reviews\ Jun 28, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Batman Begins - GC - Review

Having risen well beyond its origins as a comic book created by Bob Kane, the legend of Batman has inspired filmmakers to chronicle the career of a man who has decided to fight crime in the streets of Gotham dressed as a human bat. Thanks to Tim Burton (let’s not even mention a certain somebody that ruined the franchise) Batman came to life on the big screen, but it hardly touched a major point in the life of Bruce Wayne. Sure we all know how the murder of his parents (right before his very eyes) affected him as a child, but what we don’t see is what led him on the path to become a “symbol” that strikes fear in the hearts of bad men ... that is until the new movie, Batman Begins, hit theaters. Quite possible the best and most realistic look at the Caped Crusader, you can bet this one has great gaming potential or does it?

Batman Begins tells the complete tale that covers Bruce Wayne’s training and his first year as Gotham’s defender. Having been emotionally crippled and on the verge of attempting to kill his parents’ killer, he decides to disappear until he shows up at the courtyard of the leader of a secret organization called the League of Shadows. Seeking the power to stop evil, Bruce Wayne is trained rigorously by a mysterious man named Henri Ducard. The game, however, skips ahead as Bruce Wayne - now as Batman - must discover what a deranged psychiatrist that calls himself the Scarecrow and a crime kingpin named Falcone are doing to Gotham’s water supply. 

The game starts you off as Batman, learning his basic combat skills but it isn’t until after the prologue that you learn the complete basics by Ducard in the Himalayas. Ducard teaches Bruce Wayne about the art stealth, a necessary approach seeing as Batman realistically can’t take on more than four armed men at the same time. Not only does stealth serve as a tactical advantage but it also helps introduce the concept of Area Fear. Sneak up behind an unsuspecting armed thug and the rest of the thugs will begin to tremble and some even cower in corners. Of course, there are those who see Batman as just a costumed freak and will attack nonetheless.

Yet if the game’s stealth element feels familiar it’s because Batman borrows a page from Sam Fisher’s stealth handbook. I don’t like to compare but it’s hard not to notice the similarities between this game and the Splinter Cell series. Not only can Batman creep along silently; keeping an eye on a radar that includes a thug’s field of vision but he can also grab enemies and either knock them out or interrogate them. Reach a closed door and you’ll be able to use an optic cable to see what’s going on in the next room. You can even pick a lock, opening up a lock picking mini-game. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t mind a little stealth in my game or imitating the best elements of a great game, but in Batman Begins the stealth isn’t handled as well as Splinter Cell. In fact, you’ll be spotted quickly for the simplest of blunders. And while Splinter Cell has terrorists combing the area to look for you after you’ve been spotted, being spotted in this game means instant death.

There’s also a lot of fighting and, for the most part, it’s handled pretty well. There are plenty of combo attacks and Batman can even perform a number of acrobatic moves that are pretty fun to pull off. Yet after awhile the same moves just becomes too repetitive so you’ll certainly be glad Batman has a number of neat gadgets to use. Aside from the computer hack tool there’s the Batarang that’s useful when you want to drop a load of crates near enemies and an HF Transponder that calls a swarm of bats to distract the enemy. You can even use your grapple hook to make quick escapes. Yet even with this combat doesn’t seem as challenging and since you use stealth to take out the armed thug first there’s hardly a time when you’ll get beat to death in this game.

Breaking up the stealth-beat-’em-up are two levels that have Batman driving his ultra cool Batmobile tumbler. It is here that you’ll be chasing down bad guys, ramming them off the road for some spectacular crashes that won’t fail to make you wince at its destructive nature. The Batmobile handles great, leaving gamers to concentrate on the turbo-charged thrashing you’ll do in this game. Really, it’s one of the highlights of the game. The game even recreates the sequence in the film when Batman is attempting to save Rachel (Katie Holmes) from the effects of a lethal dose of a hallucinogen.

Control-wise, the game feels right at home on the GameCube yet what will sure to be a major turn-off is the fact that the game has the tendency to lead you by the hand. Sure you’ll find areas within a level that will have you wondering how to proceed next but there’s always a hint marker that points you in the right direction. If that wasn’t enough, your faithful butler Alfred chimes in via communicator and doesn’t fail to come up with a solution to a problem or offer helpful advice on how to proceed. Yet as it stands, Batman Begins plays far better than last attempts at bringing us a game true to the Batman franchise (just try to forget the nightmare that was Batman Forever for the SNES).

Visually speaking, Batman Begins is one gorgeous-looking GameCube game. It comes close to rivaling the sharp, detailed visuals of the Xbox version. Aside from the cool visual effects and the neat rendering of Batman himself, all the supporting characters look a lot like the actors that portrayed these characters on the big screen. Even if you haven’t seen the movie you’ll easily pick out Liam Neeson’s character or even Katie Holmes the very second they make an appearance. Even the environments look great despite the fact that the majority of the game takes place at night. My only major gripe is with the bits of actual film footage  ... it’s choppy, grainy and the sound is stifled.

Another of the game’s strongest points comes in the form of the sound. With a major portion of the movie’s cast providing the voices of their characters we get original dialogue that’s handled beautifully. Christian Bale’s Batman is voiced menacingly to the point that you can see why some of the bad guys begin to cower in fear and getting an earful of Michael Caine (as Alfred) throughout the game is a major plus in my book. There’s even the movie’s great score playing throughout the game. The soundtrack certainly makes up for the stifled sound effects ... I mean Batman’s punch doesn’t sound as good as it should and calling an army of bats just produces ho-hum flapping of wings.

No doubt about it, Batman Begins is the best GameCube game based on the Caped Crusader thus far but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect either. It’s rough around the edges in terms of the stealth portion of the game and the fighting becomes a bit repetitive despite the cool gadgets Batman has at his disposal. Yet with dazzling visuals, extremely fun Batmobile levels and talented voice work, this is a game you shouldn’t miss if you loved the movie or all things Batman.

#Review Scoring Details for Batman Begins

Gameplay: 7.5
While the game mixes sneaky stealth mechanics


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