When Rocksteady handed the keys to the Arkham series over to Warner Bros. Montreal, many feared that it would lose the critical elements that made the first two Arkham games great. Fortunately it appears that WB Montreal has the same respect and love for the Rocksteady titles as fans do. After some quality hands on time with Batman: Arkham Origins, I can tell you that it looks and plays just like an Arkham game.
Upon first starting the demo, I was let loose on Origins’ version of Gotham city. I was told that this city will be twice the size of the Arkham City map and that the city will also be more expansive vertically, with more tall buildings than than its predecessor. Having extensively played the first two games, I immediately wanted to know how the combat fared in Arkham Origins so I went looking for a fight. The first thing that I noticed was that the visuals are nearly identical to Arkham City. Gliding around the city using my cape and batclaw felt just as smooth and natural as my previous experiences with Batman and I was able to get into the flow of the game with little effort.
Similar to previous games, I could hear the conversations of nearby thugs, allowing me to pinpoint their location to do some brawling. Getting into a fight was exactly as I remembered it and I was able to pull off 30+ hit combos and defeat the thugs with ease. Talking to the lead programmer, I discovered that they had literally adopted Rocksteady’s code for the fighting mechanics. Aside from some very minor tweaks to enhance the tightness of the combat, beating down crowds of baddies with your fists and gadgets will be deja vu for fans of Arkham City.
The next significant part of my preview was to see what they had done with detective mode. Detective mode has been overhauled in Origins. Previously you would simply scan clues in the environment and would be automatically told where to go next and what to look for. In this game, finding clues will allow you to rewind and playback the crime or incident, scrubbing through it at will to discover significant points of interest. Each new clue adds elements to the playback that help you to solve the mystery.
For example, in my preview I had to scan a crashed helicopter, allowing me to rewind and see the helicopter beginning to crash. From this point I needed to find the missing tail of the helicopter to get a little bit more of the story. After I found the tail, I was able to scrub through the crash and see a laser sight aimed at the helicopter just before the explosion. Following this clue led me to where the bullet had ricocheted, and ultimately to exactly where the shot had come from. This sequence of events required thought and was not spoon fed to me, which was a very refreshing experience. I can’t wait to see how they incorporate it into more of the game.
Finally, what is a Batman game without stealth? Anyone who has played an Arkham title knows that you do not want to be seen when taking out a room full of enemies with guns. As expected by this point, stealth plays out very similarly to the prior games as well, with one addition. Batman now has access to the remote batarang. This is a weapon that allows you to select two targets to tether together and there are a lot of possibilities. Want to make two enemies crash into each other? Done. Have an urge to drag an enemy into an explosive canister? Make it so. Feel the need to create a new tightrope to walk on and expand your stealth options? Easy. The remote batarang is going to be a very fun gadget to play with in the final build.
The final teaser cutscene involved the Joker, voiced by Troy Baker, with a variety of detonators allegedly wired to buildings around the city. After blowing up one building and threatening to take out more, there was a brief interaction with Bane and the demo ended. Troy Baker was spot on as the Joker, but Batman’s voice actor will take some getting used to as he sounds quite different from Kevin Conroy.
Arkham Origins’ story appears to be as dark and gritty as the other Arkham titles, and from my time with the game at E3, I can safely say that skeptics need not worry. Batman: Arkham Origins is shaping up to be be a worthy entry to the series.