Batman Begins Review

Developer: Eurocom Publisher: EA
Release Date: June 14, 2005 Also On: GCN, PS2, and Xbox

Batman has been a commercial success since the 1960’s with the television show. The 1989 film, Batman, featuring talent such as Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, was the best of the four Batman films. From that point on, it was a steady decline in quality, ending in the pairing of Batman George Clooney and super villain Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Freeze.

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Batman Begins might have been more appropriately named Batman Returns, had one not already existed, because it returns the Batman franchise to its roots. The kid-friendly atmosphere of the 1990’s Batmans have been replaced with the crime instability of the 1980’s. Gotham City is in peril at the hands of Dr. Jonathon Crane, Scarecrow. A drug has been concocted that renders its victims insane. It’s your job, as Batman, to rid Gotham City of this menace, while uncovering a plot from a mentor.

I haven’t seen the film, but from what I’ve heard, it follows the film closely. Batman Begins is an action-stealth game with an emphasis on frightening your foes before you assault them with force. You can either accomplish this through conventional methods (i.e. kicking ass) or by playing mind games.

In most situations, gracefulness is required. Stumbling around from room to room will get you killed with or without your Kevlar vest. Your options aren’t limitless, but they aren’t too few either. You can indeed manage to take out a group of unarmed baddies, but the benefit of taking a stealth approach, or avoiding them altogether, if at all possible, are the wiser choices, for the sake of health.

In case you’re wondering, stealth is central to Batman Begins. By pressing in on the left analog stick, Batman will begin to sneak. Walk up to an enemy while hunched over, then press O when right behind them to perform a stealth move. An animation sequence will be triggered, rewarding the player for their efforts.

You can also grapple and hang from pipes. From a pipe, or any other fixture that you hang from, you can drop down and grab an enemy, immediately incapacitating them. This is highly affective in disarming your enemies that have firearms. You can also generate fear in nearby enemies. How’d you feel if your goon friend disappeared for a few seconds, then lands right in front of you?

Fear is another intricate part of Batman Begins. Unless you intimidate them, they’ll remain vigilant. So for instance, you’re on top of a building. Below you in the plaza is a group of baddies with guns. Next to you is a water tower just waiting to be tipped. There’s a wire running across to another building. You climb across, grab some explosives, but this time, you run along the rooftops, plant the explosives, then wait for the fight to begin. They freak, you jump, and you kick some ass.

There really aren’t any ‘puzzles’ per se in Batman Begins, but you’re going to have to observe your surroundings in a number of instances. For instance, an area has a locked door. You see a button on the wall. You push it, it pulls up a projector screen. “Hmm, okay, guess that doesn’t do anything,� you say to yourself. Wrong. Push the button, grab hold of the bottom of the screen, jump over the glass and lop into the locked room thru an open hallway.

Something not new to stealth games is a radar system. Batman Begins is no different. It features a Metal Gear-esque radar system, where the vision of guards are displayed on your radar, along with locations that you need to head. Red radar dots mean the enemies have guns. Green dots mean the enemies are without guns. Your radar will show you how far and what level they’re on compared to you. For instance, if they’re not on the same level as you, they’ll appear as x’s.

Aside from staying out of their line-of-sight, you also need to be aware that the developers at Eurocom have employed a sound system. Nothing very complex about it like Splinter Cell, where different types of surfaces were taken into consideration, but nonetheless, you still need to be aware that enemies can hear you running down the hallway, even if they can’t see you. Your sound is also displayed on the radar. If you run, a red flash will appear on the screen where your character is situated on the radar.

The fighting system in Batman Begins is admittedly a rudimentary attempt. I myself don’t like hand-to-hand combat in these types of games to require the knowledge of a fighting game expert, so I’m perfectly alright with a button for punching, a button for kicking, and a button for jumping. Others, however, might desire a little more than this. You also have gadgets to choose from, including flashbangs and smoke grenades, but you’ll still need to attack your foes and finish them, Mortal Kombat-style. Not quite as gruesome as Mortal Kombat, but you know what I mean.

The game features the voice talent of several prominent actors/actresses, all of whom have roles in the film. As Batman/Bruce Wayne, Christian Bale, Katie Holmes as Rachel, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, and my favorite, Michael “Cider House Rules� Caine. Each of them reprise their roles as their respective characters in the movie, adding an authenticity to the game that otherwise would not have been met.

The Dark Knight has not exactly been a favorite of gamers. I can’t recall an effort worth owning since the NES, the days of Michael Keaton as Batman. With Batman Begins, Electronic Arts hoped to buck the growing trend of unspectacular adventures with the caped crusader. They did just that, in my opinion.

Batman Begins is a must-play for all Batman fans, including the fans of the new, just-released film. It’s short, lasting all of about 7-9 hours, and beatable in about two to three sittings. I’d recommend a rental for pretty much anyone interested in the Batman franchise, and possibly a purchase for die-hards. Batman Begins is the beginning of the transformation of the Batman franchise. I like what I see, and I like even better what I play.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 7.4
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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