|Batman Begins (2005)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube
Over the past few years, video games have become an inherent part of our society’s pop culture (whether you like it or not), so it’s only fitting that Christopher Nolan’s latest re-boot of the Batman franchise earns a video game counterpart. “Batman Begins,” which can be purchased for any of the top three gaming consoles, delivers a satisfying mix of action combat, stealth tactics, and arcade racing, but the player spends far too much time getting acquainted with the controls to fully enjoy the rich, shadowy environments that make up the back alleys of Gotham City.
One of the more interesting aspects of “Batman Begins” is the complete disregard to follow any linear narrative structure from the film. Instead, the game designers have created their own unique storytelling methods that, in the end, say the same thing, but in a much more creative and rewarding way. You’ll definitely still experience some major plot spoilers if you’re playing through the game before you’ve seen the film, but the brief use of scenes from the actual movie won’t ruin anything too important. The story follows Bruce Wayne as he develops his alter ego, Batman, and begins to clean up the streets of Gotham through the use of intimidation and fancy gadgets.
Fear plays the biggest role in the game, with Batman manipulating his environments to literally scare the enemy into submission. The higher the fear level in the area, and the more reputation you’ve earned throughout the stage, the easier the enemies are to defeat. To accomplish a majority of these feats, patience is required for Batman’s stealth-like movements. This is where the many comparisons to Ubi Soft’s “Splinter Cell” series come in to play, but the game doesn't really steal from the concept, but rather borrows from it. While the stealth aspects of “Batman Begins” are certainly reminiscent of the far better “Splinter Cell,” it isn’t as dominating of a feature.
The rest of the gameplay is only sub-par, with odd camera controls and a decent fighting system that usually doesn’t require more than simple button mashing to defeat your opponents. There are also a few glitches that I came across while going through the game, namely becoming stuck in walls while fighting off opponents in close quarters. One of the few saving graces of “Batman Begins” are the stages with the Batmobile, which allows the player to fully control perhaps the coolest car in film history. The car scenes play out a lot like “Burnout 3: Takedown,” with slo-mo crash sequences that make the player feel fully immersed within the game. It’s no surprise that it looks as good as “Burnout," since they are produced by the same company, but ultimately, there are just not enough Batmobile stages to quench your thirst for more high-speed recklessness through Gotham City.
The game is not nearly as long as it says it is either (with reports of upwards to fifteen hours of gaming, while I spent little more than eight completing it) but there are also plenty of unlockables that offer at least one more go around. Along with a Batmobile mini-game that allows you either replay the missions from the game, or test your driving skills on one of two time trial courses, three new Batsuits can also be acquired, as well as interviews with the cast, crew and game designers on the making-of the game.
“Batman Begins” may not be one of the best action-adventure games on the market today, but it’s certainly the best Batman title in a long time. While the controls can be quite tricky to get used to at first, you’ll quickly have the Dark Knight doing back flips over the competition. By far the best elements of the game are the incredibly textured, moody atmosphere, and the ability to get behind the wheel of the Batmobile, but are these reasons enough to go out and purchase the game? Probably not, but if you can find a friend who already has it, then it's definitely worth borrowing for a few days.