E3 2013 Preview: Batman: Arkham Origins is more of Batman, and that's not a bad thing
Everyone that's played Batman: Arkham City loves it. So it's going to be tough to top a game that got scored an "11" out of a possible "10" by Yahoo!. I'll avoid making another Spinal Tap joke, and I'll just continue to say that Arkham Origins has a lot to live up to. At the Warner Bros. E3 booth, I was able to watch a few missions played live, and then play the game myself.
To catch you up on the plot of Batman: Arkham Origins has fans playing as a younger, less experienced Batman. So far in his crime fighting career, he's only faced normal villains. And then, on Christmas Eve, Black mask puts a $50 million bounty on Batman's head, bringing the world's best assassin's to Gotham. During the game, you'll have to survive the assassins' attacks on you, investigate what Black Mask is up to, and stop crimes you come across -- all in an open-world, do-as-you-please Gotham City.
The visuals stood out to me right off the bat. There's just something about a snowy Gotham City around that holidays that brings a certain glow to the environment. It actually reminded me a bit of the Tim Burton Batman films, but with the Arkham edge that we love so much.
Crime in Progress
Both in the demonstration and my hands-on time, it was stressed that Batman has free reign to pursue the missions he wants. We started out beating up some thugs that were mugging a civilian and made quick work of them. Then we got a call about a "Crime in Progress." You can choose to do these or ignore them; they give you some nice rewards if you complete them, but they are a bit harder than just your normal posse of no-good-do'ers on your street corner. In the crime in progress, I was introduced to a new enemy -- the armored enforcer; he takes quite a while to beat and absorbs a lot of punishment. He also has a tendency to grapple, so you might want to avoid his clutches.
A city in Anarchy
In-between the main story with the Black Mask, the Crimes in Progress, and the taking out random bad guys, there's also side quests -- exactly like in Arkham City. These revolve around other characters who have their own agenda. The one in my time with the game was Anarchy, a vigilante that goes about justice in a different way than Batman. Anarchy planted bombs at a building owned by a bad corporation. His idea of justice is blowing it up, causing anarchy -- he's obviously anti-establishment.
As I moved in on the bomb, I was introduced to another new enemy -- the Martial Artist. Clad in red and black gear, the Martial Artist brings a new style of enemy to the table -- they're more agile, quick, block attacks, and have a fighting style more close to Batman's. While they are more difficult, they were still no match for Batman. After taking out the bomb, we went about our main mission of confronting the Black Mask. We could have hunted down all of the bombs in the city, which would lead to us facing off against Anarchy and bringing him in, but in the interest of time, we went on our way. Just another example of how free you are to choose your missions.
The best detective in the world
In the gameplay walkthrough, I got to see Batman approach a crime scene -- which was probably the highlight of my appointment. The crime scene had Batman investigating a helicopter crash. Using his cowl, he would enter a special mode to find clues in the environment and recreate a crime. The cowl gives Batman the ability to rewind, fast forward and rotate around the events that happened in the crime. Every time you find a new clue, it leads you to the next part of the crime scene.
For instance, we found where the helicopter crashed, and learned through rewinding that it hit the top of a building. At the top of the building we learned that a rotor blade flew off in the crash. We found it in another area of the roof, which led us to learn that a bullet is what took out the helicopter. Again through rewinding and rotating, we tracked a red laser sight to another building, where we found a SWAT sniper dead and a sniper rifle. It wasn't adding up, so we played around with the crime scene some more, learning that the real shot game from another building where the bullet went through the SWAT sniper, hit off the building, and angled to the helicopter to take it down. Only one person could make a shot like that -- Deadshot.
I did get to see where that all led, and to what epic DC Comics villain we came across, but I don't want to spoil some pretty cool moments for you.
Combat and new gadgets
Combat is just as good as the other Arkham games. It was just as responsive, quick to combo up, and full of strikes and cool counter moves. It's more of the same with some new takedowns, but that's not bad. If the combat changed, it wouldn't really be a Batman Arkham game, would it?
There was I new gadget I got to play with, though, and it's a ton of fun. That gadget is the Remote Claw, and it'll help you get the drop on baddies. What you do is aim up a shot that links two things together -- like two people or a person and a cannister. Batman fires the claw, which attaches to a person, then that claw fires another projectile that attaches to the other person, and then they get pulled together to disable them. Another example is pulling a cannister and a person together, resulting in the person getting knocked out. I can definitely see a lot of possibilities with this gadget.
Like I said, Arkham Origins is more of the Batman we love, which is not a bad thing. The fun combat is still there, there's so new villains and baddies to dispose of, the open city of Gotham looks great, and there's some new gameplay devices -- like the cowl and remote claw. What's great is we get to play through a night that'll change Batman before our very eyes. Some people might worry that more of Batman in the same open world riddled with quests might begin to feel tired and laborious, but I don't think it'll happen in Arkham Origins.
Batman: Arkham Origins releases October 25 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC.