"Not even the Dynamic Dou can save this one."
Itís here. The game that could atone for the past sins of Acclaim and their shoddy-rush-job-make-a-quick-easy-buck-off-a-license business practices. Batman & Robin certainly is the most ambitious effort that the caped crusader has seen yet. He and his other two cohorts (Robin & Batgal) are now in 3D, just like Tomb Raider and they get to run or drive around a 3D Gotham taking out the trash, and stopping super-thugs, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. Do Batman fans finally have the definitive Worldís Greatest Detective game or is this just another mis-fire? Well, it sure had potential to have been the former, but as luck would have it, Batman should have stayed in the Batcave awhile longer. This game had been delayed for so long to ensure that it would be a quality product, that it defies logic as to why it was released now. Itís not ready Acclaim. Your game testers are retards. And your programmers are not up to the challenge obviously. Time to blow Probe out. NOW!
As I said this game is ambitious. It strives to feature not only fisticuffs, but clue collecting and problem solving as well as driving. Most Batman games have been either side-scrolling affairs or repetitive Final Fight clones. This game at least breaks the mold and tries to do justice to many aspects of the character. However, due to sloppy, unresponsive controls, poor camera angles and ridiculously dark screens this game is sometimes barely playable. And that makes me sad. Once again, we were lead to believe that this game was going to be "great" so sayeth the many game mags out there, when first previewing the game many months ago. But Iím beginning to notice a pattern. If a game barely gets any attention after itís previewed, itís going to be a dog. Thatís the gaming mags way of ignoring a bad situation with their advertisers. Such was the case with Batman & Robin. Sure some mags kept up with the development, going ga-ga over the cape animation. So what? The cape looks great. It is the best looking thing in the game. Honest. Why do I care if the cape looks great if the game control is poor? As well, Acclaim took notice of the comments that game mags made upon first inspection and made sure to include them in their ad for this game, which appeared in game mags months ago. Hmm....pretty clever trick. But Iím not falling for it. They must have figured that was their one chance to get some positive feedback on this game, because for some reason they didnít have the confidence that it would do well once released. Isnít that sad? Why wasnít their assurance of quality kept?
Letís dissect this one at a time, okay? First of all lets go over the bizarre controls. These are the most confusing un-intuitive controls Iíve dealt with either in a very long time, or ever! Batman has three action modes of controlling his movements, which are selected via the L2 button and the L1 button. In Detective Mode, Batman can jump, open doors, fire weapons and use gadgets. In Fight Mode, the buttons change and now Batman can punch and kick with all four limbs. In Defense mode (hold L1) Batman can sidestep left or right, do an about face, block high, block low and dive roll left or right. Of course, Batman can also run (press the R2 button to select between walk/run) or look through a first person perspective (R1) when taking careful aim. He can also glide using his cape. Now these modes are easily switched back and forth but itís insanely confusing. When you are fighting you canít jump. Lara Croft could jump backwards, somersault and shoot in her game two years ago!!!! Why canít Batman? Too many doughnuts, or lousy, lazy programmers? As well, Batman turns very slowly with the digital pad (I didnít try the analog pad) which sets him up for attacks because he just canít move his ass fast enough. Itís very frustrating, to say the least.
Now just wait until you step into the Batmobile. Itís all over the road thanks to really touchy steering. The poor citizens of Gotham probably thought Bats had fallen off the wagon again when I drove through town. That really pisses me off. A game shouldnít have this many inherent control flaws. In itís defense Robinís and Batgirlís vehicles controlled better because they were smaller. I spent hours playing the game to get used to the fighting and driving controls before even attempting the missions, and even then it was barely a help thanks to...
The awful camera angles. Cinematic camera angles work in Resident Evil. They donít work in a 3D environment where it is impossible to see your character because he is blocked by the enemy or worse yet, a piece of game furniture or structure. This is terrible. Shigeru Miyamota wonít be worrying anytime soon about these guys taking his job.
