Batman: Arkham Origins Preview

Considering how much I’ve enjoyed the previous games in the Batman Arkham series, I eagerly grabbed my chance when presented with the opportunity to try out the demo for Arkham Origins, which is due for release next month. Set in a snowy Gotham City, the demo tasked me with defusing bombs set by the villainous Anarky, before moving inside and facing a number of the Joker’s hired goons, using Batman’s best weapon: the shadows.

Batman - Arkham Origins

Arkham Origins is only releasing on current generation consoles (at the time of writing, anyway), so the demo I experienced was running on the PlayStation 3. Still, I was quite impressed with the presentation of the city, which looked dark and brooding, as we’ve come to expect from Gotham City. The snowfall that was dusting the city (this portion of the game is set on Christmas Eve) looks authentic, with flurries being caught in wind currents, and it almost seems as if you can feel the chill that’s in the air. Generally, the visuals in Arkham Origins look cleaner and smoother than what was offered in Arkham City or Asylum, and some of the smaller details are also pleasing on the eye, with snow-covered cars being detectable due to their flashing hazard lights.

One thing that really impressed me was in the final cutscene shown in the demo, where Batman begins taking his frustration out on the Joker. It’s a seemingly mundane detail, but the fact that players can see each of Batman’s teeth as an individual object highlights the attention to detail on offer within the game, and I was frankly quite shocked at seeing something so trivial taking me by surprise.

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In terms of action, Arkham Origins plays quite similarly to the previous games in the series, with outdoor sections becoming a mixture of gliding and grappling, with spots of largely optional combat here and there. Inside Gotham’s buildings, Batman is better off sticking to the shadows and higher ground, especially when faced with enemies armed with machine guns, as they can quickly bring the caped crusader down. Detective mode obviously makes a return, allowing Batman to tag various enemies and highlight which ones he wants to tackle, and once in combat, he is able to call upon the familiar repertoire of moves, which are best used in an almost rhythm-based take on fighting. The one major addition I did notice, to the indoor sections at least, is the inclusion of a Remote Grapple in Batman’s armoury, which allows him to target enemies from a distance and string them up from gargoyles.

Batman - Arkham OriginsI must admit that I was a little disappointed not to be able to check out the new crime scene reconstruction instances that we’ve heard so much about, as these seem like great new additions to the game that allow players to really take on the role of the World’s Greatest Detective.  From the section of the game that I played, though, it’s clear that Arkham Origins is a strong continuation of the Arkham series, and the fact that it’s a narrative prequel to the first two games should be enough to draw in new fans. Those who feared the fact that Arkham had been taken away from Rocksteady Studios and given to Warner Bros. Games Montreal should be reassured that Arkham Origins feels exactly like an Arkham game, and doesn’t venture too far from the Metroidvania-type formula that made the first two games so popular.

Batman: Arkham Origins releases on October 25 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, and PC.

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September 2, 2013 - 5:11 am