E3 Reviews: "Batman Begins," "Teen Titans," "City of Villains" and More

Fri, May 20th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jeremy Goldstone, Guest Contributor

There are a ton of superhero games at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. So many, they can't be reviewed all in one day. So today, you get all the non-Marvel games. Keep in mind, all the games are still in unfinished form, so they will probably be better when they are actually released than when I played them.

"Batman Begins" from Electronic Arts looks like a solid game. From the little I played of it, it's hard to say whether or not it is a stellar game, but it should at the very least be a solid, enjoyable title. The graphics are solid and very realistic. Batman's cape has a swing and weight to it, like Batman's cape should. Even more fun, with a double jump, it can be used to glide. All the actors from the movie are in the game, which means that yes, this is Michael Caine's first video game. I never thought I'd see a digital Alfie, but after Albert Brooks entered the digital realm with "Finding Nemo," anything was possible.

The combat system feels a little light. There is a combo system, but it feels like the Dark Knight could use a little more. Some of the "fear" aspects of the game, where players can use the surroundings to put "fear and superstition" into criminal lots, should be intriguing, although it wasn't in the bit I played. I did see it in action though, and it does add to the gameplay. There is also a Batmobile driving sequence, and the Batmobile is an unstoppable tank. According to producers, the driving sequences only take about 15% of the game, and it should add an interesting high-speed demolition derby break to the puzzles and fear sequences.

"Teen Titans" from Majesco is based on the Cartoon Network cartoon and does a solid job of looking like the show. The game's cell shaded graphics mimic the frantic animation of the cartoon almost perfectly.


The game plays something like a poor man's version of Activision's "X-Men Legends." Not bad, just simplified for a younger audience. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought that way, as some techs from Activision at the show had said the same thing. The entire Teen Titans team is in action the entire game. Players can switch between controlling different members of the team, but the computer plays any Titans not being player controlled. The rest of the game is played mostly like your standard beat-em-up, although the Titans' powers are available, albeit more limited than X-Men. Still, it's impressive to see Beast Boy transform into a dinosaur and clear the screen.

"City of Villains" is the sequel to the popular "City of Heroes" massively multiplayer role playing game from PlayNC. It is not an add-on, but a completely different game, although it can interact with the original title. As the name implies, this time, you play the bad guy. Although, as the game's designers noted, it's "City of Villains," not City of Homicidal Maniacs. Villains are more in the line of robbing banks/kidnapping/taking over the world.



The Create-a-Villain mode is as powerful as the one in "City of Heroes," although now everyone's faces look angry. What's really fun is that the new game supports the building of supervillain headquarters. Players can make their own personal Hall of Doom and use it as a base of operations. They need to watch out storing items of power in their bases, though, as doing so opens up their homes to raids from other villains and superheroes.


Speaking of superheroes, villains will be able to interact with real people playing "City of Heroes" in specially designated PVP areas. However, according to producers, that will be the only place player controlled villains and heroes will initially interact. Otherwise, NPC heroes will be the ones trying to bring villains to justice.

"Age of Conan" from Funcom is an interesting game that is hard to categorize, perhaps at least in part because the game was pre-alpha, meaning it was in a very early form. The game takes place in the Hyborean Age, when Conan sits upon the throne of Aquilonia as king. Players don't play as Conan, but as Cimmerians, Aquilonians or Stygians in Conan's world. The game starts out as a single player action game with heavy RPG elements, but eventually starts becoming more and more online, until it eventually expands into a full-on MMORPG. However, unlike most MMORPGs, combat is not stat/turn based, but is played more like a traditional action game. Like I said, difficult to categorize.

What is nice is that the makers of the game are heavily involved with the holders of the Conan license and are apparently cross-marketing with Dark Horse Comics, the publishers of the "Conan" comic. So, the game is immersed in Conan. Because magic in the world of Conan tends to not exist, unless you are some sort of primordial evil wizard-god, magic use is scaled down in the game. That said, Stygian priests can get magical powers by committing themselves to Set. There are Cimmerian priests in the game as well, which shocked me at first, as Crom is a cold and uncaring god. However, they are more like naturalist shamans than devotees to Crom.

The graphics of the game, even in their pre-Alpha form, are stunning. Simply beautiful. That said, it's still way too early to say how the game is going to turn out.

"The Darkness" from Majesco was shown in video form, but it was all pre-rendered and not playable.

"Evil Dead's" a comic book now, right? So it counts enough for me to review THQ's "Evil Dead: Regeneration." Unlike previous Evil Dead games, this one looks high budget. The graphics are highly detailed. The combat engine is solid. But the best part of the game: Ash, played as always by Bruce Campbell, now has a sidekick in a half-Deadite midget named Sam, played by Ted Raimi.

The game takes place in an alternate version of "Evil Dead 2," where Ash, after the events in the cabin in the woods, is arrested for murder and thrown into a psychiatric institution. Unfortunately, his doctor manages to unleash the evils of the Necronomicon. Once again, it is up to Ash to save the day, which quite often is accomplished by manhandling and torturing Sam (naming the midget Sam is an in-joke; most "Evil Dead" movies have Sam Raimi torturing Bruce Campbell. Now Bruce gets his revenge.). This Evil Dead game looks to have some of the most dialogue ever from Campbell in a video game, as he has conversations with Ted Raimi. It may not be the "Citizen Kane" of games, but this looks like a guilty pleasure too fun to pass up.

Stay tuned when I review all the games from Marvel, including "Ultimate Spider-Man," "X-Men Legends 2," "Fantastic Four," "Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction" and "Marvel Nemesis."

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