Next up is the really dark environments. Thankfully there is a brightness control in the options mode. Use it and crank it up all the way. When you start in the Batcave it is almost impossible to find your way around. I know they are going for atmosphere, but atmosphere and gameplay sometimes donít work. The Batcave should be dark and mysterious, but spring for a light bulb Bruce, you can afford it. However, things did improve when I turned up the brightness.
Now comes the grainy first generation graphics. Tomb Raider didnít look this bad! Dark and grainy graphics, splotchy textures and stiff animation abound in this game. The enemy characters are so choppy they have to be seen to be believed! Unreal this ainít.
The gameplay is hidden somewhere in this game. I just havenít been able to find it because of the piss poor execution of everything else. The idea that Batman has to decipher clues as to the whereabouts of Mr. Freezeís next robbery and then get there on time is brilliant. While racing to the next crime scene, Batman may have to stop a mugging in progress. Hey, thatís what heroes do. Bats can get out of the car at anytime, to explore Gotham on foot, pummel scumbags or check for clues by kicking in the doors of the many stores downtown. Youíll notice Gotham has a lot of bookstores, and a lot of high-rise buildings that really are just one room with no furniture. Seems a waste of architecture, to me. Iíd also like to know why Batman is allowed to just kick in doors of businesses whenever he wants to. Isnít that break and enter?
Once you get into a skirmish with Mr. Freezeís henchmen, youíll notice just how useless the fighting mechanics are. Youíll probably die many times before you even see Mr. Freeze in the museum. I did. When you die, itís Game Over. Youíll be starting right back in the Batcave. Yay! Game programming courtesy of evil demons from Hell.
Of course, everything Batman can do, so can Robin and Batgirl. The trick to this game is choosing the right hero for the job, which is certainly a nice touch. Batman is powerful, but not very agile or fast and he canít jump as high as Robin or the chick. Robin can jump 2 meters in to the air and is quick on his feet, but doesnít pack as mean a punch as the Dark Knight. Batgirl is more acrobatic, which is odd, since Robin is the acrobat, and she is the weakest and lightest out of three. The punchline to this, is you wonít know who to take until you get there, and by then itís too late. Unless, of course you relish the fact of having to return to the Batcave (instantly at least) and select your hero, only to have to make the trek all the way back to your last battle scene somewhere in Gotham. Pretty sweet, huh? Another oddity is the change character pods found in the Batcave. If Batman enters Robinís pod then you become Robin. This infers that Batman changes into Robin. Itís odder of course when Batman changes into Batgirl. Hmmm.... Obviously it was done for space reasons, but a different character select device would have been easier to swallow.
Gotham itself looks decent enough and it sure is large. However, donít be looking for a Gotham that resembles the twisted gothic architectural nightmares from the Tim Burton movies or even Shumacherís wastes of celluloid, this Gotham is pretty flat, repetitive and boring.
One tip that will save you a helluva lot of time: Start the game for the first time, go through all of the Batcave and go through the training (not that it will help much), go through the mansion and pick up items, return to the Batcave, turn on the computer, check your clues and now the important part, SAVE YOUR GAME at this point! That way you wonít have to go through and collect all the extra items in the mansion ever again if you have to start over. While Iím mentioning the training, you will marvel at the genius who decided that having hint screens pop up in the middle of jumps and fighting was a good idea.
The only way I could honestly see suffering through this whole game is armed with a Gameshark loaded with cheats like infinite lives and health. That might make it a fun rental, because Lord knows the programmers didnít make this game play fair. Itís frustrating. So, when in doubt cheat your ass off. With a Gameshark, I could actually see casting a blind eye to the crappy controls and enjoying some aspects of this game. If I didnít have to worry about dying while fighting I could actually, probably, maybe even enjoy this game.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with this game, is Acclaim got panicky and rushed the game out the door, as usual. Damn them. I really wanted to like this game, but itís just not finished. I wish they could recall it and make it right. Batman deserves better, doesnít he? We deserve better donít we? FYI, Iím sending this review to the folks at Acclaim, because Iíd like some answers. They have desecrated another Batman license and I think itís time that license was revoked. For good. If you feel the same way, email them. Tell them what you thought of B & R. As for a recommendation: Rent/GameShark. Thatís it.