As a fan of both film and Batman, John revisits the Gamecube adaptation of Batman Begins.
Name: Batman Begins
Format: Nintendo Gamecube
Released: June 17th, 2005
Publisher: Electronic Arts
I love Batman and when director Christopher Nolan brought us Batman Begins, I instantly fell in love with this new interpretation, especially Batman’s new toys.
The new Batmobile was in my opinion, an amazing vehicle. I loved the way it moved, the way it looked and was amazed to find out it was a real working vehicle built by an all British design team.
But what on Earth does this have to do with a film licence title from 2005 on the Nintendo Gamecube?
Even back then we knew that games based on a film licence were incredibly hit-and-miss. They were often created in a rush to capitalise on the success of the film, hoping the game would sell on the name alone.
I knew this fact well but the thought of playing a new Batman game was starting to sway my decision. One important screenshot on the back of the box finally pushed me over the edge. You could drive the new Batmobile in this game! That was it, I was sold!
I don’t remember too much about the game back then, but I have recently just played the Nintendo Gamecube version.
Like most film licences, Batman Begins follows the film plot quite closely and expands on certain scenes.
For example, at the start of the game, you have to prove your worth to DuCard in the Himalayan temple. You must complete several tests to prove you have learnt all that is necessary to become one with the League of Shadows.
This essentially acts as a series of tutorials, teaching you the moves and which buttons to press in order to achieve them. You’ll discover fairly quickly that the combat mechanic isn’t really up to scratch. Despite several attack moves and combos being made available to you, most of the fighting just feels like button mashing with little skill involved.
They’ll never see me…oh shit! Someone grab my cape, it’s a bit of a giveaway!
Part of the training involves teaching you the art of stealth, striking the enemy whilst hidden in the shadows, how to become a better Batman.
Sometimes you are able to interact with the environment such as causing a window to blow open for example. This will catch the enemy off guard and cause them to become scared which in turn will make it easier for you to attack them while they are distracted and fearful.
Unfortunately, while this starts out as an interesting game mechanic, and I think was used as a selling point for the game, it soon becomes rather stale.
You’re not allowed to use the environment in any way you want. This thirteen-year-old game won’t allow you to play like the much acclaimed Arkham series of games from recent years.
You can only use the environment to your advantage when the game allows you to, a scripted event you have no control over. This takes away the fun of actually doing it and feels more like playing by the numbers.
The rest of the game also plays in a very linear manner. The locations you visit are suitably large but the path you take through them is extremely limited. It almost feels like the game is holding your hand as you progress through the levels, always telling you where to go and how to unlock certain doors in order to continue.
There’s very little to break up this monotony, apart from the button mashing combat, except for the two levels that I originally purchased the game for. In these sections of the game, you are placed in control of the Batmobile (or Tumbler as it is referred to in the film).
I remember hearing at the time that these sections of the game had been created using the Burnout engine, a fantastic racer in its own right which you can read about in my Retro Review: Burnout 2.
When the Tumbler first appears on screen my excitement levels rose and as I pressed down hard on the accelerator, that feeling soon dropped right back down again.
This looks exciting, doesn’t it!?
The roads of Gotham, as with any large American city, exist in the form of a network of roads organised into a grid. Nearly every corner you take is a harsh ninety-degree turn, which makes for unexciting driving. There are no tricky corners to negotiate whilst trying to overtake other vehicles.
There are other road users but the Tumbler can just smash through them with ease. The trick is to actually avoid the innocent drivers and just destroy the bad guys. Killing too many innocents will cause damage to the Tumbler which will eventually break down in flames.
At one point you have to stop a lorry by using the Tumbler’s rocket launchers. This helps break up the constant left and right sharp turns a little but not by much.
Both Tumbler levels feel like a 3D remake of the classic arcade game Spy Hunter and can be completed in just a couple of attempts once you realise the rules.
So far, this game hasn’t had much to offer but there were a couple of surprises that raised my levels of respect for the game.
The game features both the teaser and full-length theatrical trailer for Batman Begins as well as using film footage for the cut-scenes in between levels.
It’s worth noting that the footage is cut together to explain what is going on but is used out of context from the way it appears in the film. Maybe the developers only had access to limited footage or did this on purpose to keep the film a surprise as the game was officially released one day before the film.
Liam Neeson as he appears on the Gamecube.
The other surprise was how many of the original cast had come back to record new dialogue for this game. With most film licence titles, If the lead actor wasn’t high up on the celebrity status ladder or even an unknown, it was a pretty good bet that they would lend their likeness/voice to a computer game adaptation.
The bigger stars usually turned it down or asked for more money and to save costs a sound-alike actor would be used instead.
For Batman Begins, nearly the whole cast returned except for Lt. James Gordon who was played by Gary Oldman.
The full list includes Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), Liam Neeson (Henri Ducard), Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes)Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Cillian Murphy (Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow)and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
Also, two very important members of the film crew also make an appearance in the game. Emma Thomas, the film’s producer, appears as a psychologist from Arkham Asylum and director of photography, Wally Pfister, appears as a mob informant who is interrogated by Batman.
I can’t recall a game off the top of my head that features such an involvement from the main cast.
Unfortunately, the voice acting, the fact it’s a Batman game where you can also drive the Tumbler, the two factors that caused me to fire up this game again, can’t save what is ultimately a very linear and mediocre film licence adaptation.
There’s rarely a game based on a film licence that actually turns out great. Batman Begins is another average title that just further proves this theory.
It’s no wonder that games based on a film licences soon started to become very few and far between.