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Batman Begins

We'll admit, though, we're not entirely convinced by the combat yet, not least because it all feels a little like a flurry of arms and legs rather than precise fighting. But we'll give it the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

A separate (and, in all likelihood, more frustrating) problem could be the interference of 'movie-style' cutscenes, which bludgeon their way into the game when Bats delivers a finishing move, pulling you out of the action and then tossing you back in once the cutscene has run its course.

If this is an attempt to infuse Hollywood moments into the game, it works - but at a cost, as the game draws you in then promptly breaks its spell.

In fact, the whole game is feeling a little bit premeditated just now, with icons popping up at windows, ladders and interactive objects, telling you exactly what to do.

It lacks the refinement of Splinter Cell, even though there's a fibre optic-style option called 'camera hack' and EA have nabbed a producer and a writer from Fisher's super-sneak series.

Even the interrogations, employed so viciously in The Punisher, lack excitement - perhaps because you can't feed an enemy's face to a drill - or more likely because, once again, you're led by the hand throughout.

But it would be wrong to write off the game at this early stage. There's still lots of development time left to put right the things that don't work, and improve the things (like the stealth and fear aspects) that show most promise.

One area where the game certainly needs no encouragement is visually. One level, set at Arkham Asylum, looks absolutely fantastic, with sublime backdrops of Gotham City in the half-light of evening, and superbly crafted exteriors.

The game still told you which button to press as you climbed through a window, but at least you could admire the view while you were at it.

So, we love the concept behind Batman Begins, we love the philosophy, the idea of using fear to attack enemies, the way levels are set up to make use of this technique, and the way this isn't just a cheap and nasty beat-'em-up of the type we've come to expect from your average Batman game.

But we also want to see a more refined fighting dynamic, less hand-holding and less experience-shattering disruption from snazzy cutaways. Fix those, and we may just have the superhero game the licence deserves.

Batman Begins is due out in June for PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and GBA. A date for its PSP release is yet to be confirmed

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