past failures of titles based on movies, as well as the past failures of every Batman game before it, it's actually quite easy to see why Batman Begins was expected to be nothing short of a disaster.

Despite this, EA Games set out determined to create a solid action-adventure title that would please fans of the Batman series, as well as show that it is possible to take a movie and spin it into a good game. And you know what? They succeeded. While Batman Begins does not reach the level of "exceptional game," it is still a solid, intriguing, and fun title which indeed brings pride to the entire Batman franchise.

One of the main ideas explored in the movie is the idea of fear. How our fears influence us and how they can be conquered is one of the central themes to the film, and likewise, Batman Begins attempts to capture the importance of this emotion. The ability to scare the guards or enemies is a very creative idea which definitely mirrors the atmosphere of the movie.

To frighten enemies that stand in Batman's way, you can knock out lights, throw switches, and many other actions which will scare the surrounding guards. The more you scare the guards, the more vulnerable they become to attack. As a matter of fact, give them enough of a scare and the guards may drop their weapons or even surrender! As you take out more and more guards in the area, your name will spread, and your reputation will grow. These aspects of the game are represented by the "Area Fear" and "Reputation" bars. There's definitely something cool about hiding on a nearby rooftop and sending shocks of fear through your enemies.

As is customary with superheroes of Batman's caliber, a whole slew of gadgets can always be found hiding up every sleeve, ready to give the wearer some unseen advantage at just the right moment. This title is no different. The gadgets available to Batman range from smoke grenades and flash bangs (for frightening opponents), to security encryption devices (to hack security) and optical wires (to see under doors). The gadget enthusiast will surely not be disappointed, as there is always something new to discover and play around with. As a matter of fact, the player even gets to drive Batman's hot ride through several levels of the game. Trust me, there's no other feeling like rolling over traffic and emerging without a scratch!

In addition to the snazzy gadgets and ability to scare your opponents, Batman Begins boasts a fairly solid fighting system, complete with combos and finishing moves. The thing I really liked about the combat system was that it was simple, yet I really felt like I was doing complicated moves. And the moves looked great too!

Basically, the simple system consists of one button to punch and one button to kick. Punching or kicking an enemy repeatedly will yield a combo, or you can mix up your moves by following the on-screen instructions and pressing the button it tells you for a certain move. This includes bone-cracking finishing moves which will certainly stop your opponents in their tracks. In addition to these combos, there are also several stealth moves you can perform, ranging from quietly taking down an enemy from behind, or rappelling from the ceiling and snatching them away without a sound.

While Batman Begins is definitely a good solid action game, there are reasons why I would not consider it an exceptional one. For one, the title is simply too straightforward. From the moment you enter a room, you will know exactly which items you must interact with to proceed. For example, as I walk into a random room, the screen will show me various spots of interest, such as grapple points or items that need to be manipulated like crates, vases, etc. This definitely destroys the option of a puzzle-like game, and instead results in a straightforward "follow the signs" type of experience. While this doesn't make Batman Begins terrible, one should definitely be aware before playing that this title does not contain any perplexing puzzles for you to solve.

In addition, the storyline to Batman Begins is really a jumble. If the player has not seen the movie, they are pretty much out of luck. Cut scenes from the movie are used in an attempt to fill in the player on what is happening, but they really do not explain the essential storyline that the player needs to know. However, if you have already seen the movie, this should not be a problem.

In terms of graphics, Batman Begins looks very nice. As one would expect most of the environments are dark and gloomy, which really help to set the "Batman mood." I would have to say the sound crew also did an excellent job in helping to set the mood with the music and sound. Aside from the musical score and sound effects, I would have to say the sound feature I most enjoyed was the fact that the mood of the music changes in relation to what you are doing in the game. As you are sneaking up on a guard, the music will gradually start progressing from an eerie, stealthy tune to more thrilling, tension-filled music. This is really something you have to experience yourself, and definitely helps the overall mood.

As you have heard me say, Batman Begins is not an exceptional game. However, I believe it has surpassed all expectations and that it is, in fact, a very fun and entertaining title. If you can overlook several of its faults and understand that for a Batman title, this is pretty darn good, then I believe you are in for quite an adventure.

Score: 7.0/10

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