Batman: Dark Tomorrow Updated Preview
We have another look at Kemco's unique take on the Dark Knight.
Batman games have been something of a crapshoot ever since developers first began trying to capture the Dark Knight in electronic form. Originally, the DC Comics icon was little more than a crude bundle of animated sprites. Fortunately, things have changed for the better as consoles have become more powerful. These days, the challenge facing developers is how to create a game that encompasses the character's many facets. The latest developer to try its hand at capturing the Dark Knight's appeal is Kemco, which is currently developing the multiplatform Batman: Dark Tomorrow. We had a chance to check out a build of the GameCube version of the game to see how the developer is faring with DC's dark poster child.
One of the most unique elements of the game is its source material. Batman: Dark Tomorrow marks the first use of elements from the Dark Knight's current comic run. The game's supporting cast features a collection of familiar faces that fans of the Bat books will recognize. You'll see former Batgirl Barbara Gordon in her new identity as Oracle, as well as her replacement in the batsuit, Cassandra Cain. You'll also see Alfred Pennyworth and Robin, among others. The assortment of villains gathering to cause trouble for Gotham doesn't require much of an update, as they're a pretty consistent bunch. You'll find a wide selection of the usual suspects in the game, such as The Joker, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, The Ventriloquist, and Black Mask. The thread that ties everything together is a storyline crafted in conjunction with DC Comics that keeps things nice and gritty. During a chaotic series of gang wars that are tearing the Gotham city apart, Commissioner Gordon is kidnapped. As if the raging gang wars and Gordon's disappearance weren't bad enough, trouble at Arkham Asylum threatens to unleash some of Batman's deadliest enemies into the ravaged city. Since moving to the more secure clime of Metropolis isn't an option in the game, it will be up to you to set things right and bring everyone to justice. Fortunately, the aforementioned supporting cast will provide you with helpful information as you make your way through the game.
While Batman: Dark Tomorrow's story is a cohesive work that features a nice assortment of plot twists, the gameplay is far more open-ended and will offer you a variety of things to do. You'll play the bulk of the game on foot from a third-person perspective, and you'll have to battle it out with an assortment of thugs using your hands, feet, and an impressive array of gadgets. You'll be able to use Batman's batcuffs, batarangs, smoke capsules, batgrapple, batcable, night-vision lenses, finger-mounted flashlight, universal tool, and medical kit, and you'll also be able to take the wheel of some of his trademark vehicles. In addition to engaging in the standard 3D brawling, you'll have to make use of Batman's detective and stealth skills. In some instances, kicking the stuffing out of everything won't do you much good. Instead, you'll have to use some old-fashioned investigation to find clues that will help you make sense of what's going on. The stealth sequences in the game follow the same sensibility and reflect Kemco's attempt to capture every aspect of Batman's behavior.
Controlling the Dark Knight is a fairly straightforward experience, thanks to the game's accessible control scheme, which works well when exploring and engaging in combat. You'll move with the left analog stick and look with the C stick. The D pad will let you cycle through Batman's available gadgets, and the X button will use the selected weapon. The rest of the face buttons handle his punches, kicks, and jumps. The Z button will let you toggle between two different types of sneaking--a medium height and crouching. The left trigger will let you put your back against a wall and then shimmy along it when you're trying to sneak around. The dynamic camera in the game uses set viewpoints that will switch on the fly when you're moving around, much like in Resident Evil or Devil May Cry, so you'll have to stay on your toes to ensure that you're going where you want to. The combination of 3D brawling, exploration, and vehicle control looks promising.
The game's overall presentation seems to be turning out pretty well. Batman looks quite sharp--especially his cape, which moves in a sporadic but cool fashion in this early build. It's obvious that a lot of attention has been paid to his character model, and while the model certainly does a good job of capturing his look, its animation could use some work. The same holds true for the big-name enemies you'll encounter. As for the environments, the gritty tone of the comics is capably re-created here thanks to intricate texture work, a host of environmental special effects such as fog and rain, and strong sound. The game's narrative is moved forward by CG sequences that are well done but stiffly animated.
Judging from what we've seen so far, Batman: Dark Tomorrow is striving to offer as true a reflection of the comic's sensibilities as possible, and the variety in the gameplay and the overall look seem to be pulling that off pretty well so far. Some of the game's mechanics could use some more polish, such as the combat, which feels a little too basic, and the camera system, which can be disorienting during fights with multiple opponents, but the game is definitely trying a unique approach to a Batman game. We'll be keeping an eye on the game to see how it all comes together. Look for more on the game as its fall release approaches.
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