The name JT Petty might ring a few bells for those who enjoy the odd spot of shadow-dwelling and neck-snapping. Responsible for Splinter Cell's storylines, Petty is no stranger to creating characters with a dark vein running through them. But with Bob Kane having already done the groundwork by creating Batman, Petty has been having a field day with Batman Begins. This isn't so much about creating a character, but recreating him. Forget the hideous glut of awful Bat-games we've been subjected to in the past - Batman Begins will knock them into the Gotham sewers.
Like the movie, this early Batman is human and fallible. He's not an indestructible superhero like the George Clooney version, but vulnerable to attack. You can't, for instance, attack an enemy packing a pair of Uzis and expect to come out the other side alive. It just wouldn't work. Instead, dark manoeuvres must be employed to break the enemy. Psychological warfare is one such method at Batman's disposal, as he freaks out enemies until they crack under the strain. Various Bat-attachments are used to achieve this - a small sonic emitter for instance, which, when attached to an enemy's clothing, emits a high-pitched screech that attracts hundreds of bats to the area, that swarm and panic the enemy. You can also set off traps and sequences within levels to spook/kill bad guys - a well-placed barrel of explosives under a walkway will wipe out entire squads of goons if hit correctly. It works even better if you're suspended out of sight in the shadowy belfries. Another cool trick is to slowly descend from the shadows and hoik a criminal high into the air as he's in mid-conversation with a buddy. That'll put the shits up them, guaranteed.
But what of the coolest mode of superhero transportaion, the Batmobile? Warner Bros is keeping the details close to its chest, but a source close to the game told us what to expect from the driving sections: "Eurocom has built this engine from the ground up, so it's eager to disassociate itself from comparisons, but let's say you get to smash a lot of things up when driving." "Like Burnout 3?" we asked. "You said it, we didn't," is the reply. Make of that what you will...
Combat is deliciously reminiscent of Def Jam with you scuffling with several enemies in a single fight. You can batter a few, then grapple your way back to the safety of the shadows above. Bats can also glide or back-flip over bad guys with his cape (made of special, intelligent fabric that goes rigid when applied with pressure), and beat them into submission. Targeting the most violent member of a gang in a brawl pays off, as once he's down the others either put up less resistance or sometimes even crawl on all fours like beaten animals to escape Batman. It's dark. It's delicious.
And what of The Scarecrow, and Ra's al Ghul? They're looking mighty fine too, trust us. With all the voice talent supplied by the actors from the movie, plus environments, vehicles, and weapons scanned from actual props and sets, Batman Begins is already shaping up to be Splinter Cell with pointy ears, and with any luck, the first game to truly do justice to the Batman franchise.