Super Types

November 25, 2010

The Comics Console: Batman Begins

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here are just a few things I have to give thanks for!

In 2005, a game like Batman: Arkham Asylum was merely a wet dream lost in the deepest fantasies of Batman fans everywhere. The most exciting Batman experience in a video game at that point was Batman on the NES, a game well past its prime and much too difficult for the modern era of gamers, and the most recent Batman video game, Batman: Dark Tomorrow, while filled with great intentions, was hardly playable by most standards.

So while the wet dream fantasy continued of a new Batman film with a much darker tone than the previous two films (Batman Forever and Batman and Robin), plus a comic book relevant plot, Batman Begins was becoming a reality. However, Bat-maniacs were still underwhelmed and doubtful about the inevitable video game tie-in. And why shouldn’t they be? Modern video game movie adaptations were, and still are, mediocre at best, and a Batman game had never really wowed anyone before. With the stigma of being both a movie tie-in game and a Batman game, gamers and Batman fans had every right to immediately dismiss Batman Begins, but those who did may have missed out on the best Batman game ever. Until Batman: Arkham Asylum, that is.

Batman Begins

Publisher: EA Games/ Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Eurocom Entertainment
Released: June 14, 2005
Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
ESRB: Teen

Yes, I believe Batman Begins was, in 2005, the best Batman game ever, which admittedly isn’t really saying much. The problem with previous Batman games is they’ve always been made as beat-em-ups and platformers. Those games can be fun, but neither genre properly captures what Batman does or how he operates. Batman Begins was the first game to successfully make Batman the stealth predator of the shadows that he is, and this is where the game succeeds tremendously as a Batman game, but development and gameplay are what keep it from being a great well rounded video game.

That’s not to say the game is as poorly made as Batman: Dark Tomorrow, because the game is still fun, but flawed in some pretty basic ways. The biggest gameplay problem is that it’s just way too easy. In some ways the game itself practically guides you through each stage. But even though the game allows little freedom to plan your own strategy, as a Batman fan, I still got a kick out of sneaking across ledges, and silently taking out guards like I’m really Batman. Again, that’s where the game is great, but experienced video game players will see it for what it really is: a cheap Splinter Cell knock off. That’s kind of a good thing, because the ideal Batman experience should play similar to Splinter Cell, but you can’t help but notice how an opportunity to do something really unique was missed.

Along with the stealth elements, there’s some fun platforming, and, of course, combat. The combat system itself isn’t very exciting — just basic punches, kicks, and a few special finishing moves — but building up to big fights is very interesting. The game, just like the film, has the theme of fear. Implementing scare tactics on your enemies, making them drop their weapons, or just simply terrifying them, is a key part of the game. Doing things like knocking down large crates, or causing pipes to explode, or any other sort of mysterious havoc, fills your reputation meter, making enemies more afraid of you; the more they fear you, the easier they are to defeat. At times, the story will call for you to interrogate henchmen for information, and while interrogating them further than necessary will force them to admit some humorous personal details, it quickly begins to feel like a tired gimmick.

Of course Batman wouldn’t be Batman without those wonderful toys. Your Batarang and grapple gun come in handy when moving about your environment, and smoke bombs become available for use in combat. You have a computer hacking tool, and, again, like Splinter Cell, there’s a door lock picking mini-game, which could have been fun if it weren’t the exact same mini-game every time.

Batman’s most popular toy, the Batmobile, is featured in two levels, and while the idea of a Batmobile level is exciting, it’s my least favorite part of the whole game. These levels play exactly like EA’s Burnout games, complete with car take downs and power boosts. It would be a lot more satisfying if the Batmobile didn’t take damage so easily. You would think for the tank of a vehicle the Tumbler is, it could withstand some punishment, but apparently not. It’s fun at first, but quickly becomes dull, and a pain.

The plot to Batman Begins follows the film’s almost exactly. This was a big disappointment for me, because I was hoping, like other movie tie-in games, there would be room to expand on the story, and add something new. Like in the Spider-Man movie games, for example, when we got to face off against villains like Vulture, Shocker, Mysterio, and the Lizard, none of which were featured in any of the films, but made the games that much more special. It would have been cool to have side missions battling Clayface, or Killer Crock, or Man-Bat, or any of Batman’s other more fantastical rogues that weren’t likely to appear in Christopher Nolan’s super realistic Batman world.

The sound and voice work is one of the highlights of the game. Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Micheal Cain, and the rest of the cast reprise their roles, and all do a really great job. Cutscenes in the game are simply made up of clips right from the movie, which may sound lazy, but considering the story takes zero liberties, it works just fine. The few in-game rendered scenes, along with the graphics as a whole, are passable for the era, though frame rate tends to slow down on the PS2 version.

After beating the campaign there is little left to keep you coming back. After finishing each stage you unlock clips from the movie, cast interviews, and what-not, and finishing the game gets you some new costumes. Nothing special, really. Just the same costume with different colors. It would have been nice to have some secret unlockables sorted throughout the story mode, not only just for the fun of it, but for some kind of worthwhile replay-ability. And it’s a shame that no game companion for The Dark Knight was ever released (click here to find out why), but Batman: Arkham Asylum more than made up for it.

The ideal player for Batman Begins is the hardcore Batman fan; more specifically for 2010, the hardcore Batman fan who skipped this title originally, and is tired of Arkham Asylum. Obviously Batman Begins can’t compare to Arkham Asylum, but it’s a cool Batman game for the cheap price you’ll find it at.

For more segments of The Comics Console, click here!

Andrew Hurst


One Comment

  1. […] Interactive Entertainment has a lot to make up for as far as their movie games go, but at least Batman Begins, and Batman: Arkham Asylum were pretty good, so we know it is possible for WBIE to make good […]

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