The combination of straightforward stealth gameplay and the element of fear make this a suprisingly good game.

User Rating: 7 | Batman Begins PS2
The summer months are always a cause for drought when it comes to new game releases. Three whole months cluttered with budget-priced or movie licensed filler. Not that this is a bad thing, since people, myself included, like to go outside and bask in that thing that looks like the moon is on fire. Batman Begins, however, is a surprise - a diamond in the rough if you will. It manages to set itself apart from most of the other movie based games of recent years with some decent gameplay, nice visuals, and the entire movie cast backing it up to boot. It’s good if you come into it with zero expectations, but it’s definitely not perfect. Why do I feel like I sound like a broken record when I say that the story of Batman Begins follows the events of the movie, which really doesn’t seem to need any exposition, but I’ll do it just to make myself at peace. You are Bruce Wayne, the millionaire head of Wayne enterprises. After his parents are killed, he goes out on a (caped) crusade to rid Gotham City of the evil that’s plaguing it. The cops are corrupt, the commissioner is powerless, and only Batman can bring evil to justice. If EA needs someone to put some fluff to accompany the screenshots on the back of their boxes, I’m your man. The most surprising aspect to Batman Begins lie in its gameplay. While previous titles have been straight brawlers, Batman Begins opts for stealth action, to which it succeeds to an extent. While the stealth elements are all there, they don’t offer as much variety as say, the Splinter Cell or Metal gear games in terms of offering a different game each time you play; it is instead reduced to linear trial and error gameplay which feels limiting, but given the world it’s taking place in, it can be partially forgiven. The game starts with Batman pursuing the Scarecrow in a burning building and getting a face full of his fear dust. Disoriented, Batman manages to fall out of a window which prompts a flashback to how he got in that situation in the first place starting with his initial training in the far east and eventually getting into the rubber suit and cape. There’s more to the gameplay than sneaking up and taking out foes, however. The game uses an interesting element of fear to spice things up. You have a reputation meter that will fill up depending on your actions. You’re encouraged to always use your environment to your advantage where knocking down barrels or triggering crates to drop in the vicinity of enemies will scare them, in turn making them more vulnerable and adding to your reputation. If this sounds too cool to be true, well, it is. You’ll be lead along a linear path, while sneaking past groups of enemies that will be able to take you down in seconds, in order to get to these cool moments. Although you’ll find the same kinds of barrels, structures, and crates elsewhere, but you’ll only be able to trigger these events only in the areas they're scripted in. An option to be able to lure one or two guys into another room and scare them even more would have been nice. In the end, the game ends up feeling too scripted as these items are merely props sitting around a group of enemies. You can trigger events when you see a Batman icon onscreen and you’ll be able to perform different actions depending on the type of icon displayed. In order to perform an action, you’ll have to lock-on to whatever you want to manipulate. The problem is that you have to cycle through items and enemies with the directional pad in order to do what you want to do, or when you at least want to assess your situation. If someone ends up right next to you, you’ll automatically lock onto them and have to cycle through to the target, like a grapple point for instance. Mix this in with an uncooperative camera, and you’ll be investing a lot of time retrying levels. Since Batman is less like a super hero and more like a man this time around, life is precious and there isn’t a lot of room for mistakes. While Batman lets his fists do the talking, he wouldn’t fit the part if he wasn’t packing any interesting gadgetry. You’ll have smoke and flash bang grenades on hand to further confuse scared enemies in addition to optic cables to look under doors, an electro-hack device that will let you hack into machines, such as cranes, to use them, and of course, the grappling hook. Picking locks and hacking are made up of small mini games that consist of timing or plain button mashing, which help to break up the action. Interspersed between the game’s expansive levels are driving levels that are eerily similar to the road rage mode in Burnout 3. You’ll guide the Batmobile down the crowded streets of Gotham as you run thugs off of the road and gain boost. While these levels are fun, they just don’t do it as well as Burnout did. You’ll be hard pressed to fight to get thugs off of the road, as their cars seem to disintegrate as soon as you ram them. Then again, you are driving some sort of a tank after all. These levels usually end with a boss whom you’ll have to keep in your sights and shoot missiles at. Sure, these levels seem pretty pointless, but it breaks up and extends and otherwise short game. The game’s presentation is well done since everything has a very cinematic feel to it, which instills a sense of accomplishment despite the fact you went through an hour of linear path following to get there. In game cinematics are also done well, especially when interrogating certain baddies and using their fear against them. You’ll also get some really great cuts when your reputation is high where you’ll get a view from your enemy’s perspective of Batman looking more demonic than human, just based off of their fear alone. It’s really well done. On the other hand, levels are padded with a little more story exposition told through clips from the movie. While these help, the editing on them is pretty poor and they tend to cut off without any kind of fade and just jump around like some kid with ADHD. Visuals are a mixed bag. Batman is well done and the developers somehow kept him from clipping through his own cape, which is a normal occurrence for games these days. Additional characters all look good as well and look identical to their movie counterparts, especially Falchone in the first level. There isn’t much variety in the thugs you’ll be facing however, you’ll be fighting them for a number of successive levels, so you’d better get used to them. Environments are also pretty average and really don’t present anything special as far as details, unless abandoned warehouses and parking garages are your thing. Some objects display physics when hit, but quickly fade away after they bounce on the ground. If there’s one aspect Batman Begins excels in, it’s sound. Every major character from Christian Bale to Michael Caine to Morgan Freeman are backing their characters. Voice acting is well done, given that each actor is fresh off the movie set and has their character down pat, it really adds to the cinematic presentation overall. The same can be said for the score, which is appropriately moody for any situation you may find yourself in. The random goons do have a limited number of sound bytes and tend to get repetitive. Batman Begins is one of the more enjoyable movie games to come out in recent memory. With a combination of nice visuals, great sound, and the epic way the story unfolds all come together in a nice package, though it’s got its shortcomings along with it. Some great gameplay elements are here, but there’s just not enough freedom to go along with them to warrant anything revolutionary. If you enjoyed the movie (and really, who didn’t?) you’ll have a good time unlocking the bonus interviews with the cast and writers for some extra behind the scenes action. Judged on gameplay alone, the game falls on the short side and ends so suddenly that it can only be recommended as a rental if you’re not a die hard Batman aficionado.