Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City are tough acts to follow, especially since the development of upcoming prequel Batman: Arkham Origins was handed over to fledgling studio Warner Bros. Games Montreal, but so far we’ve already seen some very promising signs for the next main title in the Batman: Arkham series.
Arriving alongside it is a spinoff title for the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita called Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – a side-scrolling 2.5D exploration of Arkham City’s infamous Blackgate Penitentiary that was created by Armature Studio and directed by Mark Pacini (Metroid Prime). Pacini himself provides a commentary for this new extended gameplay video of Blackgate’s cell blocks, which have been taken over by Penguin and his thugs.
After a brief intro in which Catwoman comments on Batman’s “lovely end,” the game takes off into the depths of Blackgate and heads towards a confrontation with Bronze Tiger. Standing in the way are some basic door hack puzzles, a band of mooks and some structural damage that requires additional equipment in order to reach the area where Penguin is lurking.
The combat will be familiar to anyone who has played the Arkham games before – a mix of stealth elements and good old-fashioned brawling. If there’s one criticism of this, it’s that the approaches to combat situations seem quite prescribed instead of allowing the player to choose their own path, so there are sections where stealth is the only way past and others where the player is forced into a fist-fight with a large group of enemies. The implementation of both styles seems to be fairly smooth, however, and is integrated well into the 2.5D environment.
Most of the navigation is viewed from a basic side-scroller perspective, but there are moments during which the camera zooms in on certain actions or Batman must travel to a deeper layer, which helps to keep the game from looking too flat. Some elements don’t work as well, for example the way that Batman has to inexplicably do a roly-poly over narrow strips of spikes on the floor that he could quite easily just step over.
To try and reflect the exploration on offer in the main titles, Arkham Origins Blackgate is apparently designed in the Metroidvania tradition and encourages players to explore levels thoroughly in order to find the tools needed to progress to certain areas. It’s possible that the game becomes more open and labyrinthine at times, but this particular level looks fairly linear with only a couple of branching paths to explore.
There’s not really much in this gameplay video that stands out and makes Arkham Origins Blackgate look like an unmissable title, but for those who enjoy the combat and environment-traversing elements of Arkham Origins it could be a fun extension of the series. I just wish it had a better title; Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate sounds like someone just threw a bunch of Twitter hashtags together, and it’s quite the mouthful to say.
Batman: Arkham Origins will be available on Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC October 25, 2013.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate will be available on Vita and 3DS October 25, 2013.
Source: Warner Bros.