When it comes to almost washed up franchises, Batman is probably the one that stands out amongst the pack. Poor movies led to some average games and really, Batman had lost its charm as one of the better comic licenses to use in games and movies. Warner Brothers wants to change that this year with a more adult and mature movie for the Bat crowd and EA has teamed up once again with WB to create a game. We were recently given a quick showing of the game by EA and came away not only wanting the game, but predicting it to be the best movie game of the year, and one of the best stealth action games around.
Batman Begins tells the story of how Batman came to be in both the movie and the game. It will be a typical Batman film with Batman, a villain, Batmobile and others, however no Robin. The crux of the storyline revolves around the killing of Bruce Wayne's parents and his quest to rid the world of scum.
The game will firmly focus on stealth rather than action from past Batman games. In a big up to Splinter Cell, the original producer is working on Batman Begins and it shows with Batman somewhat being a mimic of Sam Fisher. He can crawl across pipes, jump over fences and has a number of options when dealing with enemies. From the action sequences we saw via video, Batman will have his work cut out for him during the game. It is complete context sensitive. The controls change depending on where Batman currently is making it easier. Whether the controls will stay on screen in the final build is unknown but the video we saw continuously updated the graphic as we got closer to the fence etc.
The short movie we saw had Batman approaching enemies from above. The enemies were in a pack so a direct attack not possible, but with some trusty bat objects he was able to create an explosion which scared them and then pounced for the kill. Another video displayed Batman hanging from a rope, dropping down to grab an enemy, while others showed hand to hand combat (ragdoll physics included) and a torture move while hanging on a rope.
However perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game is the heart rate monitor. Each of the enemies in the game has a heart rate. If you jump down with them at 60bpm (normal) they will kill you easily, however you can blow things up or destroy things to make them scared and increase the heart rate making it easier for Batman to take em' out. We aren't sure how this will work across the whole game and perhaps the repetitive nature, but it does look very interesting from what we have seen. This is a game that action fans are not going to like, but Stealth fans will eat for breakfast.
Another interesting aspect is that they are using their own proprietary engine for the driving sequences and it definitely shows. Seeing the Batmobile flying along with motion blur and huge crashes ala Burnout 3 really does give a wow impression. We saw a chase across the city involving police and other cars and it was probably the highlight of what we have seen thus far. Visually what we have seen looks impressive and considering it was the PS2 version of the game, even more impressive. Batman is already highly detailed and the levels look fairly interactive.
Batman Begins could turn it around for the franchise upon its release in June. Taking a stealth style of gameplay could have been a risk but EA seem to be pulling it off. Look for it June 17.