E3: Batman: Arkham Origins First Impressions

Since the announcement of Batman: Arkham Origins, fans have been worried. “Arkham Asylum” and “City” developers Rocksteady aren’t involved with the project, famed writer Paul Dini didn’t pen the script, and Kevin Conroy won’t be voicing the titular character. These reasons call for plenty of concern for fans of the previous games as these three elements, among others, were what made the first two games so great. Well, good news everyone, after having seen a demo of the game in action at E3, we can tell you this: You have nothing to worry about.

As far as setup goes, “Arkham Origins” is set just two years into Bruce Wayne’s career as Batman. The entire game takes place on Christmas Eve and involves the biggest crime lord in Gotham, Black Mask, putting out a $50 million hit on Batman. This kind of cash draws in the top eight assassins from all over the world who will be targeting the Batman and each other to get their hands on the prize.

The demo we witnessed of the game saw Batman searching for Black Mask’s location in South Gotham. We were told that the open-world Gotham map is twice the size of “Arkham City’s” map and for that reason necessitates the “Fast Travel” abilities that come with the newly brought in Batwing. Batman grappled and flew throughout the city and it makes Batman seem small due to the sheer amount of skyscrapers, an effect that players didn’t really get even in “Arkham City.”

The combat for “Arkham Origins” is totally unchanged from the previous games, because if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it. The free flow and fluid movements of Batman whipping around and attacking enemies is just the same as it was in the previous two titles. Some new combat moves have been added as well. A glide and throw move that we saw really excited us. WB Montreal have also added a few surprises into the combat in the form of two new enemies. The first is the “Armored Lieutenant” which bears some resemblance to the armored enemies from previous games but is much more difficult to defeat. Another new enemy NPC is called the “Martial Artist,” which are actually capable of countering Batman’s attacks, unlike previous bad guys.

One big difference in “Arkham Origins” is in the experience points system. While you still accumulate the points to use on upgrades like the previous games, the enemies you take on and the difficulty of the battles factor into the progression of Batman. The more difficult the fight you take on, the more you will grow as a hero within the game. So if you want to reach the same level that you find Batman in the first two games, you’re going to want to take on the baddest of the bad.

Two more things that have been added to “Arkham Origins” are the “Crime in Progress” and “Most Wanted” side missions. As you travel through Gotham you will pick up chatter on your radio band alerting you to various crimes around he city and you can chose to accept or ignore these missions as you wish. The Most Wanted portion of play is similar to the side missions of “Arkham City.” Said to star many of the key Batman enemies, these missions are not required to complete in order to progress in the primary game, but we’ve been told they will offer great moments for the player.

While there is likely more new equipment for Batman in this game, the only item we were shown is called the “Remote Claw.” Using this claw, Batman can attach any one thing in a room to another and force them together. For example, you can rope two enemies together and cause them to fall to the ground from running into each other. You can also tie an enemy to a ledge in the air as a way of incapacitating them or you can tie an enemy to an explosive such as a propane tank to get an immediate reaction.

The biggest change to “Arkham Origins” comes in the form of the crime scene recreation. Previous games have given you the chance to recreate crime scenes in order to show you the path to your objective, but they’ve never depended so heavily on the player’s abilities as this. The scene we witnessed saw Batman investigating the cause of a helicopter crash. By using his computer to simulate the movements of the crash, players are capable of rewinding and fast forwarding the scene to get a full grip on what happened, but you won’t notice everything unless you change your angle. This mode really offers players the chance to fit into the detective role that Batman is known for more than the previous games did. This moment is very cool, very in depth, and will likely offer the most unique gameplay of a superhero game in recent memory.

The demo we witnessed ended with a really terrifying cinematic. As Batman rides in an elevator to confront who he thinks is Black Mask, he is attacked by Bane. Bane’s design for “Arkham Origins” is more in line with his comic book roots instead of the ‘roided out muscle ball we’ve seen in the past two games, and for that we prefer it. As Bane throws Batman around, he lands in front of none other than The Joker. Bane and Joker have seemingly teamed up to take out Batman, with Bane allowing the Joker to torment him but taking Black Mask’s paycheck for himself. The Joker factors into the story, not as one of the assassin’s after Batman, but as his usual crazy self. He’s wired tons of buildings in Gotham with bombs, and even blows one up right in front of Batman.

Based on the things we saw, Batman: Arkham Origins will be a worthy chapter in the franchise. By making minimal changes to the movement and combat system, fans will likely feel at home and with its additional modes and sequences, the game won’t feel like a knock off of the previous titles. The voice acting is top notch in the game, you can barely tell that Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill aren’t behind the voices of Batman and The Joker. “Origins” will offer players a unique look into Batman’s metamorphosis as a hero and a grunge-free Gotham that is a welcome visual change.

Batman: Arkham Origins will be available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC on October 25, 2013. You can watch the E3 trailer below.