Title  : Batman: Dark Tomorrow
Platforms  : Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
Publisher  : Kemco
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 4.7
Review by  : Ken Gagne

In the comic book storyline "Contagion", Gotham City was struck by a deadly virus. Only Batman and his allies could find the cure and save the day. 

Sadly, Batman: Dark Tomorrow, a GameCube and Xbox game from Kemco, is similarly plagued, yet this time without salvation. 

Unlike Batman: Vengeance, which is based on the animated television series, Dark Tomorrow draws upon the original comics as its source. As an occasional reader of the Dark Knight's adventures, I've been witness to recent events such as "No Man's Land", "Officer Down", and "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?", and have been looking forward to seeing this hallowed character translated to the electronic medium. I'd hoped that the delay from its original release of last March (if not sooner) had provided Kemco with a gratuitous amount of time necessary to create a dynamite package. 

At first, I thought they'd succeeded. The game's openings credits roll to a montage of video sequences, showcasing the people and places of Gotham City, all set to a stirring movement performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I was giddy with anticipation and eagerly awaited stepping into the Dark Knight's boots. 

It was only once I did so that I fell victim to the despair of Gotham City, when the game's myriad gameplay and control issues surfaced. 

This game's charlatan protagonist falls short of the imposing figure represented in the Batman comic books, as evidenced by his vulnerability and his foes' invincibility. The many gun-toting foes are a real threat to the hero's health: lacking Wonder Woman's deflective bracelets, Batman's only defense is his kevlar armor, which holds up to little. Even in hand-to-hand combat, Batman barely stands a fighting chance. Each thug recovers quickly from being laid flat; the only promise of keeping them down is for Batman to apply his Batcuffs. Given several thugs, those left standing will surely keep Batman occupied long enough for their downed allies to rise, presenting an inexhaustible mob intent on overbearing the Knight. 

The control scheme is also ridiculously nonstandard, making it difficult to interact with and adapt to the environment. Crouching, which is the only way to collect items from the ground, requires cycling through the running, walking, and crouching modes by pressing in the right analog stick, instead of simply pressing a "crouch" or "pick up" button. To view from a first-person perspective, players must cycle to and activate the night vision goggles. Even then, the analog sensitivity is extremely high, making it difficult to look anywhere but the extremes of Batman's vision. Various items, such as the batarang, can also change to this view. In fact, change is the only constant: each button is reassigned a new purpose depending on the circumstances, so while one button may be used to activate items in Batman's inventory, such as the Batarang, another will actually throw it. Oh, and the Batcuffs have their own button. 

No matter the view, the camera doesn't cooperate. A flaw that seemingly became popular with Devil May Cry, the angle pans only slightly to follow Batman's movements before suddenly switching to a drastically different point, altering player's orientation on the control pad: up suddenly becomes left, and other confusion. Even a bad camera angle doesn't cause you to miss much, as Batman runs as though he's looking for a bathroom, not a baddie. 

The sound, like the graphics, are better without the gameplay. The music swells majestically in the cinematic moments that progress the story, yet decrescendos into terrible in-game accompaniment. Here, the music is hollow and tinny, reminiscent of the Super Nintendo version of the Clue board game. 

I'm dumfounded at how the Batman's potential has been wasted on this travesty. His Man of Steel peer has similarly fallen on hard times in recent video games, but I can't blame comic book licenses in general, as evident by the superior experience of the recent Spider-Man games. Spidey flies from the pinnacles of gameplay, while the Dark Knight fires his grappling hook, swings — and misses.


This article is copyright (c) 2003, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Tech News, 08-Apr-03