Batman: Arkham Origins E3 2013 Hands-On Preview

Gotham. So depressing that even Christmas can't cheer it up.

When Warner Bros. Montreal took on the monumental task of continuing the Batman Arkham series, the company stated that it wasn’t planning to radically change anything Rocksteady Games had previously done with their licensed series. The studio claimed it would only add what made sense within the engine and was going to – without a doubt – improve the overall experience. After getting my hands on Batman: Arkam Origins at E3 2013, I can honestly say that Warner Bros. appears to have done just that, making what I felt to be the definitive Batman experience even better.

That’s a hard pill to swallow considering how great Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were, but the improvements in Arkham Origins proved themselves to me first and foremost through the game’s combat. Somehow, some way, Warner Bros. has taken Rocksteady’s near-flawless brawling mechanics and made them more seamless, more fluid. This especially applies to the improved countering, which now feels less sudden and more artful while retaining the same brutality the Dark Knight is known for in his throwdowns. It also appears that players will be able to perform their counters even further into committed strikes on other enemies, which allowed me to better react to the situations in which I found myself.

Everything else that players have come to know and love with regard to fighting it out with henchmen remains here in Arkham Origins. The combos, stuns, takedowns, and slow-motion final blows are all there. The same can be said for traversing through Gotham City and the tone of the city itself; despite snow falling from the ground and Christmas in the air, Gotham still feels just as dark and corrupt as ever before.

The city’s atmosphere is highlighted during side missions found throughout Arkham Origins. Some of which, like the citizen-in-need quests, make a return from Arkham City. There are also brand-new ones that are meant to reflect upon what Batman would encounter in his everyday patrols through Gotham, such as stopping a bank robbery by common criminals. Such missions gave me a truer sense of being an actual crime fighter ensuring the safety of regular folk and not only trying to stop insane madmen.

Thanks to the improved countering, that dude on the left is in for a five-knuckle surprise.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that encounters with some of Batman’s rogues gallery aren’t enjoyable. In one particular type of sidequest Batman tracks down villains not featured in the main tale and stops their destructive criminal plots. The one featured in my demo was Anarchy, who informed the Caped Crusader that he had a few bombs stashed in the immediate area that I would need to defuse before a timer ran out.

In my introduction to one of the game’s leading antagonists – Deadshot – I was led to a reintroduction of the series’ detective mode. After witnessing a police chopper being shot down by a single bullet – fired by a cop who was shot by Deadshot himself – and putting together the pieces of the crime, I was able to fast-forward and rewind a CG version of the crash in order to pinpoint the exact moment and location where the chopper was hit. I was told this new feature will be prominent in several investigations throughout the game and will help to show even more of the Dark Knight’s deductive side.

Before meeting the two other villains in the demo, I had to survive one of the series’ classic stealth sections. During this part of the play session, I was introduced to a new gadget: the remote claw. This improved version of the bat claw could tether two different objects together, creating a tightrope for Batman to walk along for easier stealth takedowns from above. It could also tether to an enemy or two, making it possible to string henchmen up from a distance or send two of them slamming into one another. While it was fun to toy around with, I found it strange how a younger Batman would have access to such an advanced gadget, as well as all of the same gadgets he used years in the future in Arkham City.

The Joker is just as twisted and sinister as ever.

After suspending my disbelief and ensuring these lowly scrubs were disposed of, Batman and I thought we were about to crash Black Mask’s party, but it turned out he was in another skyscraper. Instead, the World’s Greatest Detective was ambushed by Bane, roughed up, and left lying in a room with none other than the Clown Prince of Crime waiting for him. Joker in Arkham Origins is just as gleefully insane as he was in Asylum and City, choosing to blow up a building by “random” choice right in front of Batman’s eyes.

He then laughs and confesses the building wasn’t random or filled with people, it was under construction and he knew that. Mr. J just wanted to see Bats’ reaction to him killing a bunch of citizens. This, of course, ticks off a more brutal and easily enraged young Batman, leading him to pound away at Joker. That is until Joker threatens, with another switch in hand, to blow a building that actually is filled with innocents.

It was then, with that perfect example of the Batman/Joker dynamic, that my demo session ended. It was a relief and pleasure to see that what made Rocksteady’s Arkham games so great remains in Arkham Origins, and even more impressive to see that Warner Bros. Montreal seems to be making good on the studio’s promise to enhance the experience. While some of the additions make perfect sense and some left me scratching my head, there’s no doubt that they all only enhance the fun of donning the cape and taking on Gotham’s vilest as the Dark Knight himself.

Batman: Arkham Origins is scheduled to arrive on October 25 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, and PC.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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