Review by Mr Xenomorph
"Sloppy and poor.. This does not do a great Batman movie justice."
This will basically be a review about pretty much everything that I experienced personally playing through, being a Batman fan who loved Batman Begins (still haven't seen The Dark Knight) and expecting a semi decent action game that would keep my attention for more than a few minutes. Also, unlike the other reviews on here this will be more emphasis on things that I thought were negatives as opposed to the positives. Frankly I found more negatives than positives, so that should say something about the quality of this game. Enough chat, unto the review!
First of all, major kudos definitely goes to presentation. The graphics are impressive enough for what the original Xbox was capable of. The story is basically the same as the movie, with cut scenes being clips taken from the movie, not much to complain about here. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Henry Ducard (Liaam Neeson) look very much like their on-screen counterparts, as well as Carmine Falcone and everybody else who was in the movie. Their faces seem to be directly copied and pasted from photos of the original actors, so you'll have no trouble recognizing all the characters you remember from the film. The Batmobile looks very nice though it's proportions leave something to be desired (more on that later).
The levels and atmosphere do a satisfactory job of carrying the "fear" factor into the game as well as the general dark knight swagger of the series. Batman looks like Batman, which is what you would expect, but I find some flaws in the main character model. The details in the Batsuit, such as the armor plating, his boots and gloves, his belt, as well as the signature bat emblem on his chest, all look lazily drawn on and have no real depth to it. It doesn't feel like the advanced suit of armor in the film (more on that later too), and it leaves something to be desired. The cape also looks kinda funny, almost distracting, what with the contrasting resolution between the cape and the suit, but this is acceptable, considering that the cape is moving constantly there probably wasn't much way around this.
The sound is another area which shines very well, probably the best thing done in the game. All of the actors from the movie come back to reprise their roles and the voice acting is pretty well done. Again, you'll recognize everybody from the movie once they start talking. Everybody including the thugs sound very crisp and clear and clearly some effort was made to make the dialogue believable. Throughout the game, Alfred (probably the best voiced in the game, kudos to Michael Caine) will communicate with you (Batman) to provide helpful intel and witty banter as you traverse the gritty underworld of Gotham, it all works generally well, though Bale sometimes sounds like a robot, with almost no diction to his delivery. The soundtrack is generally the same as in the movie, which is good, as the brooding electro-orchestra hybrid responds well to the context of the current situation and adds lots of personality and atmosphere to the environment.
The game plays almost like a Splinter Cell/Metal Gear Solid hybrid, with the emphasis on stealth and "fear" tactics, which I don't think are very well done. You'll find yourself hanging from pipes, crawling through duct work and hanging from a variety climbable apparatus. Everything is heavily scripted and super linear though so there is pretty much no room whatsoever for exploration or improvisation. The grappling hook is used very sparingly and only when there is a scripted part for it to be used. In fact, pretty much all of your equipment can only be used in scripted situations. The "fear" tactics are pretty much the focus of the game play, and they aren't very impressive if I do say so. Almost every fear situation is required to advance through the game, lest you be so bold as to rush directly into a group of thugs armed with Uzi's (good luck with that by the way), so you don't really have a choice except to scare the living crap out of everybody with conveniently placed shelves lined with heavy boxes or forklifts whose sole purpose is to be placed in a position that can be used to trap bad guys for your convenience.
Again, it's all scripted, so you have to do what the game wants you to do. There is no way you can go off the beaten path and try something new, unfortunately it's just not possible. There were many points in the game where I could have done something different and cool. For example, in the docks, there were lamps hanging from the ceiling that I could have busted with my batarangs, killed all the lights, scared the thugs below, and dropped in for my attack, just like in the movie, that would have been awesome! Too bad though, you can't do that in this game. It's such a shame, the fear idea is a good idea and could have been integrated into this game much more effectively than it was. I'm guessing EA definitely wasn't aiming for a game of the year award, instead opting to just slap together a few existing game engines, rushing to release it at the same time the movie came out, and collecting the paycheck.
Stealth is not the only aspect of the game though, you do get your chance to unleash Bruce's massive martial arts repertoire, though it seems in this game that his repertoire of kung fu moves has been largely ignored in favor of simplicity. And I think with simplicity the game fails, and there are lots of little details I'm about to go into that made the game a miss for me.
