Though not without its share of flaws, Batman: Vengeance for the PlayStation 2 was the best Batman game in years, and it's now arrived for the Xbox and GameCube as well. The game is essentially a straight port with only a few minor enhancements, most of which are graphical (thus, you'll find this review to be much the same as those of the other versions). While there's nothing here that would warrant picking up this version if you already own the PlayStation 2 or GameCube editions, the Xbox version slightly edges out its brothers.
For those keeping track of continuity, Batman: Vengeance is based on Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's smart and stylish cartoon series, rather than on Tim Burton's and Joel Schumacher's films or on DC Comics' comic book series. You play as the "dark knight" himself and enjoy access to all his wonderful toys, including the batmobile, batplane, and batarangs, just to name a few, and you'll need them all to fight the enemies you'll face, such as Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and, yes, The Joker. Without giving too much of the game's storyline away, The Joker has apparently set a plot in motion from beyond the grave, and you're obliged to play along in order to uncover his plans.
There are many different gameplay modes in Batman: Vengeance, but most of the time you control Batman from a third-person perspective. You can run, jump, and glide through 3D polygonal environments as you have in many other games, but that's just the beginning. You can position Batman flat against a wall in order to sneak up on an enemy or peak around a corner, as in Activision's Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. Or you can shift into a first-person perspective to throw batarangs at opponents or fire a grappling hook to gain access to areas that are higher than or further away from you. Other modes have you driving the batmobile through the streets of Gotham City, flying the batplane above them, or diving down from tall buildings in order to catch falling civilians before rappelling to safety.
Picking a fight with a thug will shift the action into a 2D/3D fighting mode where combat consists of punches and kicks, powered-up combinations of those two, and supermoves that you learn as you progress. The fighting is simple and straightforward, but it's done well enough to be entertaining and only becomes frustrating when multiple onlookers sucker punch you from behind. A typical encounter with foes consists of entering a room where a few thugs are perched on catwalks. You throw batarangs at them to knock the machine guns out of their hands and then engage them in hand-to-hand combat, handcuffing them once they're down so they don't get back up to fight you again. Add platform jumping, puzzle solving, boss encounters, and some of the other aforementioned modes to the mix, and you've got Batman: Vengeance. The variety found in Batman: Vengeance is easily the game's best feature. Unlike Acclaim's Batman & Robin (which also had a diverse selection of modes), though, most of the modes come off passably or well. Of course, since the game is neither a dedicated fighting game nor a first-person shooter, those features don't compare to games that only involve those elements, but they get the job done nonetheless.