Review by DonatelloNinjaTurtle

Reviewed: 01/25/03 | Updated: 01/25/03

Great, clever fun and not too disappointing

You'd think that a hero of such caliber as the Dark Knight would have gotten a game as good as this by now, but this is the first game that's truly worthy of Batman's name and legacy, and it doesn't disappoint.

STORY: 8/10
The creators of Batman: Vengeance are obviously familiar with the animated incarnation of Bats that this adventure is based upon, and the fact shows itself in a tremendously clever storyline. In true Joker fashion, the game finds the Clown Prince of Crime staging his own death and working behind the scenes of the Gotham City crime underworld to unravel a scheme that'll have Batman going truly batty. However, the story is damaged (although only slightly) by the appearances of classic Batman villains such as Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy in subplots which hold their own but don't seem to quite fit in when one truly wants to be engaged in the overall storyline. This could've been fixed by fitting the main story into the plots of these little sub-quests, as is often done in comic books, but, alas, that doesn't happen, and while still a good idea, it hurts the game just slightly overall.

GRAPHICS: 9/10
The Dark Knight has never looked better. Vengeance's graphics are truly amazing during the cinema sequences, which feel every bit as cartoony as the animated series itself does. The animation goes very smoothly, and I found the Joker to look quite outstanding. However, there is a slight detection of slowdown to be found in parts of the game, especially noticeable during the first cinema scene when the camera pans around the skies of Gotham City to reveal a crouching Batman on a gargoyle statue, cape wrapped around and all. The camera likes to jerk a bit in that section, and although it could've been a fault with a scratch on the disk, I've since played the game several times, each with the noticeable slowdown.
Although the cinema scenes look incredible, the movies that use the regular game engine are less than spectacular, with blocky movement and at times, choppy graphics. It's almost a pain to sit through these, but luckily, the graphics during the actual gameplay look almost as amazing as those in the cinema scenes. All of the characters move fluidly, and something new and quite interesting has been done to enhance the graphics of Vengeance. Instead of Batman's cape being programmed in as the same object as Batman, which would've resulted in somewhat blocky movement, his cape has been programmed as a character unto itself! This amazing new idea allows for great fluid cape movement, cool silky wrinkles, and even a few capabilities of its own. Another thing that deserves mention is the way the vines move as you creep past them on Poison Ivy's stage. They look terrifying, and that coupled with the slow, creepy music builds up a freaky atmosphere, especially when I'm already afraid of plant monsters.
Vengeance looks great, but not great enough to earn the high mark of 10.

SOUND: 7/10
Since this game reunites all of the cast members from the 1990s cartoon, I was expecting for the voice acting to be near flawless. However, at times, I felt that the voices suffered from overacting, especially on the part of Tara Strong as Batgirl, who, somehow, never happened to overact on her many different roles on animated shows, such as Powerpuff Girls, Extreme Ghostbusters, and the Batman show itself. Kevin Conroy as Batman, on the other hand, suffers from some underacting. His dialogue feels forced and even a tad stiff at times, yet he manages to pull off a good performance in a good deal of the scenes. Mark Hamill (yes, the Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame) and Arleen Sorkin, as the Joker and Harley Quinn, respectively, deliver great and deliciously insane voice performances, and I'm glad to say that it seems they've lost none of their touch from the show.
The music should've been flawless as well, considering the music in all of the movies and the cartoon series has been wonderful. But the music seems overdone in certain scenes, sometimes adding a playful feeling to an intense or dramatic sequence, which doesn't help it out. However, there is quite a disturbing theme when Batman reads the Joker's ransom note.
There are some special sound elements, but nothing you'd want a CD of.

GAMEPLAY/CONTROLS: 8/10
Ah, the gameplay in Batman: Vengeance is unique and varied, making itself a refreshing example of how to make a good action hero game in a time when there are too many in the genre to count. It's the best thing in the game, as well it should be, considering the hero at hand! Like they say, Batman may have been last in line for powers, but he was first in line for cool gadgets! And they're all there to use at your disposal in Vengeance. The batgrapple is definitely the most important tool of the game, seeing as how Bats has to leap from building to building, and he ain't Superman! It's always a rush to swoop through the air on the batgrapple, seeing your cape fly in the air behind you, especially at the beginning. Batman's handy batarangs are there too, and they're probably not as fun as you're thinking. The main reason why they're not as fun as they could be is because you don't get to use them too much, and when you do, it's almost a chore, except for in an exciting battle to the death with the Joker. The first-person aiming for the batarangs (not to mention all the other gadgets) is a piece o' cake to learn, and easy to use throughout your entire adventure.
There are some cool combo moves that Batman can unleash on his enemies which will add some flavor to your gaming experience, and that will also make those thugs sorry they didn't just stick with being a pizza delivery boy like their mama wanted. There is a neat variation in enemies; for example, when you're on the Joker's stage, you fight big lugs with clown masks, when you're on Mr. Freeze's stage, you trade blows with ice queens in arctic blue skirts and jackets with ice guns, and when you're on Poison Ivy's level, you'll battle large plant monsters which can only be dispatched with electric batarangs. However, when it boils right down to it, you're fighting nameless, carbon-copy punks most of the time, but is that a problem? Not in the slightest. However, one of the main attractions of Vengeance is its clever and sometimes ingenious boss battles. By far the most clever fight in the game, but not to say it's the most fun, is your fight with Mr. Freeze, in which you never actually raise a fist to the cold-hearted ice man. Instead, you must throw remote charges onto tubes spinning around the top of the room and detonate the explosive when Freeze is standing under it. Truly brilliant.
Perhaps the best stage in the entire game is the batplane stage. There's tons of fun to be had with that one, and it's always exciting, no matter how many times you play through, to zoom around shooting electric spikes and bullets and dodging oncoming traffic and road signs. Not quite as fun, however, is the batmobile stage, which is reduced to a ''whip out the batgrapple'' level instead of a ''zoom all over the place'' level, which probably would've been much more fun.
Finally, I'll discuss the controls. I really have no serious complaints with them, and that's the truth. About the only complaint I can find (and even here I'm reaching) is that they're not always as responsive as you need them to be. This happens only rarely, and normally only when there's a camera problem. Otherwise, the controls are simple to learn and they don't get in the way of the fun in playing the game.

ALL-IN-ALL: 7/10
Batman: Vengeance is definitely the best Batman game to be made, and although it doesn't hold a candle to Activision's 3D Spider-Man series, it'll please fans of the dark, gritty Batman, and isn't that the whole point of the game? It does its job, and does it pretty good, too. It's simply great fun on a day when you've already beaten Spider-Man to smithereens. However, if you're a fan of Batman, as I am, I suggest you buy, although if you're skeptical, rent first.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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