Itâ€™s summer and a tidal wave of Hollywood blockbusters is upon us. This means the release of numerous action games, typically third-person action games. Batman Begins is the upcoming action adventure starring Christian Bale as Batman, with Michael Caine, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman in other leading roles. The story revolves around how Batman came to be; growing up, having his parents slain before his eyes, his rather special education in the way of the ninja, and his first ventures as a rubber clad hero.
The game begins in present time, relative to the storyline, where Batmanâ€™s hunting bad-guys. Due to events I donâ€™t want to spoil the storyline hops back in time and you get to relive some of the more important events in Batmanâ€™s apprenticeship (if you can call it that), and his attempt at stopping the nasty don Falcone, an evil doctor / drug dealer kind of guy, and a mysterious third party. To spice things up plenty of cut-scenes have been added, taken directly from the movie. I should warn you that playing through the game will spoil some of the storyline, so you might consider buying this game after youâ€™ve seen the movie.
Batman Beginâ€™s gameplay is relatively simple, and for the most part as youâ€™d expect from a third-person action games. You move Batman as youâ€™d move any other third-person hero, but using X, Y and B you either punch, kick, or do a finishing- / context sensitive move. A makes him jump, after which you can do a few aerial attacks, or do the second part of a double jump to get farther. The context sensitive attacks may be a ground attack, should you ever get punched or kicked to the ground, or an extra hard punch that counters their blocking attempts. My main gripe with the combat is that it doesnâ€™t directly involve the nearby environment. If you were fighting someone very close to a cliff or something similar itâ€™d be natural that you could kick him off it, but if you try heâ€™ll just fall down at the very edge of the safe ground. Similarly you canâ€™t pick up nearby objects and use them to your advantage; itâ€™s pretty much just kicking, punching, special attacks, and the occasional jump. In other words, combat feels fairly rewarding, but couldâ€™ve been more interesting.
The developers seem to have borrowed a few ideas from the Splinter Cell games, because you can grab and interrogate various thugs and bad-guys, sometimes revealing key codes or just basic information about the main villain youâ€™re hunting at the time. Lock picking is another skill youâ€™ll have to learn, but fortunately you just have to align a few rotating shapes. Hacking is fairly similar, and I doubt anyone will have any trouble completing those tasks. Such mini-games are nice, and theyâ€™re fortunately not used excessively. More variety wouldnâ€™t have hurt though.
Riding around in the somewhat peculiar looking Batmobile is a lot of fun too, though the racing couldâ€™ve been fleshed out a little more. Driving missions normally involve destroying enemy cars (very similar to the Burnout games), using some form of nitrous oxide for a temporary speed boost, and even jumping over obstacles. Sometimes the ultimate goal is some special kind of car that you have to destroy, and donâ€™t be surprised if thereâ€™s a timer counting down as well.
Although Batman might seem far from us relatively normal people he doesnâ€™t have outrageous powers that let him dominate everyone and anyone. A few shots will put him to the ground, so the gameplay is focused on stealth, using gadgets, maneuvering around obstacles, and basically making a confrontation as much in your favor before you start fighting. At the bottom left of the screen you have a radar that displays the enemies close by. Those carrying a firearm are red dots while those with a melee weapon or no weapon at all show up as green dots. You normally want to get rid of the red dots first (for instance sneaking up to someone and using a stealthy finishing move), and then take on the remaining â€œgreensâ€. In some cases you can use the environment to your advantage, like if you make things explode around the enemies, or perhaps by having huge crates smash down around them. By doing this various fear meters start filling up, and thatâ€™s when you know youâ€™re in business.
Once someone has been scared sufficiently you can use a â€˜fear gadgetâ€™ as they call it â€“ typically a throwing weapon thatâ€™ll confuse, blind, or paralyze the enemy. With the odds this much at your advantage youâ€™ll have a lot less problem taking out nasty mobsters or whoever else it is youâ€™re after.
Electronic Arts doesnâ€™t have a habit of making bad looking games, and Batman Begins is no exception. The presentation is perfectly decent in every respect, from the texturing to the models, to the environments, to the cloth sim on the cape, to the dynamic shadows. Most of the levels make you go from x to y with a few stops in between, but all the levels are designed so that you should have very little trouble figuring out where to go next. This is a plus in my book, because after all weâ€™re playing to be entertained and to progress the story, not to spend ages finding that stupid little switch that was hidden behind the bookcase all along.
Performance is great too, with the very occasional exception. The camera works well, but thereâ€™s simply not enough â€˜awesome stuffâ€™ to make the presentation really great.
Since the movie has such a great cast itâ€™s nice to see that most of the important ones have voiced the characters. Christian Bale does a pretty good job, but it seemed a bit like he was imitating Michael Ironside, who did Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell. The rest of the cast did good jobs too, though I wouldnâ€™t have expected any less.
The musical score is pretty good; mainly featuring orchestral pieces that just sound â€˜Batmanâ€™. I canâ€™t say the music stood out much, but it helped add to the tension when youâ€™re fighting or doing other exciting things.
During the game youâ€™ll also be able to unlock various bits of information, along with movie clips and other neat things that fans will surely enjoy.
Like most games in its genre Batman Begins isnâ€™t a game weâ€™re likely to remember in a year. Itâ€™s a good game in most ways, but even if it introduces some interesting elements into the gameplay I doubt itâ€™ll be enough to appeal to those not heavily into Batman, or the action / third-person action genres.