Review: Batman Vengeance
Posted 19 Dec 2002 at 01:18 by Andy
Batman Vengeance was one of the first European GameCube releases but I've been so busy over the summer months I've only just got around to actually playing it. It's not the only Batman title for the GameCube however as this Christmas will see the release of Batman: Dark Tomorrow courtesy of Kemco. Batman Vengeance is based on the animated TV series and it's taken the arrival of the Next Generation Consoles to really do justice to this type of game, in the visual department anyway. Looking at the screenshots on the box you get the uneasy feeling that this may be yet another title with incredible visuals but little else; although by the end of the review we'll hopefully know one way or the other if it's worth a rent, a purchase or simply to be used as a drinks coaster.
Visually this boasts some of the best graphics and animation I've seen on the GameCube and, in the context of the story, it really is the comic book brought to life in glorious 3D. Batman himself features fluid animation attached to every move regardless of his situation and his cape blows about in the wind constantly. The real highlights though are the FMV clips that link every single part of the story which rather than being a chore to view and laboured in their length you'll actually look forward to. This is mainly due to the fact that they've been given the same skill and care as the rest of the storyline and, as a real bonus, as soon as you've unlocked one of them it can be viewed at any time via the options menu.
The music and sound effects are of incredibly high quality and the whole audio department has something of a big budget movie feel to it. There's also the refreshing addition of professional voice actors speaking the story's dialogue and anyone who's sat through some of the truly terrible voiceovers from other video games will no doubt welcome this aspect of the game's audio.
Most of Batman Vengeance is a free roaming 3D adventure where you must use both brains and brawn in order to defeat the Joker and his hordes of aids and henchmen. Every one of the various episodes is set in a huge environment and as a result it won't always be obvious where to go or what to do. Fortunately you'll almost always be in touch with Batgirl who'll give you invaluable tips and point you in the right direction. Other help comes in the form of icons, which occasionally flash on the screen when you need to use one of your Batgadgets. These range from weapons such as Batarangs and Remote Charges to useful utilities like the Batgrapple or Batscope. I could spend a few paragraphs on listing their various uses but you'll very quickly discover the most effective way to use all your various items and if you don't there's always restart.
Everywhere you go in Gotham it appears that people want to stop you so mastering the various combat moves is one gaming aspect well worth getting to grips with. Interestingly in this game you'll almost always only knock enemies out so cuffing them before they regain consciousness means that they won't be able to follow you. Batman also has to use some of his famous vehicles but piloting the Batmobile and Batplane require very different series of controls and disciplines. These skills are only required occasionally during the game but really help to change the pace of the whole adventure as the Batmobile requires some very tricky driving and quick reactions and the Batplane becomes a 3D shooter.
Besides all the combat, driving and flying you'll also have to solve puzzles from time to time. These range from simple to absolutely mind-boggling. On the less challenging side of things you have to find a way to shut down three separate water flows in order to cross a bridge but the more mind bending puzzles include re-aligning three dimensional locking systems against a time limit. They are all manageable however and once you've worked out exactly how to solve them it's a lot less challenging if you have to repeat them. I mention the word 'repeat' as this links nicely to the game's one real flaw - the save system. The problem is that it's so long winded that anyone wishing to save their progress has to exit the game and then enter the save menu. This is further hampered by the fact that the actual save point seems to be completely random within your current level so you might survive a really tricky puzzle or battle only to find that you land before it on restarting the game in a later session.
The narrative and story line in Batman Vengeance is so good you'll find yourself being drawn into the whole world of Gotham City and its eclectic residents in very little time. To be honest this is one of the first games I've played in ages which requires 'just one more go' just to find out what's going to happen next.
Batman Vengeance features hours of gameplay and the areas are both challenging and varied but once you've completed the game there's little incentive to play it again. This is mostly due to the puzzle-based nature of the various episodes as once you've worked out the various challenges and cracked the combination locks there's little incentive to go back and retrace your steps. The only reason I can give to give this title a spin again is to view the rather wonderful FMV sequences.
Batman has never looked so good and for once the developers have taken as much care with the gameplay and story as they have with the overall presentation. The good news is it probably was worth your hard earned cash but as a flurry of new releases hits the shelves you'll no doubt pick it up for half price either used or in one of the many sales around at the moment.
N-Europe Final Verdict
The best Caped Crusader title yet but let's see what Dark Tomorrow brings.
Awkward Camera Angles