Brighter days for a Dark Knight.
Take your right hand and ball it into a fist. Good! Now how many fingers are
you holding up? You say none? Absolutely correct! That’s about how many Batman
games there have been that haven’t resembled a mother bird’s regurgitated worm
Thankfully, Ubi Soft has recently bought the Dark Knight license and has brought
him relatively close to his true glory. He might have made it even closer if
the game wasn’t hampered by a terrible control scheme and extremely limited
gameplay. Oh well, Batman Vengeance is still the best attempt to personify
the Caped Crusaders and all his gadgetry.
Joker has cooked up a devious delicacy of deception. As always, his hope is
to see the death of a certain Gotham City bat. Many of the major Bat-villains
have their hand in this new tale. You’ll recognize Mr.
Freeze, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and the aforementioned wild card himself.
The story isn’t very inspired, but is very reminiscent of the animated series
after which the game is modeled. The game plays a lot like an episode of Batman
– complete with Batgirl conducting surveillance via the Bat-cave.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, you take on the role of Batman, moody, brooding
crime-fighter extraordinare. Many of his more popular gadgets are at your disposal,
including bat-a-rangs, bat-nets, bat-scopes, bat-grapples, flash grenades and
Unfortunately, using any of the weapons require you to be in the first-person
perspective. This is very problematic. Trying to throw a bat-net or a bat-a-rang
is much more difficult than I would expect and it isn’t a lot of fun in first-person.
This leaves little room for any impressive visuals or cinematic quality. It
sucks life from the illusory feeling of being in the animated series and throws
you into some pseudo-Turok or Golden
Eye type experience minus the fun. Big mistake! No one wants to play Batman
Further, the bat-a-rang is distinctively missing the -rang part. Don’t
expect to ever see that flat bat-shaped piece of plastic (or whatever it is)
return to you once it’s left your hand, hence the need to collect more bat-a-rangs
that are carelessly littered throughout Gotham. It’s not consistent and it doesn’t
Speaking of which…
The games aesthetic value is its strongest leg. Most of it looks just like
the animated series. The cartoon textures are great – characters move with nice
animations and the fighting is fun to watch. Gotham City overall is a little
bland and some areas seem like they could use a visit from the folks at Changing
Rooms, since there’s just too much empty space.
The fighting is pretty simple. Punches, kicks and combos incorporating both
round out the Dark Knight’s repertoire of hand-to-hand punishment. You can even
find new, fancier moves to dish out on menacing grunts. But be wary – a few
of the enemies are pretty damn formidable which makes for some of the more interesting
fight sequences. Of course, you’re Batman, and if the old school fist-to-cuffs
don’t cut it you can always go back to those poorly implemented gadgets.
Thankfully, the enemy AI does not suffer from the same lameness. They’re not
brilliant, but the baddies are smart enough to keep you busy.
biggest gripe about Batman Vengeance is the sluggish control, and subsequently,
the camera angles. Moving Batman around, trying to point him in the right direction,
and all the incessant platformer elements make me want to throttle any unsuspecting
citizen who bears even the slight resemblance to a Ubi Soft developer. What
the hell were these guys thinking? Do they know who Batman is? If any superhero
requires precision and grace in his movements, it’s Batman.
When jumping or falling off tall buildings, you can pull Batman’s cape taut
and use it as a type of parachute to safely glide to a lower location. This
is great, but lining him up properly for the landing is really frustrating due
to the finicky camera. These instances become more frequent the further you
get in the game and wind up making you not want to play. The control is really
the straw that broke the
Still, you get a good dose of Batman being Batman with gadgets, pseudo martial
arts moves, a few brief stints with the Batmobile and the Batplane and plenty
of gorgeous CGI cutscenes to keep with the animated feel. Even the voice actors
are consistent with the animated series (Mark Hamill as the Joker & Kevin Conroy
The game has some good stuff going for it, but I really wish they would have
made the extra effort. How about a working, dynamic, bustling Gotham City where
I could drive my Batmobile from the elusive Bat-cave around Gotham stopping
crime as I see fit? Or maybe I just want to take in the night air and decide
to leap from rooftop to rooftop routing out crime wherever I find it. When I
heard about the Bat-grapple, I instantly thought of Tenchu,
where you could do a bit of high-flying reconnaissance before you commit
to a mission. None of that here. The only time you can use the Bat-grapple is
when you get an onscreen signal to look for a huge, out of place Bat-insignia
perched on the corner of some overhead location. Oh, I guess I’m supposed use
my Bat-grapple here. Sheesh!
We’re talking about a 50-year-old icon…you’d think they’d know how to personify
his greatness by now. To be fair, Ubi Soft has done better than most with Batman
Vengeance, and if you like the animated series, this is your game.
Hardcore comic book fans will want to wait for something more substantial.