First Impressions: Batman Arkham Origins

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Batman: Arkham Origins is shaping up to be the same caliber as its predecessors.

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Rocksteady shook up the industry with Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009. Its fluid combat system and innovative detective mode brought this game to the same level as a potential game of the year in 2009. Then came Batman: Arkham City in 2011. Improving upon all the mechanics of Asylum. A bigger world a better story and hours and hours of extras. So it came as no surprise when Warner Bros. Montreal Studios announced that they would be at the helm of the next Arkham game and not RockSteady that fans became very cautious. By the looks of it, however, Batman: Arkham Origins is definitely shaping up to be another blockbuster title.

The Ballet that is Combat.

The E3 demo opened with a young Batman falling through the skies of Gotham City. Gliding into a group of the usual Arkham mindless thugs, Batman prepares to engage the enemies. The combat remains as fluid as always based on the demo. Combos are delightfully empowering, and enemies leave just enough room to pull off these combos. The balance between visual elegance and genuine challenge is still very prominent.

Warner Bros. Montreal’s tweaks to combat are defined by new enemy types. ‘Armored Enforcers’ – who wear what appear to be football shoulder pads made out of metal – can be stripped of their armor and taken down with quick punches and kicks to the body. The ‘Martial Artist’ enemy type can counter Batman, and Batman in turn can counter his counters. These fights definitely add new variety to the enemies not seen before in previous games and look to mix up random encounters nicely.

The most significant addition to the combat system comes in the form of extra feedback to each encounter. Along with XP bonuses that will be awarded during combat, you will also receive a grade after each fight much like the recent Devil May Cry. The higher the grade, the more XP you receive, which can then be spent on a tree system to make the Batman you want to make. WB Studios seems to be keeping the formula for combat the same while adding small additions to the combat to keep it fresh. Hopefully the Batman skill tree system will run quite nicely.

Silent Knight, Holy Night.

Like Arkham City, Origins takes place over the course of a single night. Only this night, Arkham Origins takes place on Christmas Eve. WB Montreal describes the experience as “a mixture of upbeat and downbeat – getting your face beaten in, under a cheerful Christmas tree.” Die Hard was named specifically as a thematic influence. Plenty of red and green decorations and the moody snowy weather serve as a holiday reminder.

Detective, Case Closed.

Origins’ biggest addition to the finely-tuned Arkham formula is its new Case File system. As polished and fun as Asylum and City were, they never really gave players much opportunity to do any real detective work. It was mainly an X-ray vision and some scripted side mission use. You never actually discovered anything as a detective. Now, players finally have the opportunity to examine evidence and piece together crime scenes.

At specific moments in the campaign (or during specific side-missions), players will be able to enter Evidence Scanning mode. Each case file starts with a simple scan of a crime scene point of interest -the E3 demo uses a crashed police helicopter. From there, Batman works backwards, recreating in his mind the moment that must have created this outcome, in the stylized blue Detective Mode lines and pixels players are already intimately familiar with. Players can actually “scrub through” the crime timeline in realtime, moving around through the environment to examine the crime from every angle and from any moment.

Each case file only takes around three minutes to complete. This isn’t meant to be a deep puzzle, it’s just meant to give gamers a new stylistic break from all the action and actually feel like Batman.

Also revealed at E3 was that Playstation would receive an exclusive Knight Fall and 60’s Batman Costume! In addition, a pre-order will let you play as Slade. If all of this doesn’t get you pumped for the next Arkham game I don’t know what will.

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Aneudys Tejeda
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