We slink through the darkness of EA's film-inspired return to bat action.
The highly anticipated Batman Begins is out next week, and it marks the first cinematic appearance of the Dark Knight sure to please hardcore fans of the comic book since at least 1992's Batman Returns. (C'mon, those Joel Schumacher movies don't exactly count.) Just in time for the release of the movie, Electronic Arts is readying an action game starring the Caped Crusader for all three major platforms, and we just got an advance build to see how it's shaping up. We're pleased to report that on first impression, Batman Begins furthers that recent, baffling trend of movie-based action games being, well, surprisingly good.
At first glance, Batman Begins looks like a simple character-driven third-person action game with heavy beat-'em-up elements. Indeed, there's a lot of that going on here: You've got punch and kick buttons that you can use to form combos, and when an enemy has been pummeled enough, you'll be able to do a flashy finishing move that makes the camera change to a cinematic angle. You've also got a spate of tools to work with, such as a grappling hook that will zip you up to greater heights and some electronic gadgets, like a hacking tool that will let you determine access codes and the like. The game uses a nice unified targeting system to highlight both enemies and environmental points of interest, so you always know what you can interact with in a given area.
In spite of all that, you might be surprised to learn that from a design standpoint, Batman Begins is largely a stealth game. You've got a radar that shows the range of sound you're making in terms of a circle around the dot representing your character. Enemies are represented with dots that are color-coded based on what kind of weapon they have, and you'll see a cone that indicates each enemy's field of view. You can put Batman into "stealth mode" at the touch of a button, which will make him walk around all stooped over and cause him to not generate any sound with his movements. This will let you get up behind single enemies and perform a single-button stealth kill, which is pretty easy to pull off as long as you're not too sloppy about getting too close.
Batman Begins melds this stealth gameplay with an innovative fear mechanic whereby you can essentially make enemies easier to defeat by scaring the living daylights out of them. You can do that in at least a couple of ways that we've discovered so far. For one, that radar display is useful for indicating which enemies are armed with what, because you'll naturally want to take down the guy with the Uzi before the guys who are just packing knuckles. We saw some instances where performing a stealth kill on the armed enemy would make his lackeys back away in fear, which allowed us to rough them up without a whole lot of opposition.
The other way we've found to strike fear into Gotham's criminal element is by manipulating specific elements of the environment. For instance, in a sewer area we were able to covertly fiddle with some valves to blow several pipes open, which spooked the thugs we were after and made them drop their guns. We were then able to move in and take them out hand-to-hand without a lot of difficulty. Only once so far have we used part of the environment to actually kill an enemy--by using a crane to drop some cargo on him.
Much more often, though, we've simply caused some kind of havoc in order to put the fear into our enemies and then moved in to take advantage of the situation, settling matters with punches and kicks. Batman Begins is very much a stealth game in one particular aspect: If you try to jump a group of armed thugs without any preparation, they'll gun you down without a thought--and it takes only a couple of shots before it's game over. Apparently the bat armor isn't all that tough after all.
- Release Date: Jun 1, 2005 (US)
- Release Date: Jun 14, 2005 (US)
- ESRB: TTitles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older.
- Release Date: Canceled (US)