Review: Batman Begins

The Dark Knight has once again emerged from the shadows and onto consoles in EA and Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment’s latest release, Batman Begins. Seeing that games based on movie licenses tend to under perform their silver screen counter parts, will Batman Begins overcome this all-too-frequently true stereotype?

Story
Without giving away too much of the movie, Batman Begins details the birth of the Caped Crusader and his first battles against the evil that plagues Gotham City. Unfortunately, the game does not want to give much of the story away either. Sure you extensively play as Batman through all of the fighting scenes, but the movie clips that are used to tie the levels of the game together attempt to take twenty minutes of footage and trim it down to 15 to 20 seconds. This leads to one of two extremes: either too much or too little information is given about what transpired to get Batman from where he just was to where the next level takes place. As a result you’re usually left attempting to piece together what just happened, where you are and why you are there. That is, unless you’ve seen the movie.

I played Batman Begins twice, once before and once after seeing the film and felt that the game was more enjoyable because I had already paid my $8.50 to see the actual segues into the battles instead of the twenty second Cliff’s Notes version.

If you have not seen the movie, the game attempts to make up for its poor movie footage by having in-game characters interact with one another. Although this is interesting and you get more alternate dialogue as opposed to the film, you are forced to watch these scenes regardless if this is your first time through this part of the level or not. This makes restarting an area after getting killed very tedious and time consuming especially towards the later portions of the game.

Gameplay
Batman Begins attempts to incorporate many game genres only moderately succeeds at bringing them together into one cohesive entity. In all, the game combines fighting, stealth, puzzles, and even racing for good measure.

The fighting element of Batman Begins is definitely where the gameplay shines. The Dark Knight has a variety of punches and kicks that can be strung together to form a many unique combos. The auto lock feature also keeps Batman facing his current enemy at all times which ensures that his punches and kicks are not wasted. You may also have Batman block and counter attack his enemies; however there seemed to be a bit of lag between pressing the block button and Batman actually blocking. Also, while he is getting hit by an enemy he cannot block. This often leads to getting pummeled indefinitely until Batman is either knocked to the ground or able to retreat and catch his breath.

Depending on the circumstance, Batman also has the ability to perform special fighting moves. For example, if two enemies are in close proximity to one another, Batman can perform a special attack to knock both of them to the ground. You can also have Batman break the defenses of guarding opponents or trip any nearby thug that happens to get near when he gets knocked to the ground. When an opponent’s health is low, Batman also has the ability to perform a finishing move or once in a while grab an enemy in order to interrogate him for more information.

In keeping in line with the movie, one of Batman’s most dangerous weapons is his ability to instill fear into his enemies. In order to help you so this the developer, Eurocom Entertainment Software, has added an interactive environment as well as a Metal Gear Solid like radar that appears when enemies are in Batman’s general vicinity. This radar shows which enemies are armed with guns, their cone of vision, and Batman’s area of detection when he is not in sneak mode.

To gain the advantage over his enemies, Batman must use his surroundings to create an area of fear. This is usually done by using grappling hooks, climbing on poles or traversing ceilings using overhead pipes to put him in a position to either sneak up on an individual, or use a Batarang to trigger an event such as exploding canisters of flammable liquid. This startles enemies so that they drop their weapons, and also become easier to fight. With each successfully executed event, Batman’s reputation increases in that level causing every subsequent event and fight to generate something called a fear area. The more intense Batman’s are of fear, the less combative the enemies and the more likely they are to cower in fear than actually fight.

I found that the remaining gameplay in Batman Begins seriously lacked. The entire game seemed very linear. I always guided Batman from one area to the next and felt like I had no real option on how to best eliminate a room full of enemies. All the interactions with the environment were predetermined and I was notified of them too easily. This took out most of the fun I usually have trying to figure out how to solve a problem. Since there was usually only one way to frighten a group of enemies or move past some obstacle, I felt as if the game told me what to do most of the time.

