"Thatís how Batman operates: Intelligence. Youíre required to think, conserve and take account of what youíre given to work with, what you need to survive against Gothamís criminal element. "
He suits up.
Cape. Cowl. Body-armor, strong enough to stop speeding bullets. Belt, strapped with devices for every situation. Radio transmissions in his ear, the hum and whine of a Gotham, a city in desperate need of the selfless service he provides.
I made a promise on the grave of my parents to rid this city of the evil that took their lives. By day, I am Bruce Wayne, billionaire philanthropist. At night, criminals, a superstitious and cowardly lot, call meÖ
I like Batman for his mythos. Superman instills so much honor that some villains surrender at the mere sight of him. Spider-Man makes with the jokes and gets a laugh. But Batmanís the only superhero who actually leaves me in awe. He has no powers, but itís hard to tell that sometimes. He appears of the darkness. Stalks his enemies. Circles. You see a shadow in the corner, you turn to lookÖnothing there. You turn back around and heís staring you in the face, eye-to-white, blank eye. He can fight, yes, one of the best, if not the best martial artist in the world. But he does his best work in the shadows. Sneaking. Watching. Observing. Learning. Then making his move.
Batman Vengeance captures that feel. Thatís why it works.
Late night. Gotham Industrial has been frozen over; ice covers the insides and outsides, courtesy of Mr. Freeze. You could go in with fists swinging and batarangs flying, smack around his ice-pistol packing snow bunny goons with relative ease. Maybe take a few hits. Take them out with any of the devastating and stylish combos available. A straight brawl.
But that wouldnít be prudent, that wouldnít be wise, that wouldnít be Batman. What you need to do is distract them, lead them away from each other, descend from above and strike from behind, disarming them, cuffing them so they donít get back up, saving your energy so that when you finally do make it to Mr. Freeze, when you finish navigating through the frozen labyrinth and reach the heart of the complex, you fight him with full-health. Youíll need every drop of it.
Heís strong, strong enough to break you with a mere swat. Punches have no effect. Batarangs bounce off. He brings out his Freeze Ray the moment you gain some distance, holding you still long enough for a crushing blow. Fighting him seems to be a long proposition, until you notice the glass tubes dangling from the ceiling and take advantage of his position, sending each one crashing down on Mr. Freeze as he passes underneath, wearing him down until he collapses. Beaten, broken, frozen in his own suit by his own weapon.
Thatís how Batman operates: Intelligence. Youíre required to think, conserve and take account of what youíre given to work with, what you need to survive against Gothamís criminal element. Poison Ivyís lair abounds with flora, lethal vines cover every passageway, and thereís no telling when one of them might reach out and crush you in its leathery grip. The Jokerís old hideout is a tribute to the Clown Princeís macabre sense of humor; random, pointless passageways, rooms with nothing but machine gun toting Jack-in-the-Boxes, killing you with a smile. The darkness, the sinister overtones, the feeling every new room and every corner turned could leap to a new fightÖitís almost like playing an episode. It immerses you.
But this immersion doesnít stay; it leaves the moment you take the streets in the Batmobile or take the skies in the Batjet. The vehicle segments just lag.
Theyíre slow. It feels like youíre driving at 45 MPH, and when your car is equipped with a flaming jet engine, thatís just pathetic. Itís no better in the sky; the shooting segments are set on a rail, and itís a sluggish rail at that.
Theyíre tedious. Despite being made from the finest stuff that a billionaire philanthropistís money can buy, a few scraps and youíre going down. Get too much distance from the target, and you lose, no chance for catching up. Small margin for error.
On top of it all, theyíre nowhere near as good as they should be. Some of Batmanís greatest moments have been behind the wheel, blazing through the streets, leaving a trail of property damage in his wake. The vehicle bits should be the gameís highlight, not itís flaw.
And thatís why Iím glad they donít last that long. Once these rough patches are out of the way, you can get back to taking in Batman Vengeanceís faithful experience, watch as Batman solves a mystery worthy of the Worldís Greatest Detective, watch as the Joker and Poison Ivy and Alfred and Batgirl and Harley Quinn and all the key players give the feel of a real episode, interact with a setting that stays true to its source.
It doesnít ask that you know everything about Batman; even if youíre mildly familiar, youíll know all you need to know. Good for casual fans.
It makes a world that looks like itís supposed; if youíre deep into the mythos, itíll be like walking through the cartoon. Good for the longtime Batfan.
Batman Vengeance tries to draw two audiences and succeeds. Thereís not much else you could ask.
Staff review by Zack Little (September 24, 2006)
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