Review by Red_Metal
Flawed, but not awful - Batman: Vengeance
Based on The New Batman Adventures cartoon series, Batman: Vengeance depicts Batman in a cartoon-esque yet serious style. This is the also the first Batman game released on a sixth generation console. Let's see how the game did.
Something I should emphasize right off the bat, is that this is not a movie-licensed game and while it's based on an animated series, it does not use a story directly taken from the series. It's got an original story and, if you're tired of tie-ins, you should have no complaints here. The story's okay, it's the usual Batman vs. Joker style, featuring Batman's iconic detective skills and some other well-known villains.
This game's graphics pay homage to the animated series. The FMVs look great and utilize the art style well. The first cinematic got me really excited to play, and other cinematics had some real charm to them, such as Joker and Harley's unusual antics. As for gameplay graphics, they're average. I know that, given the nature of the game's style, they're not intended to be clear-cut, but even for cartoon-style graphics in 2001, I've seen better. To be fair, there was effort put into the major character models and Batman and Joker look pretty good, just like from the cartoon.
Sound effects are alright. Not lacking, but not something that'll stand out either. They're just decent.
The music is good, and it has some good tracks to instill excitement in the player. Some tracks do a very good job at setting the mood. Some are intense, some are exciting, some are calm and slow; the music resembles the soundtracks used in the animated series.
As for voice acting, this game uses some of the voice cast from the animated series, and the acting is very good. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill once again reprise their roles as Batman and Joker respectively and provide an excellent performance. Many other voice actors from the animated series are present, and if you enjoyed the voice acting in the show, you'll be pleased to hear that it is just as good in the game.
Well, let's start with how Batman controls. He's got smooth, swift running. Something I appreciate is that he was given a relatively fast running speed because I don't really like it when the player character is slow. So, props for that. We've got a usual staple - jumping and gliding and, for the time, the gliding is pretty good. Batman has an array of gadgets available to him and, for once, you use the gadgets in a first-person mode. I kinda like that, being able to aim Batarangs and the grapple like a shooter game. It's different, but I like it. However, I understand that some people may not like the idea of switching between first and third persons in an action game and I concede that fact. Another interesting mechanic is the free-fall system; this is where Batman dives off of a ledge to save someone falling to their impending doom. You speed up or slow down Batman's descent, and aim towards the falling victim. A simple concept, but one I enjoyed. It's just a shame that it is seldom used in the game. A couple of stages feature mini-games such as a car chase in the Batmobile or a gliding stage in the Batplane (somewhat similar to Star Fox?) and while they're not groundbreaking or impressive, they at least feature an interesting concept. One more aspect I'd like to talk about is the puzzles scattered throughout the game which are a nice touch to change the pace of an action game, putting us in the position of the World's Greatest Detective. Of course, they're not in the same league as The Legend of Zeldabut still, they're good.
Now as for combat, which I purposefully saved 'till last...it's flawed. The combat is seemingly simple - punch, kick, block, with a few special moves at your disposal and the combat works for the first few hours of gameplay. In the later portion of the game, you find a particular class of enemies which can grab you, breaking your block. You have no guard over it, and the enemies' attack speed can be so prompt that you can get caught in the grab again as soon as you escape from it. There is no dodge command in this game, so there's no decent way to make distance between you and an enemy. Another flaw is that, sometimes you can use first-person gadgets on enemies, such as a Batarang to disarm them, or a net to trap them. But, if the enemies get too close to you, you automatically enter third-person, with no means of switching back other than trying to run from the enemy. To exit your combat stance, you hit a button (Y, in the GC version), but if the enemy hits you, you're dragged straight back into the fight. This whole process just means you'll lose a lot of health and be forced to fight. Needless to say, it's rather frustrating. On the topic of health, sometimes in the later portion of the game, the game swarms tough enemies on you and sometimes you're better off just avoiding them than to stay and fight, because your health won't allow for it. But of course, Batman is about stealth so naturally you should sneak around enemies. Except, this game provides so little stealth options that you often can't do it. Lastly, after you beat an enemy, you need to handcuff them to fully incapacitate them. Why is this necessary? Most of the time, you'll be moving onto the next area regardless, so it doesn't matter if the enemies get back up. The handcuffing isn't innovative or clever, it's just the tap of a button over a helpless enemy. Overall, the combat, which should be the selling point of the game, is lacking. Thankfully, the other aspects of the game such as the minigames and puzzles allow for other forms of enjoyment. Also, boss fights seldom use the standard fighting sequence and instead, incorporate the use of Batman's tools and equipment to win the fight and I'm glad that was the case.
This game is short; I finished it the day after I started it, so if I was to guess, I'd say I put in about five or six hours. There's nothing to do after finishing the game other than to go back and play the levels again. Cheats become active, which may entice you to replay the stages in a different manner, or you may wish to revisit the stages to achieve a better score, but this game does not feature much replayability.
Most aspects of this game are just okay. The combat, as I've said, is lacking. It works for a while but ends up being frustrating and not in a challenging way. As a Batman fan, I must be honest about that. But it's not awful. There are enjoyable features of this game. It has its areas of polish. It's just a shame that it's not as good as it could have been.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Batman: Vengeance (EU, 05/03/02)
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