Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu
System: Playstation2
Publisher: Ubi Soft 
Developer: Ubi Soft
Released: October 2003
Genre: Action
Capabilities: Memory Card

Review Written: November 6, 2003

I always thought that any Batman-licensed game should be an old-school Final Fight-type beat-em-up. Ubi Softís latest entry of the Gotham Knight, Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is only the second game I can recall of all the Batman games to ever be released to belong in this genre. The other was the oft-forgotten Adventures of Batman & Robin that was released on the Genesis in the heyday of the 16-bit gaming wars. Donít get me wrong, I loved Ubi Softís last action/adventure Batman entry, Vengeance, but this is where the DC comic book star belongs.

The developers also went out of their way to make this latest entry something special. Besides adding a slew of villain regulars into the mix such as Scarecrow, Bane, and Clayface, Ubi Soft has also introduced a brand new villain into the Batman universe by the name of Sin Tzu. To combat the new evil, Batman is aided by his regular cast of allies in the forms of Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl.

Rise of Sin Tzu plays like a 3D beat-em-up, and it flows like one in typical fashion. Start off in a few levels facing off against wave after wave of weak no-name thugs. Then complete a special level to finish off the stage by either going up against a boss, or doing another objective like defusing the occasional bomb. Now what would any game of this fashion be without two-player co-operative play? Ubi Soft has included it in all its glory, and it is a blast plowing through the levels with a friend.

Now one thing that use to happen in all the old beat-em-ups is that beating the countless hordes of basic thugs got repetitive and tedious right away. The developers way to combat this here is by introducing a point system by awarding points to the player by how well they completed each level. These points are used to purchase new moves to vanquish the opponents with, or tokens to unlock some bonus goodies like concept art or documentaries about the game. 

All the characters start off with the basic kick/punch moves and limited three-strike combo move list. However, up to five levels of moves can be unlocked for each character. The three hit combos can be upgraded to a five hit combo for much more effectiveness. Some of the unlocked moves yield an incredible amount of damage too such as Nightwingís head scissors throw, or double-team buddy moves. These new added moves are much appreciated, but timing my combo strings (some combos require delayed button sequences) requires a bit of practice as the timing must be very precise.

All isnít perfect in Rise of Sin Tzu however. There are a couple of major nagging issues. First off, sometimes when the hero seems to be right in the path of Batmanís flurry of punches, he instead ends up missing him and punching a garbage can directly besides him. So a lot of unwanted effort is required in focusing the attacks on the various thugs. The other major annoying factor is the time limits. There are some levels where the objective is to rescue eight civilians, and there is a time limit for each one that needs to be rescued. If one isnít rescued in time a credit is taken away from the amount of lives left and the timer is reset only to a measly 10 to 15 seconds to get that hostage before another credit is taken away. This makes matters extremely difficult and takes away from the beat-em-up feel where there isnít a focus on taking as much time as desired on whooping the thugs. Mercifully, there is an added Challenge mode that is compatible for up to two players to beat an enormous amount of opponents either with or without a time limit.

Graphically, Rise of Sin Tzu is a mixed bag. Since this isnít a single player adventure like Vengeance, the character models for the four playable characters are a bit smaller and lacking in detail when compared to Vengeance.  Even with that in mind, they still look great in their own right, and look exactly as they do in the animated series on television. The added touches during gameplay like the ďblurĒ effect whenever a thug unleashes one of Scarecrowís toxin gas grenades provide some nice visuals. The stages look pretty good altogether too, from the streets of Gotham to the courthouse, everything is replicated from the animated series in true fashion. The cinemas between levels are what standout the most; they are rendered in 3D CGI and look better than what was offered in any Batman game before it.

Just as the graphics capture the sights of the cartoon series, the audio provides all the thrilling sounds from it too. Batman, Batgirl, Robin, and Nightwing all have several one-liners that they shout out during gameplay. The same goes with the four bosses also. All the voice actors from the cartoon are on hand to perform the voice acting to make sure everything is faithfully represented. The background music isnít anything too special, but the dark beats do manage to set the tone for gameplay.

Just like other beat-em-ups, Rise of Sin Tzu can easily be completed within a weekend. Anybody should be able to complete the game in 10 hours tops. So at least be thankful Ubi Soft decided to throw in a handful of extras. There are two documentaries on the making of the game, with both about a half hour in length. Both of them obviously provide lots of insight on the game-making process and are well worth the effort in unlocking. The bonus concept art and 3D models that need to be unlocked arenít anything that special, but diehard Batman fanatics will probably invest the time in purchasing them all anyways. I do appreciate the two-player co-operative options, but with four characters to choose from it is a shame the developers didnít go out of their way to include four-player support. 

RATINGS

Graphics: 7.6
Sound: 8.4
Gameplay: 6.0
Replay Value: 5.5

Overall: 6.8

Itís good to see the Batman games returning to where they should have been all along, but there are just a few too many gripes that derive this one from achieving ďgreatĒ status. As it is, Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is a good beat-em-up that can be fully enjoyed by anyone with a rental, and is something that only hardcore Batman fans will invest the money in purchasing.

 

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