Frankly, I'm disappointed by the lack of moves Batman has. It all boils down to punch, kick, and context sensitive special move, which includes a "from behind" stealth takeout (you wouldn't think it was stealthy over how loud it is), executing multiple enemy take outs, finishing moves, etc. The fighting in the game feels really awkward and unintuitive and not very fluid. Basically what happens is that when you encounter a group of thugs, you automatically lock on to the nearest thug and you have to take them out one by one, which can be a pain, but to help you can switch targets with the D-pad, which I don't find very comfortable and can be too slow to react whilst in heavy combat, and there is a jumping spin kick that can knock out multiple enemies, but you cant do that all the time as it is "context sensitive" and often times you will find yourself getting punched and kicked in the back of the head, while the thug in front of you is blocking your attacks.
I hate the fact that Falcone's thugs have the same martial arts abilities and overall power that batman has. How can this lowly thug from the street with no armor block Batman's armor enhanced kicks and punches? The only way to break a thug's block is to use an extremely slow Goku power up punch that leaves you vulnerable to more punches and kicks to the back your head, nibbling away at your precious health even more. About the health, I don't like how it is done. You have a handful of health boxes hanging on the walls, reminiscent of Half Life scattered throughout the game that you go up to and open up, and most of the time it only revives a fraction of your health. I think this is all to discourage fighting and encourage more stealth tactics, but I find it contrived and makes things slightly more frustrating than they have to be.
Batman is supposed to have a suit of bullet proof armor, and according to the movie, "this sucker will stop a knife", yet that isn't true in the game, and even a lowly thug's punch is enough to seriously hurt Batman as if he was completely naked. There are many times where I was low on health, and struggled to complete a mission because one freaking punch was enough to kill Batman and send me back to the beginning of a checkpoint. What good is having a state of the art suit of battle armor if it doesn't even protect against unarmed street thugs? This is supposed to be a $150,000 piece of equipment, and it is defeated by a left hook to the face. There is Gotham's tax dollars at work for ya.
The driving levels are done very poorly I think. It's pretty much impossible to crash as the streets are very wide and mostly straight-aways and turns are highlighted several miles away by ridiculous looking neon lit walls with arrows pointing you the right away, not to mention the Batmobile is mostly invincible. Although there is a sense of speed when racing along in the Batmobile, it is inhibited by the fact that everybody else can go just as fast if not faster than you. I don't know whats more ridiculous, the fact that an 18-wheeler can travel at speeds of 150+ miles per hour down city streets and maintain perfect control, or the fact that your Batmobile can barely keep up with it without the use of the Jet Engine. I'd give that little fact a pass only due to the fact that Jet Engine refills are plentifully littered all over the streets.
Another thing that bothers me, the cars the thugs drive seem to be just as strong as the Batmobile, that is until you cause them to crash. What I'm saying is that you can side-swipe them, and they will push back just as hard! often times even running your big and powerful Batmobile off the road with their little Grenadas or whatever they are. The Batmobile just doesn't feel as big and powerful as it was in the movie. Another thing I noticed in the Black market level, standing next to the Batmobile. The Batmobile is very small in this game compared to the movie, it's about as big as my Ford Focus, that is not the huge hulking tank I remembered from the film.
Anyways, that concludes everything I felt was worth covering about this game. You may feel some of what I've covered here is very nitpicky but it is what I feel is not right about the game and what popped into my head as I was playing. All things considered, I think this game isn't very good and that it doesn't deliver what I seek in pretty much every video game that I play; an (at least) satisfactory game play experience that will stimulate my senses, make my time spent enjoyable and to keep me coming back for more. It is not fun to me as either a Batman fan nor an action/stealth video game fan. For these reasons I give the game Batman Begins a 4 out of 10 and I would recommend to anybody out there reading this, perhaps thinking about giving this game a go, to definitely rent it. It most certainly won't last you longer than a rental period and you'll save a few bucks. I'd say that extra money will be much better spent on The Dark Knight DVD.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/08
Game Release: Batman Begins (US, 06/14/05)
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