Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu Preview

The caped crusader is back and is facing his deadliest foe. Our full preview gives you the scoop on what you can expect out of the next Batman game.

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Ubisoft's last game to star Gotham City's caped crusader, Batman, was Batman: Vengeance from 2001. That game was considered by some to be one of the best Batman games in years, thanks to its solid gameplay system, as well as its art and audio design. Next month, Ubisoft will release its next Batman game, Rise of Sin Tzu. The game will feature more of a beat-'em-up style of gameplay, pitting you against a multitude of thugs and villains, as well as Sin Tzu, a brand-new supervillain in the Batman universe, created by famed comic book artist Jim Lee. We recently had the opportunity to play early versions of the game for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube.

The dark knight has returned to defend the streets of Gotham City from a new and evil threat: Sin Tzu.
The dark knight has returned to defend the streets of Gotham City from a new and evil threat: Sin Tzu.

At the beginning of the game, you're immediately introduced to the game's titular villain, as a narrative featuring the villain's cold and calculating voice reveals his plan of attack. Apparently many of Sin Tzu's sinister strategies are inspired by philosopher Sun Tzu's The Art of War. The villain orchestrates a massive prison riot, as well as a breakout at Arkham Asylum (the detention center for most of Gotham City's most deranged criminals), spreading the city's police forces thin and resulting in widespread chaos. The introductory sequence then cuts to a scene with the dark knight himself, who is standing in an alley and placing a pair of roses down on the street, presumably because he's revisiting the site of his parents' murder--the very event that inspired millionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne to become Batman. But our hero doesn't have much time for reflection; he receives a report from Commissioner Gordon about the troubles in the city and heads off to save the day.

In Rise of Sin Tzu, you don't just play as Batman--you can also play as the "new" (and very young) Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing (Dick Grayson, also known as the former Robin). Each character has a unique fighting style. For instance, Batman is much slower than the rest, but he has the most powerful attacks, whereas the Boy Wonder is incredibly quick, but, in turn, he deals less damage with each hit. Basic controls for your character include punches, kicks, grabs, and jumps, along with a projectile attack, a block, and a dash attack. Each basic attack can be strung together into a simple three-hit combo. However, as you play, you'll earn points that can be used to unlock new combos and attacks, which will eventually let you put together much lengthier and more-impressive combos. Each character also has a special combo attack that can be activated by pressing and holding either the punch or kick button after a meter at the top of the screen fills up.

Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is a beat-'em-up in the truest sense of the word. You don't collect items or solve complex puzzles. Instead, you take on wave after wave of bad guys, simply trying to mow through them in a timely and efficient fashion. There seems to be a pretty decent variety of generic bad guys in the game, each with different methods of attack--but generic bad guys aren't the only foes you face. Some familiar faces present themselves during the game in the form of boss fights. These include Clayface, Bane, and the Scarecrow--and there has apparently been no love lost between these powerful villains and our team of heroes.

However, the single-player mode isn't the only thing that Rise of Sin Tzu has to offer; the game has several other modes as well. Challenge mode is a one- or two-player mode in which each player takes on a series of thugs, and your goal will be to either beat a certain number of them or simply survive for a set amount of time. The game also has a trophy room in which you can use tokens gained in the story mode to unlock 3D models, toys, concept art, and graphic novels. The GameCube version of the game supports connectivity with the Game Boy Advance version, and by playing through the GBA version, you'll be able to unlock thug galleries, as well as bonus points for your heroes in the GameCube version.

Rise of Sin Tzu is a pure beat-'em-up that lets you pummel your way through some of the worst that Gotham City has to offer.
Rise of Sin Tzu is a pure beat-'em-up that lets you pummel your way through some of the worst that Gotham City has to offer.

Rise of Sin Tzu's visual presentation clearly follows that of Batman: Vengeance, in that it is styled after Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's cartoon version of the Batman universe. The game seems to look very good all around, and it has nicely designed environments that include many destructible elements, great character models, and some equally great cutscenes. For the most part, Rise of Sin Tzu looks equally good on all three consoles, though the PlayStation 2 version seems to have a darker look and a slightly lower frame rate than the GameCube and Xbox versions. The game's audio is also shaping up well and includes some nicely orchestrated renditions of the Batman theme and a decent in-game soundtrack. Nearly all of the regular cartoon voice talent appears to be in Rise of Sin Tzu, and the few actors who haven't signed on for the new game seem to have fully capable replacements.

Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu seems to be coming together quite well. Though the gameplay is pretty straightforward, the upgradable combo system, as well as the ability to play through the game as multiple characters, really gives the game a varied feel as you play. The game is scheduled for release in October.

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