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EA Games
GENRE: Action
June 15, 2005
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 Written by Vadim Leonov  on June 29, 2005

Review: At least there's no Tom Cruise interview

The movie Batman Begins has received great reviews from both critics and the general public. Electronic Arts decided to make some profits off of the revival of the Batman film series by publishing a game based on the movie for all of the major consoles. Although I personally did not enjoy the movie as much as almost everyone else did, I rented the game because reliving the movie seemed more enjoyable than watching it. Unfortunately, the game is just as bad as the movie.

Batman Begins for GameCube is a dead-on reincarnation of the movie, as nearly all of the scenes in the movie are replayed. The plot, which is shared by the movie, involves mogul Bruce Wayne's journey to avenge the death of his parents that he witnessed and blamed on himself. Starting with memories from his childhood and a tutorial in the Himalayas, the game explains how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. Most of the game takes place in Gotham City, the city where evil lurks everywhere.

The game can be described as a stealth-oriented third-person action game with a few puzzle elements and some racing levels. As Batman, you engage in combat with criminals and try to prevent a hallucinogenic poisonous gas from infecting the city's water supply, in turn preventing Gotham City's downfall. An on-screen radar that displays the position of nearby enemies and their scope of view aids you throughout the game.

"Stealth-oriented" is a very important term when describing Batman Begins. Batman can climb poles, grapple onto buildings, and listen in on conversations of others. To the dismay of many people, Batman does not carry guns and cannot simply take out dozens of machine-gun wielding foes. A few direct shots spells the end of Batman in this game. Therefore, fear must be used prior to most battles. This fear mechanic involves using a number of various gadgets that are pre-equipped (such as the batarang) to explode some barrels or create a stir. This causes most enemies to drop their weapons, allowing you to start doing some damage. Batman is capable of pulling off a variety of kicks, punches, blocks and combination moves. Some special moves are used to finish off opponents or to do damage to more than one opponent simultaneously. You can even use grenades or a device to attract bats to confuse some opponents or to single them out.

However, I have many gripes with the combat. One large problem with this game is that it is far too linear. And I don't mean linear because you must progress in a certain way, that is implied with games based on movies. The drawback is that, in Batman Begins, you can only use items such as the batarang or the grappling hook when you are told to use them. You can't take out the batarang to smash a wall just because you want to. Another problem is that you can't even use the grenades prior to engaging in combat. I would have loved to throw a smoke grenade and then swoop down, but unfortunately you can only use those items after combat has begun. Another issue is that after your first hour of gameplay, you've seen all that the game has to offer in terms of combat. You will have seen all of the moves, all of the scripted special effects, and the game becomes a little repetitive.

The driving levels are few in number (only two), which is a shame because I actually enjoyed them. In the driving levels you get to drive the new Batmobile around Gotham City. You're looking to destroy the cars of criminals by crashing into them (? la BurnOut), get somewhere as quickly as possible and destroy large trucks. One of the levels was very similar to a level in one of the recent James Bond games.

Unfortunately, Batman Begins is very short in length ? no more than a solid 6-8 hours maximum. Not only is it extremely short, it is also one of the easiest games I've played in a very long time. The game holds your hand throughout the entire adventure by telling you where to go and when to use what gadgets. Also, there are no multi-player modes whatsoever. One time through the game will suffice, which is why the game is very low in replay value. Electronic Arts included some unlockable items, which is always a plus. You gain access footage and trailers from the movie, alternate batsuits, and a picture gallery. You can even obtain interviews with the cast, the filmmakers, the writers and even EA. Only an interview with Tom Cruise about Katie Holmes is missing.

The graphics team did some tremendous work, thanks to the partnership with Warner Bros. Plenty of scenes from the movie are included, and virtually the entire cast worked on the game to make it as authentic of an experience as possible. Batman, Ducard, Alfred, Rachel Dawes, Lucious Fox and all of the other characters look like they were lifted straight out of the movie. Most of the animations look genuine as well. The artists did a good job of recreating Gotham City, with a very dark theme. The entire game takes place during nighttime, so shadows and light play vital roles. The lighting effects were magnificent, along with all of the particle effects.

The sound department ended up turning out a good product, too. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Tom Wilkinson and a bunch of other actors lent their voices to the game. Consequently, the voice work in Batman Begins is superb. The music throughout the game is also surprisingly pleasing because it blends in with the levels and theme amazingly well. The sound effects are decent and there was nothing that really stood out about them. If you've played an action game in the past three years, you'll know what to expect in terms of sound effects.

Bottom Line
Batman Begins comes up short. I rented the game because I thought it would be more fun to relive the game and be Batman, mostly because I didn't really enjoy the movie too much. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The game is repetitive, easy, short, and offers nothing new to the genre besides the introduction of the fear meter. But even that is misused as you can only put fear into enemies by doing what the games tells you to do, not what you want to do. Once again, another game based on a movie fails. In all honesty, I think it would be fair to say that this game was meant to be a rental title, not one worth full price of admission. If it weren't for the voice work from the cast and the clips from the movie, Batman Begins would have been a game that should have never existed.

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