Review by RavenOfProphecy
""He's here!" "Who?" "The Batman!""
Batman Begins is not a game that I've been looking forward to, unlike a lot of people in the world and on GameFAQs. But after I saw the movie (which was frickin' amazing) with a friend, I decided that, since I had a Blockbuster pass of sorts that gave me free rentals for a month, I would go pick up the Xbox version to see if it added anything to the movie, like Enter the Matrix did.
The first thing that you will notice when you begin playing the game is that the game's first cutscene is about fear, but then the game shifts to a part in the game that will occur in another form much later. If you don't really know what's going on right now, if you haven't watched the movie, then don't worry about it, The game also babysits you in the beginning of the game, but then, it pretty much does that the entire game. After finishing the (confusing) first level, you will begin training with Henri Ducard and the League of Shadows in the Himalayan Mountains. This is basically the tutorial of the game.
While the game iteration does not stay completely true to the movie, especially with how some things happen and certain important lines that are missing, it takes the steps necessary to make a two-and-a-half hour movie long enough to make a game. I don't really want to go too far into the story for spoiler purposes, but strange shipments of a hallucinogen have been found with a crime lord's drug shipments, so Batman runs off to investigate. It also shows you how Batman became who he is today, the comic icon we all know and love.
The graphics add a lot to the game, because they portray everything in a way that makes the Batman very imposing. His shadow cast over someone looks cool, and the sight of him interrogating an enemy while holding him in the air with one hand is pretty badass, even if the interrogation mechanic is pretty bad compared to games like The Punisher, for example, where you can interrogate enemies in various different, cool ways.
The environments give off the same layer of grittiness and look very cool, especially the Arkham Asylum levels, which are terrific. All of the characters look just like their respective actors, such as Liam Neeson, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine. The enemies are varied enough to keep you from seeing the same guy multiple times, and the cutscenes are interesting. Instead of taking the scenes from the movie and putting them in, in a way they are presented as montages with Bale providing the narration. I would've liked to see a more Lord of the Rings-style approach, though. An example of this is when Batman jumps out of a flaming building in the first level. Instead of blacking out and then loading a movie clip, it would have been awesome for the game to transition from game-graphics to move-scene like you see in the Lord of the Rings games so much.
In what is perhaps the best aspect of the game, the voice acting is very well-done. All of the major characters from the movie lend their voices, and these are no phone-in jobs. Rather, they brought everyone in to record a bunch of lines, and on top of that, used some lines from the movie as well. What you get as a result is a very, very good game, audio-wise. The only thing that they could've improved on is the enemy's voices. You'll hear a few of them multiple times. This gets annoying because you'll see ninjas who talk like they have lived in the Bronx, which is pretty dumb.
The controls in the game were good, but there are some options that you'll probably want to change, for example, horizontal inversion is something you want "on". Instead of making right-go-left and left-go-right, you get it the way that most games have it. Vertical invesion is the "off" option, where the up-goes-up way is the "on" method. Other than that, you have "R" for block, "X" for punch, "Y" for kick, "A" for jump, and "B" for a context sensitive button. White activates a gadget, and black uses your batarang (but only in certain situations.) Not much to say here, but they were responsive and did not really take anything away from the game.
What I absolutely loved about this game is that it really does a great job portraying Batman as this imposing figure. From the shadows and such you can cast, to with some scripted "fear triggers", and even the way he walks like someone who's been at the gym a little too long, you really think of Batman as this super-imposing guy that just strikes fear into his enemies hearts. It also gives you a bunch of cool opportunities to use your gadgets, most importantly, the Batarang, which allows you to knock things over and open vents. However, that's not to say the "fear" mechanic works flawlessly, in fact, it is far from it.
All of the events in the game are extremely scripted, and that is the game's downfall. Other than playing through again to try out some of the extras you can unlock, no one is going to play through the game again for a different way through, because, frankly, there is no other way through any part in the game. It's linearity can be satisfying, such as when you grapple to the ceiling, tip over some barrels to scare an enemy, and then swoop down for him, throwing him the long way back to the ground, and scaring the pants off of his enemies, but it really kills the replay value.
The fighting in the game is reminiscent of a beat-em up game, kind of like what you see in the Spider-Man series. Basically, you have kick, punch, block, and the "B" button, which executes context,sensitive stuff, like attacking two people with one move, or finishing off an enemy. One thing I didn't like is that when enemies have guns, you have to try and find the fear trigger that will scare them into DROPPING THEIR GUNS. This is pretty stupid in my opinion, because, if you were scared out of your mind with a six-foot-two man in black spandex shooting around the rafters, I would have thought you would grip your gun tighter. As a result, you never have combat with someone holding a gun, and if you did, you would be killed in about three shots in-game.
The two kind of, side-mechanics, are the stealth and driving sequences. I'll cover stealth first. Basically, this occurs a lot in the game, and it works like a low-budget Splinter Cell, but really, I thought of Alias more when I was playing this (a game that was absolutely horrendous), mostly because of a pop-up window that appears at times and shows you things that enemies are doing, or where you are supposed to be going. As I mentioned before, though, it rips off a lot from Splinter Cell, but removes the challenge. You can't press against walls often, or do any really cool moves, but basically just sneak up behind someone and knock them out. Another thing that I really didn't like that killed the stealth, and the challenge, was that objects and enemies in the game disappear if you interact with them. Say, for example, I just knocked out a guard. The enemy's body will disappear, which is bad because it takes away the challenge of not-being discovered, and also takes away from the fear. What's scarier than finding a pile-up of your buddies? Not much. But when they disappear, it's not so scary.
The driving portions in the game, I thought, were fun, but short. You only get to play them twice, but basically, they consist of driving through Gotham in the Bat Mobile, using the turbo pickups you find along the way, and crashing into enemy cars while trying to keep your own car from being destroyed, and achieving an objective. Like I said, these were good for breaking up the monotonous stealth and action, and getting you zooming down the streets at over 140 miles per hour.
Extra Features/Replay Value:
Another thing that I was pleasantly surprised by is the unlockables in the game. You get the standard EA-stuff, where they have interviews with developers, producers, and actors, and then they add in the cutscenes that you can see in the game, which is pretty cool. Another pretty cool extra is that you unlock three additional batsuits upon completion of the game, which, although not enough to make you play through again, are still pretty cool, and I had fun replaying a few levels with them.
In what is a really, really cool addition, the Gallery of Fears is a brilliant game-mode. Basically, you can run around a prison and look at all of the enemies that you have captured in the game, and read mini-biographies about them. Some more comic-related stuff would have been nice though, like covers of sorme sort, or maybe a bonus level or two where you fight off as many people as you can within a timed environment, but you do get to play the Bat Mobile levels that you finished in the game, either the story-or-timed iterations. All in all, EA did a pretty good job with adding in some cool extras for fans.
Batman Begins is one of the high-tier movie games that stays true to the movies and manages to add in some neat side-stuff as well. It has a big budget, due to EA Games' deep pockets, and this aids it immensely. It brings some new elements, like fear, into Batman games, while still giving you the classic, beat-em-up style experience. Although I wouldn't buy it for the full $40, for $20 or $30, it's a great addition to a Bat-Fan's collection.
Final Score: 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 06/19/05
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