NYCC 2013 Preview: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate 3DS vs. Vita comparison
Arkham Origins isn’t the only new Batman game around the corner. Arkham Origins Blackgate will be blowing up handhelds in similar fashion to its console counterpart on the same day. This follow-up game, which takes place three months after the events of Arkham Origins, is set in Blackgate prison, where an explosion allows psychopaths like The Joker, Penguin, and Black Mask to take over.
The game is developed by Armature Studios, a team consisting of former Retro members who worked on the Metroid Prime games. That pedigree bleeds into this game as well, as Blackgate offers a sort of 2.5D take on the Metroid-vania genre. Players will be able to explore a huge map, find gadgets, and unlock previously unavailable areas by backtracking with their new tools. In a way, that makes it a more portable-friendly adaptation of the Arkham series as well, since those games had similar concepts.
Coming to both 3DS and Playstation Vita, this portable game has the same basic features across both handhelds, but visually the differences are quite apparent. While the Vita is the more powerful platform, the difference in visual fidelity on 3DS isn’t all bad news. The 3D effect works quite well in a 2.5D setting, and the game does a good job of moving the perspective around to take advantage of the effect. If you like 3D in your games, Blackgate should be a treat on 3DS, even if it doesn’t have the detail of its Vita counterpart.
On Vita the game has better textures, models, and effects. It was apparent that Blackgate had better lighting effects on Vita, with more appropriate blacks, shadows, and colorful neon lights setting a Gotham scene. One rain scene had an obnoxious, blotchy rain effect on the 3DS, but the higher resolution on Vita allowed them to make the effect much more subtle. Overall, the Vita version falls closer in line with the console Arkham games.
That said, while the demo wasn’t a final version of Blackgate, I wasn’t particularly blown away by the performance on Vita. Especially in terms of character models, the game looked more like an up-rezzed port of the 3DS version than a version on a handheld capable of accurately capturing the subtleties of Nathan Drake in Uncharted: Golden Abyss. It didn’t help that right across from it was a pretty impressive port of Injustice: Gods Among Us running on Vita hardware.
Beyond the graphics, both versions of the game played fine. The demo was more or less a linear tutorial for the traversal, combat, and stealth mechanics, but the final game will allow for more exploration. Fights operate more or less as they do in the other Arkham games, but in a weird blend of 2D and 3D movement. You can only move Batman left and right, but he will leap into the foreground and background to dispatch enemies automatically.
That blend carries over into other aspects of the game as well. Often the next area isn’t even on the same plane, but off in the background, only accessible with Batman’s grapnel gun. Stealth sections -- where enemies have guns and can quickly take you out -- feature Arkham’s signature gargoyle statues for hiding up above. In one scene, despite the 2D gameplay, I waited until an enemy turned the corner and took him down from the safety of cover. Blackgate really stretches the definition of the 2.5D side-scroller in some neat ways.
My only concern with that is when the game opens up into a more Metroid-vania-style adventure. The 3DS version of the map is located on the bottom screen, which is handy, but in both versions I wasn’t sure what the map was actually showing me. The feeling I got was akin to the nightmare fuel that was Fez’s crazy map system. Hopefully Blackgate is much more intuitive.
Unless you own both a 3DS and a Vita, your version of Arkham Origins Blackgate has likely already been decided. That said, if you really like 3D, the 3DS version is probably the one you want. If you want sharper graphics, but maybe not the best the Vita is capable of, you’ll want that version. Either way, if the game lives up to its promise of a huge, explorable world you’ll be in for treat.
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