Batman Begins (Xbox)

Let me first begin by saying that I am a huge Batman fan. I’ve been worshiping the caped crusader ever since I was a kid running around in gray and blue underoos, with the bat logo on my chest, and a batarang that I made out of cardboard and scotch tape.

I’ve seen the black mask worn by actors named West, Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney and now Bale.

I loved the new Batman Begins movie directed by Christopher Nolan. It is definitely the best Batman film ever made, and has opened up a new window for telling the Dark Knight’s story, as well as selling a lot of Bat-merchandise.

EA Games has just released a virtual adventure tie-in for the movie, appropriately titled BATMAN BEGINS, for the X-Box, PS2, and Gamecube. I just finished playing the X-Box version, and though it’s not the greatest game, it is the best Batman video game to date. Unlike his costumed partners in fighting crime, Batman has always been jinxed in the video game world. Every other Batman game before it has fallen flat, making even the Dark Knight himself feel defeated. But this has to be the most ambitious entry, glowing with bells and whistles, but very little thrills.

The game attempts to follow the storyline of the movie, and includes the voice talents of stars Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes and Morgan Freeman. Clips from the movie are also inserted into the game to move the story along. ( I recommend that you see the movie before playing to game if you don’t want anything spoiled for you).

Graphically, the game looks beautiful, displaying detailed backdrops of Gotham City’s gritty streets, dark alleys, gang infested piers, the creepy Arkham Asylum, and of course stately Wayne Manor.

In many ways the game plays like a watered down version of Splinter Cell, with Batman taking the role of Same Fisher. Stealth style, Batman hides in the shadows watching his prey, and then at the right moment he steps behind them and POW!!! The game also uses a fear feature, allowing Batman to use various scare tactics, which causes thugs to become so afraid, that he can just swoop down and take them out easily.

Having more cool toys than James Bond, Batman uses a variety of gizmos such as batarangs, flash bombs, grappling gun, and his super-fly cape. Batman can use his cape to silently glide from rooftop to rooftop, out of the view of thugs, which is one of the most satisfying features of the game. The dark one is also given his pimped-out Batmobile, where you can race through the streets of Gotham causing total destruction. Because this game is made by EA, who also put out the superb BURNOUT 3, these driving levels feel like an unpolished version of the take-down mode featured in that game. The driving level is simple and totally missing the cool factor it should have had.

Besides nameless goons, Batman also has to fight a variety of villains such as Ra’s Al Ghul, the Scarecrow, and the evil Henri Ducard. But there’s nothing challenging about these boss battles. You simply kick and punch your opponent until he falls down. (Yawn.)

The major problem with the game is that it is so linear. You basically just keep moving from point A to Z, and never get the chance to color outside of the line. You have to do everything the way the game wants you to without options. It would have been nice to simply slam a thug in the head with my batarang, instead of climbing all the way up a building, jumping over to another rooftop, and knocking over a scaffolding, just to get him. Variety in defeating your foes would have raised the stakes for this game in every way.

The game is also very short. You can easily knock this one out in about six hours. Finishing the game unlocks certain special features, such as interviews with the film’s cast and the game’s designers. You can also open up a Batmobile mini-game, or have the option of replaying the game with Batman wearing either his classic comic book costume or the Dark Knight gear.

Yes, there were a couple of moments when I did have fun playing the game, but the repetition, linear aspects, and weak Batmobile mode left me feeling cold. As far as movie based games go, the goods are delivered, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Maybe the next Batman game will be the killer app all of us Bat-fans have been dreaming about. Let’s pray.

To the Batpoles!

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 5
Cool Factor : Cape gliding
Let Down: No Batcave

Overall Score: 6.5 (out of ten)

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