Review: Batman: Dark Tomorrow
Posted 30 May 2003 at 23:08 by Bas
Can you imagine a console without a Batman title? The Dark Knight has starred on every Nintendo system since the NES and made his GameCube debut in launch title Batman Vengeance. Ubi Soft's game was not outstanding but it sold well enough to get a sequel. Batman returns in Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, but this won't reach Europe until the fourth quarter. Don't worry, in the meantime there's Kemco's Batman: Dark Tomorrow to keep all you Batman fans satisfied. Looks like it's Batman forever…
It's not like Dark Tomorrow is Batman Vengeance part 1½, though. Ubi Soft's Batman titles are based on the cartoon and Kemco has based their game on the comic. As its title suggests, Dark Tomorrow has a much gloomier atmosphere. Gotham City is an eerie place, as you move through dark alleys, misty docks, deserted factories and sewers. The graphics capture the atmosphere well. There are some nice aspects, for instance Batman's cape softly flapping in the wind. The game doesn't look very good though, especially characters could have used some more polygons.
The cinematic sequences are of very high quality. I had been warned that this game might disappoint, but after watching the fantastic intro, I couldn't wait to play. The cinematics are well directed and look beautiful. Environments, characters, the Bat mobile, it all looks amazing. The films are by far the best part of the game. Unfortunately, considering the rest of the game, even Super Monkey Ball 2's story mode cinematics could have achieved that. But more about that later.
Both the music in the cinematic sequences is and the in-game music is good. The last one, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, suits the game well, though tends to get a bit bland. The sound effects are satisfactory and the voice acting is also all right, but sometimes the in-game talk (Black Mask's "What's the matter Batman? Are you afraid?") Gets a bit repetitive. To the proud owners of a home cinema set: the game lacks surround support.
Commissioner Gordon has been kidnapped and Batman goes to the rescue. On his way he encounters some well known foes and eventually he has to frustrate the Most Evil Plan Ever. The storyline may be pretty standard, it's gripping nevertheless. The cinematics are not just there for your viewing pleasure: your objective for the next level is also made clear. During his missions, Batman is in contact with former Batgirl Oracle, who provides him with important information.
As a child, Bruce Wayne saw both his parents murdered before his eyes. Now he fights crime, but he has vowed never to take someone's life. That is very noble of course, but it doesn't make things easier for us gamers, as Batman's enemies do use machine guns. Fortunately, the average henchman is no kung-fu master and Batman can knock most of them out with a couple of kicks and punches. However, a couple of armed villains can be a problem, as you get shot before you even reach your opponents. To tackle those, Batman has to rely on his stealth skills. The L-button makes the caped crusader lean flat against the wall and enables him to peek around the corner (although the viewing range is ridiculously small). A couple of well-placed batarangs can take them out, but not for long. No matter how often you strike them down or throw a batarang in the back of their necks, enemies always get up again in no time. To permanently eliminate them, you have to cuff every single opponent. This gets really annoying, especially as you're putting batcuffs on a guy when the next one is already on his feet again emptying his gun on you.
Besides the items mentioned before, there Batman has some other batgear at his disposal. The medical kit and the batcable are useful, but you don't have to use the fingerlight, batgrapple smoke capsules and nightvision very much. It's still a nice addition to the game and helps to capture the Batman atmosphere.
I've been staring at the game's box for some while now, trying to figure out what this 'seal of quality' in the bottom right corner is doing there. Based on what I've written above, you might have got the impression that this game is rather enjoyable. Not spectacular in any way (well, apart from the cinematic sequences perhaps) but still an okay action adventure. Unfortunately the horrid controls and miserable camera system ruin it all.
Dark Tomorrow has a third person perspective. There game uses a fixed camera position, instead of a following camera like in Tomb Raider. The camera system is more like it's in Resident Evil games. This is a conspicuous choice for an action game, unless Kemco also wanted to emphasize the stealth aspect, so it would be more like a Metal Gear Solid game. The underlying idea of this game is unclear, leaving us with an ambiguous product. The camera makes this game almost unplayable at times. Even walking down a street can get problematic, as a sudden change of perspective can make you walk into a wall or in the opposite direction. It's a shame you actually have to use the radar in the top right of the screen (Kemco added a line that marks your steps so you can see where you came from) to navigate through a street. At the first boss fight, you'll probably get shot down a couple of times, just trying to determine where the shooting comes from. When you finally locate Black Mask (and you health meter hasn't reached zero yet), you run towards him only to find a change of viewpoint sending you in the wrong direction once again. Jumping or using the batcable can be a near impossible task, making this one of the most frustrating games I've played. An adjustable camera could have prevented a lot of misery. When using nightvision, the camera switches to first person mode, but this also feels awkward.
The controls are also weak. Walking and running isn't very intuitive, especially sharp turns are difficult. Jumping is difficult: half of the times Batman just reaches for the ceiling instead of making a long jump. The fighting is not too difficult, but it lacks a good way to defend yourself. Overall, it isn't half as intuitive as it should be.
In general, a lengthy game is a good thing. But with Dark Tomorrow, I'm not so sure. The game is of average length, but I can't imagine anyone would go through it again after defying the bad controls and camera once. There are few extra's to find, so I wouldn't bother.
Non Batman fans already got the message: stay far away from this game. To the Batman fans that are now secretly hoping it won't be so bad: there are some good moments, but far too few to justify a purchase. Even dedicated Batman fans should rent it first.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Crucial elements as controls and camera suck and not even Batman can do anything about that.