reviews\ Jun 26, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Batman Begins - PS2 - Review

Batman Begins (the movie) couldn't have been better. It had great actors, great dialogue, and a superb story with more depth than the last two Batman movies combined. The game has those same elements, telling the story with silent clips from the film and narration by Bruce Wayne. Fans will love this, especially those who see the movie before playing the game. They'll also love the polygon characters, who look eerily close to the real thing. "That's the Caped Crusader," is the thought that comes to mind when playing other Batman games, whose characters are poorly defined. In this game you'll look at Batman and say, "That's Christian Bale."

Batman Begins hits the nail on the head with top-tier PlayStation 2 effects. The movie sequences are closer to DVD quality than any other PS2 game I've played. Virtually every graphic technique we've become accustomed to is featured here: excessive (but very good looking) light effects and a cool bat suit with a semi-shiny finish. (Note: It's not an exact replica of the new bat suit featured in the movie.)

What struck me most was how Batman walks, runs, jumps, glides, etc. The way that he glides after a double jump – that's very Batman. The way he maneuvers in combat, performing acrobatic flips and Mortal Kombat-style jump kicks is not typical of him (Batman is a human superhero and has no special powers outside of his ability to save the world). For the first time in a game his attacks are as cool as Dante from Devil May Cry. When a character is that cool, you feel cool controlling him.

"Tell me what I want to know!"

By now you're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned the gameplay. Hang onto the Batmobile gamers, 'cause we're about to take a nosedive.

Batman Begins has three serious problems. First of all it isn't very long. I don't know about you but I don't like the idea of paying $9 to see a great two-hour movie and then be asked to spend $40 to $50 on a four- to five-hour game (it's shorter than that, but I inflate my time to compensate for lost lives, re-starts and the ever popular camera spinning). Yet this seems to be the trend among movie games.

Second, it isn't that fun to play. It isn't necessarily boring, but I'm not excited when I play it. I'm not excited to return. Combat consists of flashy moves that can be executed by pressing a couple of buttons. Hit square three times to punch, tap triangle to kick, and use the all-mighty circle button to break an enemy's defense. The circle button doubles as a multi-attack where Batman performs a spinning kick to stun two or more enemies. It's marginally better than Catwoman's analog stick combat system (where you point the stick in the direction of your enemy). To sum things up: the challenge is weak. The enemies are easier to defeat than the AI duds from Spider-Man 2.

Third, the driving portion stinks. It made for a great movie sequence but fails to deliver the same level of excitement at home. The developers borrowed Criterion's ingenious Takedown feature from Burnout 3, which could've resulted in a mind-blowing car chase. Instead we get a watered down mini-game with bad graphics, awkward steering, and very little speed. The picture blurs as the speedometer rises, though I doubt anyone will be fooled. Your speed hasn't been increased much, but the level of control drops along with the tiny bit of fun you might've been having before the mini-game started.

You know what they say about beauty, how it's only skin deep?

There wasn’t any need to include the Takedown feature. They don't advertise it. They don't use it properly. It doesn't enhance or change the experience in any way. Am I missing something?

From racing to the third-person levels, Batman Begins is a linear experience. You can go anywhere you want within the environment. However, the environments are designed like a course. You can go toward the goal or move backwards, nothing more.

That's another thing. When you're not punching thugs you're running around Gotham City. The movie answers our questions about the story, but as a game, what is my mission? I'm supposed to save the world, but why does every objective involve a locked door, a guard with a gun, and a badly constructed take on spy/espionage gameplay? I'm supposed to stay within the shadows – never be seen by anyone. The thing is they forgot to change the light source and erase Batman's shadow in one of the levels. The shadow stretches so big that there is no way the enemy did not see it. In typical videogame fashion, the enemy stays oblivious and will not attack unless you walk up to him.

Batman can use projectile weapons to cause explosions or to release a stack of barrels, scaring the guns out of nearby enemies' hands. They drop the weapons and do not attempt to pick them back up, even after Batman makes his presence known. They'll use crowbars, but not the guns.

"Oh no....nooo!!! Get away from me!"

Batman Begins prevails in theaters but fails on the home game consoles. Good graphics are only ignored when the gameplay is a full point or two below the graphic score. That's certainly the case here. The controls belong in a five-year-old Tomb Raider clone, not a new Batman game. And it's not like it always looks pretty – Batman Begins has its share of bad hair days, too.

Review Scoring Details for Batman Begins

Gameplay: 5.5
Designed for the mainstream audience, Batman Begins is as basic as an action game can get. This might sound crazy, but I found more complexity in the last Tomb Raider! The combos are weak; the missions are repetitive; and the combat system was taken from the Prince of Persia series.

Graphics: 8.0
The one redeeming aspect (sort of). Batman Begins has great effects like windows (the way light shines through them makes a nice yellow glow) and walls (the way the shadows wrap around them). It also has excellent videogame versions of the film's actors. You won't believe how real they look!

Sound: 6.5
Not the most outstanding comic book soundtrack.

Difficulty: Easy
If Batman Begins was solely a game property, this would likely be the end for the series. The destined movie sequel guarantees that another game will follow. May I request meaningful gameplay that has intelligent objectives and exciting combat?

Concept: 6.5
The attempt at diversity is admirable. The result is anything but.

Overall: 5.9
Great license, great movie, bad game. Batman Begins's low-budget gameplay doesn't cut it when the price tag screams big-budget motion picture licensed property. With the price of game rentals skyrocketing, I can't recommend it as a weekend killer. You'll beat it before the weekend's up, and then what? How many times can you watch the same movie clips? You'd be better off going to see the movie a second time.


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