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In Memory
Sean Pettibone




       

 

 


 

 

Mixing Tomb Raider style action, Metal Gear Solid style stealth and high octane action sequences with the allure of the Dark Knight, Ubi Softís Batman Vengeance is also notable for making excellent use of cel-shaded graphics, helping to give the game its own unique feel that apes the popular retro look of the popular cartoons a few years ago. Unfortunately, it doesnít live up to its promise and its innovative ideas are undermined by subpar controls and frustrating level designs. Still, does this mean the game is a total waste, or is it worth playing despite the fla ws?

While it doesnít live up to the full extent of its potential, Batman Vengeance is a decent and somewhat enjoyable adventure title. While it falls a bit short in some key areas, itís still one of the few comic-book titles that successfully makes you feel as if youíre actually involved in the story. The plot is quite interesting and unfolds at a good pace. The graphics are superb and crisp, with excellent animation. Evoking the retro-chic 1940ís look of the recent cartoons, the atmosphere and plot behind this bat-tale is quite involving and is only better because the excellent voice acting and extensive cinema sequences actually tell a compelling story for a change, one that should keep players engaged for quite some time. Taking the role of the Caped Crusader, the game is an action-adventure title that mixes Tomb Raider with Metal Gear Solid. It has a similar structure to those titles, in that players will find themselves having to leap from place to place and also need to master the art of stealth in order to succeed. Thereís a higher quotient of action as Batman has plenty of hand-to-hand combat with enemies and resembles a fighting game in these areas. While this mix of styles might seem incongruous, the game effectively switches from first to third person mode as you traverse the streets of Gotham City depending on the situation. This helps to make things easier.  

Players will also be pleased that many of Batmanís trademark moves and weapons like the Batarang, Batgrapple and Batlaunchers are included in the game. Each one has a distinct use, and is appropriate to the characterís lineage and history. These are all cool devices and give the you a real sense of the characterís power and abilities. Batman Vengeanceís interface and controls are surprisingly intuitive which makes using these simple and fun. Batman is physically strong as you may know, and is quite effective at ground level combat. He uses this ability along with special items such as Flash bombs, electric Batarangs, and Batnets to fight the villains as he pursues his ultimate goal, the Joker.  With all of the different abilities at your disposal, a good control interface is crucial in making or breaking the gameplay. Some of the moves are overly complex because they require multiple steps to complete. Using the various techniques and weapons gets more intuitive as you go along but youíll need patience to really get comfortable with the mechanics.

Whatís really surprising are Batmanís fairly sophisticated tactical abilities such as a sniper weapon, which is devastatingly effective. Thereís also crawling ability with a stealth mode for sneaking around which adds a touch of MGS to the experience.  Players also engage in extensive hand-to-hand combat with the more thug-like enemies and can use the batcuffs to subdue them. Batman can also glide with his cape across vast chasms. You can also communicate with Batgirl and use other specialized abilities throughout the game. Batman Vengeance also allows you to take the controls of some of the heroís famous vehicles such as the Batmobile and the Batcopter when the time comes, and these sequences are some of the most exciting and fun in the entire game, though you need to be patient with the first few slow levels to get to them. These different modes flow together nicely, making for an excellent balance between strategy, action, and challenge. It must be said however, that some of the earlier levels are a bit dull which isnít helped any by the long stretches between save points.

Graphically, Batman Vengeance takes good advantage of the GameCubeís processing power, though it isnít going to set the world on fire. The visual design of Batman Vengeance is excellent throughout with a good consistency that makes for a believable world. The simple cel-shaded graphics look razor sharp and this helps you to feel like youíre in the caped crusaderís shoes. The creatively designed weapons look fantastic and makes his extensive abilities more believable because their presented in a believable context. While itís not perfect, for the most part the angles used are excellent. For example, the camera automatically switches from third to first-person view when you aim your grappling device. Unfortunately, as usual, there are still some areas where its hard to get your bearing and figure out where you are. This leads to some frustrating sections where it seems impossible to figure out what the next step is. Luckily, the designers have reconciled this by implementing bright bat-icons which appear in the area youíre supposed to get to. This isnít always simple, since locating the icons can be a struggle in and of itself.  

For the most part, the game is well designed, but has a few additional flaws that detract from the overall experience. Some of the level designs are a bit muddled and confusing with objectives that seem to be difficult for no real reason, making it hard to figure out what to do next. Additionally, despite its versatility the weapons system is convoluted making it hard to switch and use weapons, each one has its own control scheme, which makes using them on the fly too difficult at points. Controlling the camera angles isnít effective at certain points and the game blocks your view at critical points no matter what you try. This hurts the gameplay substantially making Batman Vengeance overly difficult and frustrating. If you can overlook this, its still a solid game, but far from perfect.

If you have the patience the problem can be overcome and the good points generally outweigh the less than stellar elements. Batmanís many skills make the game enjoyable and thereís been some thought into creating a cohesive plotline thatís actually interesting for once. Itís not as complicated as MGS but it still does much more than most superhero games do. Thereís a good balance in the levels which offer both strategic and action-oriented play, though theyíre a bit long and can get tedious with excessive reliance on jumping and multiple platform puzzles which punish the player for small errors. The obstacles, puzzles and boss confrontations are quite challenging but the game doesnít really become excessively difficult until later on. The Gamecube controller works well with the 3D interface though the complexity and inconsistency of the interface can become occasionally frustrating. There are some areas where things bog down with save points which are spread too far apart. For the most part, this is a decent title that is faithful to the source material. Itís a shame more time wasnít taken on this title, because there too many elements that feel rough and awkward. Adjusting the controls and interface could have made this a brilliant game. In the end however, itís a close call but the game is merely good when it could have been brilliant. The most frustrating thing about it is that the potential of Batman Vengeance is visible in its many cool ideas but the experience doesnít quite reach the heights it should have.