Batman Begins Review

Nothing can strike fear into the heart of a video game reviewer like a new Batman game. Batman is undeniably one of the coolest superheroes, so you’d think that Batman games would be, well, some of the coolest video games around. Alas, due to some unseen and diabolical natural law of our universe, Batman’s appearance in a game is like some cosmic kiss of death that sucks all the fun out of it. About five minutes into your typical Batman game you begin considering cleaning the bathroom or visiting your local DMV office rather than continue playing. Yep, they’ve been that bad. This brings me to Batman Begins – the latest in a long line of Batman games, but one that has the potential to break the downward spiral. Why? Well, Batman Begins is based on the movie of the same name, a movie that faced the monumental task of saving a movie franchise that went from great to awful in the span of a few years and met the challenge. Could this mean that this game can also save a franchise from itself? Could this be the first really good Batman game?

Batman Begins the game has very strong ties to the movie that spawned it. The game’s story follows the film’s plotline very closely – so much so in fact that the game’s cutscenes are all video sequences taken straight out of the film. Since the movie was actually quite enjoyable, the game’s storyline is as well. In addition, the movie’s stars have lent their acting talents to the voices of the characters in the game and the voice acting is correspondingly top-notch throughout the game. But most of us don’t play games for their stories, right? It’s all about the gameplay…

Batman Begins plays both as a stealth-action game and as a fighter – think Splinter Cell with a lot of punching added. As often happens with cross-genre games though, it doesn’t do either one particularly well. The problem is not that the game is poorly programmed; it’s that it simply tries to hard to hold your hand throughout the game even though the game is not that challenging in the first place. Every time you enter a room or area every interactive is tagged with a cursor alerting you to its presence. You can even scroll through every interactive object and enemy in a room as soon as you walk through the door. Sure, you can swing on chains, shimmy up pipes, and knock platforms loose with your baterang, and Batman certainly looks cool while doing these things, but if the game tells you when and where to do each of these things you don’t really feel like you’re Batman as much as you feel like you’re making your way through a button pushing exercise. This feeling is compounded by the fact that the game is so linear and it’s almost as if you’re just along for the ride.

Things don’t change much when it comes to the fighting. You have punch and kick buttons as well as a never-needed block button, and defeating foes is simply a button mashing affair. After landing a few blows on an enemy, the game will pop up a notice that you should push the context-sensitive attack button which will unleash a special or finishing move. While these can be enjoyable to watch, once again the game tells you which move to do and when to do it. Strategy and skill have been completely taken out of the fights … and a lot of the excitement as a result.