Batman Begins Review
Batman is back! With a new look and a return to the dark style without the fruity colors (or the Jim Carrey), Bruce Wayne returns in a new prequel that shows how Batman was born. Batman Begins is both a big summer blockbuster movie, and a console game that attempts to boil down the fun of the movie onto your controller. Sadly, the game doesn't nearly live up to the flick.
I'll come right out with it: Batman Begins is downright boring most of the time. The fighting looks pretty slick for about the first minute, and then you realize that you've seen just about every move there is to see. There's your punch, jump, kick, and block buttons, and a special attack button for specific moves at specific times. But most fights wind up acting out the same, and it's pretty standard action fare.
The setup for each fight can be pretty unique, though. Often, the game will present an impossible fight to you, where three guys with submachine guns can easily rip poor old Batman to shreds. What you'll have to do in many cases is follow the game's little script for weakening them. This whole thing is called the "fear" system, where you're supposed to use your environment to freak out the thugs before swooping down on them.
But you won't be doing a lot of swooping. You can generate fear by manipulating the environment or with a few cool bat-gadgets, but unfortunately both methods can only be used when the game wants you to use them. It also forces you to use Splinter Cell-style stealth pretty often, and while I'm no huge Batman fanboy, it just feels really goofy. I always thought of Batman appearing when absolutely necessary, doing what needed to be done, and getting out. Instead, he's got to fight or deal with dozens of thugs in each level - and that was ok with the NES versions of Batman back in the 80s, but that's just not acceptable for today's gamers.
This game follows so many stereotypes of your generic console action title that it feels like the developers took a basic action game and "applied" Batman to it - rather than taking Batman and wrapping an action game around him. The fear system tries to throw something unique in, but it's really just a mechanism for cheap, boring puzzles. Finish the puzzle or find the trick, and the otherwise impossible fight suddenly makes enemies cower in fear while you beat the crap out of them.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. EA included a pretty nice range of extras in the game, and much in the style of their Lord of the Rings games, some highly-abridged real movie footage is mixed in with the game's action and cutscenes. It works nicely, even if the movie's own story gets completely mangled in all the heavy-handed editing of the movie scenes.
There are still a few surprises to be had in Batman Begins, like the driving missions that are pretty fun to do - even if they're a bit easy. You can take out enemies' cars by smashing into them or pushing them into walls, much like in Burnout 3. Throw on the ability to literally jump onto enemy cars, and it gets even better.
The visuals in Batman Begins are very effective, and they really throw around some great Gotham atmosphere. It's of course dark during just about every mission, even though there are usually impressive bloom effects with the lighting combined with some detailed environments. Batman himself has been modelled and animated fairly well, even if some of his climbing animations look hilariously bad. The faces all resemble the movie's original actors well, and they're voiced by the Hollywood movie cast on top of that. This aspect of the game was put together beautifully, even if it turns out that the meat of the game - the action - just doesn't stick out as anything unique or even really engaging.
With a completion time of under eight hours and a few half-decent extras, one has to wonder if Batman Begins was essentially targeted directly as a rental game. The action's functional but pretty dull, especially for the veteran gamer, which is a shame considering the rather triumphant box office return of Batman. At least the visuals and voice acting are top-notch, but this one is going to be permanently shelved pretty quickly for most gamers.