As expected, Batman has a variety of gadgets that he may use in his fight against injustice. These include camera and security hacks, smoke grenades, flash bangs, high frequency emitters, and lock picking tools. Although it is a great idea to include gadgets like these because I expect them from Batman, their poor execution makes me wish that the developers would not have even made the attempt. For example, offensive gadgets such as the smoke grenade and flash bangs may only be used when enemies are already in a state of fear. Because the amount of fear required before you can use a gadget on an enemy is so high, you are usually already in the middle of a heated fight before the gadget is available. At this point, the enemies are usually too frightened to even put of that much resistance unless provoked, so there’s no real incentive to use the gadget in the first place.

The developers attempted to make using the non-offensive gadgets like the security hack or lock pick into small challenge puzzles. Although in theory this should add more depth, this seems like another great idea which wasn’t well thought out. This is because every time you are forced to use one of these gadgets it’s the same exact puzzle time and time again. This turns a feature that has a lot of potential into a tedious chore.

Finally, you do get to drive the Batmobile for two levels. But instead of an intense ride you’re treated to an attempted Batman version of a watered down Burnout 3 complete with objectives to “take out” an X number of enemy vehicles.

Graphics
Although the gameplay is a bit weak, don’t let that distract you from the detail that Eurocom put into the graphics of Batman Begins. The developers did an excellent job making the in-game characters resemble their real life counterparts. The fighting is very fluid and the Batmobile missions look as if you are really driving through the streets of Gotham. I especially like the way a remote camera sometimes appears in the lower right corner of the screen to show an event taking place somewhere else on the same level. There are a few small issues with the graphics, mainly the way Batman’s cape often turns an odd way and clips through itself as well as a few small graphic anomalies that occur where walls connect to floors or ceilings, but overall the graphics were good.

Sound
EA and WBIE made a very smart move when they signed all of the lead actors from the Batman Begins movie to reprise their roles in the video game adaptation. There is nothing more authentic for a video game based on a movie license than to have the resemblance and voice of the actors over cuts of the soundtrack used in the movie. Much of the added dialogue between the characters in the Batman Begins video game is very well written and sounds as if it could have been taken directly from the film.

Controls
Overall the controls for Batman Begins were only average. Besides the blocking issue previously mentioned, all other fighting and movement actions are fairly responsive. Changing gadgets in the middle of combat is nearly impossible due to the amount of maneuvering required to defeat computer opponents. So if you attempt to remove your thumb from the control stick to change a gadget, be prepared to get beat down by the computer with extreme prejudice.

At times the camera seems a bit unwieldy, especially when trying to sneak around an area via climbing or platforms or when dropping in on a group of enemies from overhead. Finally, I am a bit disappointed that there is no way for me to choose a different control setup, forcing me to use inadequate default layout.

Replay
Hands down the weakest part of Batman Begins is its replay value because it is almost non existent. Unless you’re only looking for the challenge of perhaps completing the game on a higher difficulty, there is no reason to play through the game a second time. Upon completing a level you unlock rewards such as new costumes, movie clips, interviews, etc. However, you unlock these rewards regardless of what difficulty you’re playing. Therefore completing the game on easy difficulty offers the same reward as completing it on challenging.

Conclusion
I’m sad to say that Batman Begins does not break the “Good movie, bad game” moniker. With only about 8 hours in total gameplay, it is a nice attempt to incorporate many genres into one game. However, not a single feature stands out from the rest as being excellent. At times it seems that many ideas, such as lock picking, didn’t get fully implemented. This could possibly be due to a time constraint with the game needing to be released with the movie. Unless you are a serious Batman fan, I suggest only renting this game over a weekend after you’ve seen the movie in order to get the most for your money.

About the Author

Having over 25 years of gaming experience, Zach knows a thing or two when it comes to one of his favorite entertainment activities. Additionally, he has also written many articles previewing and reviewing titles which can be found in various places around the net, including VGBlogger.com.