Having recently regained my PS3, I looked back at my collection to see if anything took my fancy. Lots of great games there, but something different caught a my eye; a licensed movie tie-in! I know, groans all round. You’re right, with a few exceptions they aren’t usually very good. But this has Batman in it! And it’s based on my favorite Batman film! How could Batman Begins be bad?!
Well, Batman Begins on PS2 is not a good game. It has ideas that will go on to become good elsewhere, but it generally veers between mediocre and nonsensical.
Much like the film, you’re beaten over the head with the theme of fear. So you can say it’s faithful.
Perhaps the most positive way to describe the game is as a cross between Splinter Cell and a prototype of the Arkham games. You move between areas, figuring out the
best way one designed way to take on groups of enemies, with gadgets you gain as the game progresses. In quieter moments you communicate with outside help, and you get to drive the Batmobile. Sounds great!
With the main story beats intact (though somewhat clumsily executed), repeated use of the word ‘fear’, and the majority of the film’s cast providing voice over, you can’t argue that the game is faithful to the film. It builds on the gold/bronze/brown colour pallet effectively and you get hear CHRISTIAN BALE IN A VIDEO GAME. I also appreciate them lifting an unused idea of the Tumbler being sacrificed to take out the monorail. Some very awkward behind the scenes interviews show us the cast, of which Cillian Murphy is clearly the only one who plays video games. Everyone else looks bemused. Lots of scripted “I must say it looks good” moments, which is hilarious when instead Michael Caine just talks about how he can’t work his emails.
There are a lot of negative aspects though. It’s all a bit awkward, and a perfect example if the control scheme. You’re never quite sure if you’ve chosen the right item, or any item at all, and it’s not always clear if you can use them. On more than one occasion I tried to a smoke bomb to realise I couldn’t yet, and got smacked in the face. Locking onto enemies doesn’t adjust the camera, so I had to keep adjusting it myself. The entire fighting mechanic can work without blocking. Counters aren’t timed well either making them hard to pull off.
Despite it being an extremely linear game – the only thing off the beaten track is going 10 metres the other way to get a med pack – it’s not always clear what you’re meant to do.
The biggest problem is that you’re only ever given the illusion of being in control.
The Batman himself looks pretty good, though it’s odd seeing his suit bend in ways the real version never could. He does have a pleasingly nasty face on all the time, and he glides nicely too. I’m not so keen on how he runs and climbs – it’s very ungainly – but he can be intimidating and he does like shouting in thugs faces.
The Batmobile segments, with big arrows and fences showing you the way, sum up the games biggest problem; you’re only given the illusion of being in control. Each area has one way of being completed. Each group of thugs can only be intimated into dropping their weapons one way. Look past the top layer and it’s very shallow.
I’ve played worse licensed games, and WB clearly tried to to tie it in strongly to the film. I love that film, and Batman. but that doesn’t make this a great game to play.
There is one major positive I’d like to part on. Christian Bale’s Batman shouting “I WANNA TALK ABOUT BEARS AND RABBITS”. Say that in his voice and try not to smile.