First Impressions of WB Montreal’s Batman: Arkham Origins
Rocksteady Studios kicked off the Batman: Arkham franchise in 2009, which has since been lauded as the greatest Batman video game series of all-time, as well as one of the best gaming experiences based on a wildly popular IP. They released two amazing Arkham games, which solidified their spot as the go to developer for Batman in video game form, but now they want to move on to a new experience. Considering the success of the franchise WB didn’t want to let the series die with Rocksteady’s departure, so they had the London-based developers pass the Batman: Arkham torch to their WB Montreal studio to get them prepped to make another fantastic Batman: Arkham game.
The result of this collaboration is Batman: Arkham Origins, and after getting some hands on time with the PS3 version of it at E3, I can confidently say that WB Montreal has managed to not screw up the handoff, and have created what will undoubtedly be another solid Batman video game. All of the familiar controls are in tact, and Origins plays just like its predecessors, which is a great thing, not just a good thing for loyal fans of the franchise. The biggest faux pas they could’ve committed would be altering the already top-notch combat system, so it was comforting to find out that the Dark Knight can still gracefully float between foes as he beats them into submission.
For all intents and purposes, Batman: Arkham Origins plays just like the first two games, so if you’ve worked through Asylum and City, you’ll be intimately familiar with how the gameplay operates in Origins. Although, there are a few slight changes that make the experience feel new and fresh.
The first is the increased focus on crime scene investigations. During the demo Batman had to analyze a helicopter crash to advance the plot along. To do so he can still enable his detective mode to scan for clues, but the process felt more similar to Heavy Rain (the first scene with the cop character investigating a crime scene with his glasses and gloves) than the previous two Arkham titles. Batman can now scrub a DVR-like feed while in detective mode that lets him analyze how the crime took place in a step-by-step fashion. Imagine rewinding a football play and then playing it back in slow motion to see each and every nuance that enabled the play to take place. This is essentially how the advanced detective mode takes place in Origins.
For the helicopter crash I had to guide Batman around the surrounding vicinity to search for new clues and scrub through the crash footage. This ultimately led to the discovery of the chopper’s tail section, which caused Batman to find the source of why the vehicle crashed, which just so happened to be a sniper bullet meant for the Bat himself. This process played out over a 15-minute timeframe, so it was clear that the more advanced crime scene investigations will play a major role in Batman: Arkham Origins gameplay.
The second change that left an impact on my Origins play through is the addition of a remote bat claw to Batman’s utility belt. This new weapon provides for all sorts of creative means to take down the thugs trying to thwart his investigations. It works as a tether of sorts in that you have to attach it to two different surfaces, or items (bad guys, gas tanks, etc.) for it to take effect. Batman can use it to create his own perches by creating an overhead zip line of sorts, giving him another means of escape, or a new location to launch sneak attacks from.
It also functions as a formidable weapon. Batman can shoot one claw into an enemy, and the other claw into a different enemy, which then causes the two to be forcefully pulled together as if they had magnets attached to their chests. Batman can also attach one end of the remote bat claw to a combustible object, which causes it to smack into whichever enemy the other claw is attached to creating a knockout explosion. Finally, he can also use it to string up enemies to higher surfaces effectively taking them out of the fight.
Fans may be worried that Rocksteady Studios didn’t create Batman: Arkham Origins, but after some hands-on time with a playable demo at E3, I can offer these fans some relief. The best aspects of the Arkham franchise are still in place, and it didn’t feel like WB Montreal tried to change any feature that already had been perfected. The new, more in-depth crime scene investigations bring a deeper sense of exploration to the franchise, and the multi-functional remote bat claw makes taking out bad guys even more inventive than before. If you loved the previous two Batman: Arkham games, you will definitely appreciate Origins.
Batman: Arkham Origins is set for a worldwide release on October 25, 2013 for the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, PS Vita, and the 3DS (mobile titles feature side scrolling gameplay and not the same game as the consoles).
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