Batman Begins PlayStation 2
Published by EA Games
Developed by Eurocom
Release Date: Out Now
Batman Begins, an introduction.
Whilst there have been many Batman movies there haven't been that many Batman games. The last Batman game I played was on the ZX Spectrum 48k which was around 20 years ago. The movies on the other hand have been plentiful if not always good. The latest movie, Batman Begins, tells the story of how it all began. It explains how Bruce Wayne saw the murder of his parents and took it on himself to train with Ra's al Ghul's League of Shadows. However, when Bruce is ordered to kill a prisoner to complete his training he decides instead to finish off Ra's al Ghul and destroys the Himalayan base that houses the League of Shadows. From that moment on Bruce Wayne decides to tackle the criminals of Gotham City himself.
What's the game about?
Essentially Batman Begins is the game of the movie and the story closely resembles the movie (unlike most games based on movies where there are usually substantial differences). The game is a mix of third-person combat and stealth with a smattering of platform game action. You'll also have a few missions where you'll be driving the Batmobile. There are three difficulty levels which are easy, normal and challenging. In an attempt to make things interesting the game adds the concept of fear and intimidation which, when used to your advantage, can make taking out enemies easier. Aside from the main game you'll have access (once unlocked by playing through the main game) to interviews, movie footage and alternative batsuits.
What's good about the game?
The most promising aspect of Batman Begins is that it captures the atmosphere of the movie very well indeed. The game also tries to do something different by using fear and intimidation as a weapon against your enemies. When you tackle an enemy, nearby enemies who can see you will become more frightened of you (each enemy has their own heart beat rating and if they are afraid they aren't so efficient when attacking you). Most of the time you can also interact with various items in order to scare your enemies. You also have a reputation rating (that appears on screen as a gauge) that rises when you frighten an enemy. A higher reputation will mean that you can intimidate enemies more easily. Deaf gamers will be pleased to know that the onscreen radar shows the position of your enemies and the locations of objectives. Hearing gamers will probably feel this dilutes the stealth elements in the game but at least there is not so much of a reliance on hearing your enemies, which is beneficial to deaf gamers.
What's not so good about the game?
The game is far too linear and offers little replay value. Whilst the fear and intimidation factors are nice they don't make as big an impact on the game as you would hope. The actual combat is very simple (basically a kick, punch and block move along with a context sensitive action performed with the circle button sums up the combat) and to those who regularly play action games there isn't any real challenge here. Similarly the stealth aspects of the game are diluted and lacklustre. Those of you who have honed their stealth skills on either of the Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell series will be disappointed with the stealth aspects of Batman Begins because it's too simplistic. The game is also quite short and with little replay value it's not a game you'll play through again and again.
How does it look?
Batman Begins looks OK, and the presentation on the whole is good, but there are some rough edges. As we've mentioned already the game does a great job of being faithful to the movie and the look of the game is spot on in this respect. There's a lot of atmospheric lighting effects and blurring etc. that accentuates the action. The lighting effects aren't as impressive as those found in the Splinter Cell games but nevertheless it still looks good. The character models look good and for the most part they animate quite well although there are some strange animations that look odd. You'll also see enemies just vanish after being finished off, which is disappointing. The game weaves movie clips in between the game chapters and it works quite well. Certain special moves have their own mini-cutscene which adds to the movie-like feel of the game. The game does suffer from slowdown but it's nothing that takes away from the overall experience. The game camera is generally well behaved although it can be a little cumbersome during battles against multiple enemies.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Batman Begins offers both movie and in-game subtitles. You'll have to enable them in the sound options though as they are not enabled by default. The movie clips are shown in a letterbox format with the subtitles being shown in the lower border. In-game subtitles are colour-coded for enemies and with important characters such as Batman and Alfred you'll see their names next to their subtitled speech. The movie subtitles are not colour-coded and don't have character names next to the speech. Tutorial messages are shown in text. An envelope icon appears onscreen (on the lower left of the screen) to indicate you have mission details, notes and control information. These details can be accessed by pressing the select button. The game uses a checkpoint save system and thankfully you are notified in text when a checkpoint has been reached so you'll know when it's a good time to save your progress. It was great to see the interviews (in the bonus section) subtitled. Some, but not all, of the movie footage in the bonus section was subtitled too.
I have mixed feelings about Batman Begins. On one hand it's too linear and too simplistic but on the other hand it does a good job of being true to the movie (something you can't say about games based on movies). It's disappointing that the combat and stealth aspects are too simplistic. The game is also rather short and it shouldn't take much more that 5 or 6 hours to complete. Even with these complaints taken into account though, it's a game that you'll probably appreciate if you've enjoyed the movie and if you don't play usually play games of this nature, there won't be much here that will cause any difficulties.
Overall Game Rating: 6.9/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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As a movie tie-in, it does it's job very nicely and Batman fans are definitely advised to pick up a copy. However, considering it purely as a game, Batman Begins is rather lacking in substance and variety.