I stand here at the till with two Batman games clutched in my hand. Just behind me, my girlfriend rolls her eyes mutters something about it being a waste of money and looks at games for the Wii. It is one of life’s great pleasures to root through comic, game and book shops looking for bargains. And so I have dragged my girlfriend in to have a look. The shelves are stacked with the latest games advertisements blare trying to show why I really need Infinite Black Death Call Up Duty 17. I ignore these and push further to the back that little section where few now venture. Here sit the games of those long forgotten consoles like the SNES or PlayStation and even the spawn of Satan’s loins the Xbox. I flick through them remembering why I liked Earth Worm Jim. When I find something I thought I would struggle to find yes the holy grail two Batman games. To find one is good but for two too surface is a miracle. Batman fans are that rare breed of collectors (like Star Wars) in that they hoard everything. It is a very rare thing to find a fan selling anything unless they have run out of room or have double of something.
This is how I find myself stood holding both of them in my hand at the till. Perhaps the games are common in the USA and on Amazon but I have only ever seen it twice in the UK once as a Xbox game and the other is the version I have just purchased for my PlayStation 2. I recently bought a PS2 after five years without one to replay some of the classic games of my childhood and I would certainly put the first game I have bought, Batman Begins, in to this category.
Batman Begins is to date the only game that has been based off of the current films directed by Chris Nolan. While there was slated to be a Dark Knight game to be released as the film came out in 2009. This was quietly shelved in favor of Batman Arkham Asylum which in the end proved to be the better choice when one considers how well it has done and how anticipated its sequel, Arkham City, is.
The game itself follows the storyline of the film incredibly closely and expands on scenes and situations that are only briefly touched upon in the motion picture itself. These include how Falcone’s car is attached to the crane and how Batman enters Arkham and even give a brief sneak at some of Bruce’s training in the League of Shadows. There are some great nods also to the comic books that fans would have noticed such as stopping Zsasz and a young intern by the name of Harley Quinnzel. This adds to the game and is a testament to how carefully everyone has been treating the Batman franchise with the creation of Nolan’s films.
The graphics have naturally become dated and in the age of HD and, sigh and shudder, 3D. They fail to look as impressive as they were when they were released, which is why there maybe a lack of desire of kids to play the game again. However there are some excellent looking characters. All the main actors look almost exactly how they appear in the film this can be seen clearly with both Crane and Falcone who look identical to their actors counter parts. Yet there are still problems especially Batman who looks rather baby faced instead of the square jawed face of Christian Bale in the film. Batman also has a horrible habit of in some scenes looking like a stretched basket ball player so rather than looking intimidating looks like a 7ft french bean.
Also when Batman hangs from ropes or poles rather than looking intimidating he looks more like he is a gorilla about to abseil down a cliff. The limitations also mean that the game is very liner in its play almost as if its on rails so that you are unable to explore or run off and do your own things. But as so few games of this period have that then it seems to be something you can forgive.
There is alongside these, it maybe my poor game skills, the gadgets you are given don’t work half the time once you have an enemy suitably terrified just to tip it over the edge by using a smoke bomb or flash bang you can’t and to do so you have to get so close they spot you and it becomes useless. This mars the gaming experience as it becomes a case of knock something over then run and punch them and hope they don’t shoot you. This is hampered more by the fact the batarangs are useless unless you want to cut a rope.
But these faults should not put you off a true Batman experience. It is one of the few games that allows you to scare the villains as much or as little as you like. By knocking things over taking out someone or simply dropping a grenade into their midst allows you to paralyze them and helps take them out. Remind you of any other games. Yes it is a very similar feature to that which was so successful in Arkham Asylum and Batman Begins was cited as a direct influence by the makers of it when looking at what kind of play to use. Further to this and something that was missing from Arkham is the new ability to interrogate your opponents. A simple button tap has them spilling their secrets to you after which you can dispatch them with great style such as kicking them off a great height.
When fighting, it allows you two options either to sneak up and stealthily take them down from behind and not draw attention to yourself. Or if that fails Batman has some impressive skills to help you dispatch your enemies. My favorite has to be the multiple foe attack where Batman spins around and kicks his opponents sending them flying. This variety allows you to chose and it means that you are allowed to make it feel more personal and much more Batman in style. However this is if the camera allows you to do so as some times when in a position it has a mind of its own and to try and see the villains up ahead you accidentally expose yourself which can get very frustrating at times.
But I would not let these faults put you off what is an excellent game. If your a fan of either the films or Arkham Asylum you would do well to pick up this very engaging game. Its unique game play makes it streaks ahead of some of the other games on offer.
Played it or want it? Go on to the forums and let us know what you think. Also don’t forget to check out The Batman Universe Podcast for more gaming news and get hold of the back catalog for the double feature on games from The Batman Universe.
Editor’s Note: While the podcast did feature a double feature of the video games, the feed is currently being fixed and those two episodes will be available in the near future.