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Batman Begins

There's no messing about with reasons, motivations or boring old character development at the start of Batman Begins - within seconds of starting you're kicking in heads and flying around a dirty mental asylum. It's an impressive opening, one which lets you know the most important thing about Batman Begins - it's easy to play. It's an action game you can play with only one button, it's a stealth game you never get frustrated playing and it's a driving game that's Burnout 3. More on that later.

A brief training mission comes after this bombastic opening, with Bruce Wayne flashing back a year and relocating to the Himalayas to train at the hands of his double-crossing ninja masters. And then - just like in the film - the action flashes back to modern-day Gotham City and starts letting Batman bust heads with his new-found skills.


So yes. It's quite a lot like the film, and the between-level clips of the movie ruin the plot if you haven't already seen it. What the game also does is add more stuff to pad it out. In the film, Batman just sort of appears at the docks for the drugs bust bit - but in the game you see him get there, mess about behind the scenes beating people up, play a whole mission not featured in the film at all, and then head off down into the sewers for another original bit - before it all ties in again with the movie and a few more video clips.

A lot of the fun players are going to have here is pointing at the screen and saying "Oh yes, it's that bit from the film", then seeing what new stuff has been shoehorned in. Sadly, though, this Batman game has been through the Electronic Arts homogeniser, resulting in the most disgraceful addition to the Bat-franchise since Arnie's turn in Batman & Robin - a 'Respect' meter.

Yes, as in every other EA production, Batman Begins issues troublesome-youth friendly 'Respect' points for pulling off spectacular moves. But in fact, what it's really doing is just saying you've got some 'Respect' for completing a part of the game you'd have to complete anyway, Respect meter or not. We hate these meters and the last thing we need to see after dispatching a room full of grunts in a cool, cape-swirling Batman style is the message "Respect Increased" popping up on the screen. It cheapens the mighty Batman mythology!

The idea behind the Respect gauge is a little flimsy anyway. This and each level's Fear meter are supposed to reflect how scared the bad guys are of Batman, with panicky dudes more susceptible to Batman's attacks than calm ones. In practice, it makes little difference, with the idea behind each mission being (a) disable the blokes with the guns, then (b) beat up the unarmed others.


It's also a little odd - pull a switch to release some crates and the bad guys get so scared they all drop their guns so you can fight them. If you were one of those bad guys and were shitting yourself that some dark, mysterious monster was coming to get you, wouldn't you be holding onto your AK47 a bit tighter when the scary stuff goes down, rather than just dropping it on the floor when Batman knocks over some barrels?

Once you've disarmed the goons, the fighting action is just about acceptable. It's a poor man's Ninja Gaiden, with constant holding down of the block button - which NG-lovers will be infuriated to find switched to the Right trigger - combined with the counter attacking X button getting you through most fights unscathed.

If you are knocked down, the B button does a spinning-leg getting up attack, which also comes in handy against blocking enemies - a slower attack can be pulled off to break their guard and let you start hammering punches and kicks again until they fade from view in an unsatisfactory manner. It's not a demanding or complicated combat system. The Himalayan training section highlights this extremely well, declaring you a Master Ninja after all you've done is climb along a pipe for a bit and press X to beat three ninjas.

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