While reviews of the film Batman Begins indicate that the caped crusader has made a turnaround of sorts on the silver screen, we can't say the same about him as a video game superhero. Yes, the new Batman Begins game from Electronic Arts and Eurocom certainly captures the fearsome new look of Batman as portrayed in the movie. And the inclusion of high-quality voice work from Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, and the other stars from the film also contributes a lot to the overall package. Unfortunately, the gameplay feels too much like a mishmash of several other well-known gaming franchises and ends up overly simplistic. While the game is still worth a look for Batman fans, you can't help but feel that an opportunity was missed to make something more special.
The star-studded cast of the film lent their voices and likenesses to the game.
The game's story follows the film almost exactly. You take the role of Bruce Wayne, whose motivation for crime-fighting stems from witnessing his parents' brutal murder in Gotham City. In Batman Begins, this passion takes darker overtones, and Batman must constantly balance his internal rage with his sense of justice. The game starts off in the Himalayas, where you learn the dark arts of being a ninja from a mysterious sect. Your mentor is a man named Ducard, voiced brilliantly in the game by Liam Neeson. As you reach the end of your training under Ducard and his odd band of ninjas, you're confronted with a moral dilemma. It's there that young Bruce Wayne decides that even his brand of angry vengeance has its limits, and he won't join in the sect's vision of bloodlust as justice against crime. From there the game's story shifts to Gotham City, where you uncover the mystery behind the trafficking of a mysterious hallucinogen.
As Batman you have a variety of moves and gadgets at your disposal. Much like Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher, you can skulk quietly, which allows you to sneak up behind unsuspecting enemies and dispatch them with special stealth knockouts. These aren't stealth "kills," however, because there's no blood in this game, and no one ever dies. You also have the benefit of a radar screen in the bottom left corner, which shows you the location of your objectives and the position of all nearby enemies (even the ones you can't see). From time to time you'll also see a picture-in-picture screen pop up, which can show you nearby conversations between enemies or a security-camera view. Unfortunately, the picture-in-picture screen causes horrible slowdown in the PS2 version of the game; the GameCube and Xbox versions don't seem to suffer this problem.
Batman is also quite an acrobat. You can climb up fences, double-jump and mantle up onto ledges, swing across wires, crawl across ceiling pipes, and grapple up to high places. With these abilities available to you, many of the levels are designed with minor environmental puzzles, forcing you to look around the rooms and buildings and find pathways, such as sneaking into Arkham Asylum without alerting the armed guards outside. This gives the game somewhat of a Prince of Persia flavor at times, but since the pathways in Batman Begins are completely obvious, making your way from point A to point B isn't nearly as satisfying.
The levels offer a decent mix of sneaking, combat, and environmental puzzles.
Combat in the game is predicated largely on fear--scaring your foes into letting their guard down. While the fighting system in the game lets you punch, kick, and do combination moves to fend off multiple attackers, you'll die quickly against enemies armed with guns. So when confronted with several gun-toting opponents, you need to figure out a way to even the odds in your favor. To do that, a simple fear mechanic is included in the game. Usually this involves simply blowing up nearby explosive barrels or using your batarang to knock over a conveniently located support structure to spill crates near a group of enemies.