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Batman Vengeance

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Ubi Soft
Publisher:  Ubi Soft
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  10-2-02

Fans of Batman: The Animated Series should be glad to know that Ubi Soft has chosen to resurrect the popular series in their new (if inexplicably titled) GameCube entry: Batman: Vengeance (I guess the word "vengeance", while completely irrelevant to the game itself, has been deemed scary enough to resonate with post-millenial culture and appeal to the desired marketing demographic). The game features many of the voice actors from the show and retains the show’s trademark blocky, cartoonish animation style, despite being in 3D.

In Batman: Vengeance, you’re given the chance to be the Dark Knight himself – at least for a few hours. It starts off with a rescue of a mysterious girl named Mary. She informs Batman that her son has been kidnapped and it’s up to the "world’s greatest detective" to unravel the mystery with the aid of Batgirl (sorry, BG fans, she isn’t playable). Along the way you’ll have to deal with the Joker, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and countless henchmen of the nondescript and faceless sort that all insane master criminals seem to be continually surrounded with.

Of course, being Batman means you get to wield his weapons and vehicles as well: all or most of the more famous utilities from his seemingly bottomless batbelt can be utilized, including batarangs, flash bombs, remote charges, nets, batlauncher, batgrapple, and the ever useful (if all too scarce) handcuffs. Use of these items is tough to get a handle on at first, with the switch between views becoming something of an issue in situations where, for example, you’re trying to throw something, and being attacked from behind at the same time.

Most levels demand their goals be completed in a precise fashion (and don’t you dare deviate a fraction from the expected behavior), which naturally makes the game far more linear and derivative (not to mention lazily designed) than desired. Perhaps I would rather throw batarangs or remote charges on Mr. Freeze himself, instead of planting countless remote charges on the moving objects above Mr. Freeze and pray that he walks under them so that I can blow them up and have them come crashing down on him. The game had to have been designed by a right winger – "there’s only one right answer, dammit, and you can’t get the same results as I do doing it differently than I do!". As anyone of any intelligence is well aware, this sort of argument is crap, as is the game design on Batman: Vengeance. Grow up, people, there’s a big world out there waiting for ya.

Driving the batmobile and the batplane is more of a chore than adventure. The sad part, naturally, is that you spend most of the game doing this, with only a small portion devoted to the fun stuff like fighting the big guns (or even beating on thugs) or my favorite part, where you fight your way through a moving train. The (endless, constant) missions that involve the Batplane and Batmobile are taken straight from the pages of every bad racing and flying game you’ve ever played - you know, the ones where you spend more time hitting objects that get in your way than actually driving or flying.

The fact of the matter is, all the money and effort put into Batman: Vengeance went into licensing the character likenesses and designs from Warner Bros. and DC, and in getting some of the actual voice actors from the series to make their all-too-brief appearances in the course of this otherwise painful and poorly designed excuse for a game. Somewhere between 65% and 80% of the total gametime is devoted to extremely long, difficult to navigate chases involving the batplane (which has all the maneuverability of a flying tractor trailer), batmobile (which moves with all the speed of a U-Haul), or ludicrous jumping exercises (and I won’t even mention the absurd freefall to save Harley in the first "episode"). Best of all, several of these "chases" involve multiple checkpoints (we’re talking in the realm of 10-12 here, not the 2 or 3 you might expect), which even without a single error/restart (a highly unlikely proposition, given the maneuverability and speed of the vehicles in question) should take in the realm of 5 minutes playing time per mission. The rest of the game is devoted to silly jumping, sneaking, and sliding scenarios through areas populated by armed henchmen who shoot at you from a distance while you’re attempting to navigate your way through – in other words, they blew their load on licensing, and then took the cheapest, fastest, laziest way out imaginable with the rest. In effect, there’s less than a half hour of the kind of gameplay fans are buying the damn thing for – the rest is bargain basement-quality padding. Cute graphics; it’s nice to look at and listen to (just like you’re living out an episode of the series!); but the torments of hell to endure in respects to actual gameplay. If you’re a fan, you’ll love it. If not, stay away. Stay far away.

Highs:

  • it’s based on Batman: The Animated Series, and it’s got some of the more popular bad guys. How can you go wrong?
  • nice graphics and familiar voices capture the feel of the series perfectly
  • well, it’s definitely the best Batman video game I’ve seen in a long time, for what that’s worth…

Lows:

  • switching between first and third person is tough to get a handle on, to say the least
  • if this is any indication of what it would be like, I could do without ever flying the Batplane (Bat-Tank?) or driving the Batmobile (Bat-Mack truck?)
  • completely asinine missions and tasks (and a hell of a lot of mindless jumping, the bane of gamers everywhere) take away from the fun.
  • it’s too short!

Final Verdict:

If you were a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, you’ll want to pick up this game, regardless of my warnings. You might be tempted to pick it up even if you weren’t a fan – after all, Batman’s cool (as are the Joker and Poison Ivy). Hell, even Mr. Freeze isn’t too lame. But gameplay? Best look elsewhere…

Overall Score: 6.0 (7.0 for graphics, 2.5 for gameplay)

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