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by Ubi

Batman: The Rise of Sin Tzu is an historic game. Not at all in the sense of its content, but rather, its the very first time we’ve ever seen a Batman character make their debut by way of a videogame. Sin Tzu certainly looks and sounds like a worthy villain, and one that will be an instant classic. Most die-hard Batman fans will snatch the game up for that fact alone. All others should demonstrate a stroke of caution before plunking down their hard earned cash. The Rise of Sin Tzu is a true blue, genuine, old-school type beat-‘em up that serves little purpose other than trying to make your thumbs as sore as possible in the fastest amount of time. If you’re into that type of thing, then by all means don’t miss this game.

I suppose a little background on Sin Tzu would be appropriate here. Sin Tzu is a very brilliant but arrogant conqueror who prides himself in beating those who have never been beaten. He is a warrior and a superb martial artist. He is also a methodical strategist who, after accomplishing his objectives in warfare, disappears, and gives no heed to the destruction he has left behind. He is always on the lookout for someone to challenge, and he hears of “the Batman of Gotham”, and sets his sights on destroying him.

Sin Tzu has recruited the help of veteran super villains Scarecrow, Bane, and Clayface to help turn Batman into Batsoup. Sin Tzu has seized control of Arkham Asylum in Gotham City using Mehta-Sua energy, which is the power to control mind and body. Sounds like a challenge, doesn’t it?


Well there’s assuredly plenty of challenge, especially on some of the higher difficulty levels. However, the question remains: What kind of challenge? You do nothing more in this game except thrash on anybody that moves. Which brings me to the one and only objective of the game: to reach the end of the level without dying. There are certain sub-objectives, like diffusing bombs, rescuing civilians, protecting the doors to the entrance of the Wayne Mansion, or just simply beating the crap out of all the bad guys. It can be fun for the first fifteen minutes, but gets extremely monotonous and stale quickly. Thank the heavens you have multiplayer cooperative action here, which does spice things up a bit. You do have a preference of whom you’d like to wail on your opponents with. Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl are all playable characters, which certainly is appreciated, since, other than the layout of the levels and a couple of different modes of play, this is about all the variety you’ll get in this game.

There are a small handful of gadgets to collect, some of which I find extremely handy, like the Batarang, electric Batarang, Batarang Ricochet, and smoke pellets. You have five different levels of moves to unlock by, well, beating up bad guys. The more difficult the move is to perform, the higher the points you’ll score throughout the game, which enables you to “buy” higher level moves. You can also taunt your opponents by tapping the white button, which enables you to boost your combo meter, which in turn gives you more points to use in your after-level shopping pleasure. However, I find that all I need to do to slog through any of the levels is repeatedly tap the X or A buttons, punch and kick respectively, and it appears to be all the moves I really need.

There are certain colored tokens to purchase as well, which grant you privileges to unlock certain trophies in the trophy room, like graphic novels, toys, and certain upgrades. Honestly though, this just doesn’t justify playing through the game more than once. You get your standard three lives to make it through the game, and you can save only after you’ve completed the level. Yawn.

Xbox owners will see nothing exceptional here by way of graphics. Since we’re now starting to witness third generation software on the Xbox, this is disappointing and really impermissible, as this game looks like something I might have been playing on launch day. I can see Ubi Soft getting away with sub-par graphics if the game had more to offer, but it just doesn’t, and it is rather blasť all the way around. The character models are blocky and chunky, and levels are empty, bland and just plain uninteresting. The audio department doesn’t fare any better, as you hear the same bed of music throughout the entire game. The sound effects are ho-hum and what you’d expect in any typical beat-‘em up, and is passable at best. There’s also certain in-game effects that are used way too much that try to enhance the gameplay, but serves little purpose other than obligatory irritation and squinting of the eyes, and in my case, some cussing.


Ubi Soft has been on a big time role lately with some stellar titles. Batman: The Rise of Sin Tzu seems like a throwaway; something they rapidly churned out of the mixer to meet the demands of some certain demographic, and to beef up their bank accounts. If you’re a die-hard Batman fan and think everything stamped with the Batman name is gold, then there might be something here to appease you. Other than that, don’t bother. The Rise of Sin Tzu does nothing particularly well, and is ultimately a forgettable, flat, and tiresome piece of work that has that bargain bin smell already, and may be seen there in a couple of months, which is precisely where I would wait to find it before purchasing it. Actually, if you must play this game, rent it, beat it in a day or two, and give this game rebirth through the quick-drop slot at the video store and leave it abandoned forever. If you have some of those rent-one-get-one-free coupons from Hollywood Video, all the better. There are far more pleasing games of this nature to be played, by Ubi Soft or otherwise, that deserve your dedication and diligence. There is a bright side to this game: it makes waiting for the first real Batman game that much more suspenseful. I have no doubt that when or if it happens, it will be a magical moment in videogame history.
 

Eric Bodrero   (12/01/2003)

Snapshot

Ups: The first Batman character in history to ever make their debut via a video game, nonstop action, extras to unlock

Downs: Repetitive and monotonous, graphics and sound are below average, levels are bland and void of any life

 

Platform: XBox