With Batman: Arkham Origins not being reprised by its original developer, Rocksteady Studios, concern for the once groundbreaking comic book based title has been rising across the globe. Warner Bros. Games Montreal is a studio with a limited history of only working on Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition for the Wii U, so fan anxiety is not unfounded. However, once they see what the young studio has managed to put together, their worst fears will disappear faster than Batman himself.
Beginning the Comic-Con demo, I began my brief adventure as Batman on a rooftop looking at the troubling state of the city below. I could see the bat signal in the sky reminding me that I'd transcended into the unmistakable city of Gotham. Patrolling sentinels looking for a fight reminded me to tread with caution to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Gotham City felt much more vast in terms of horizontal and vertical spacing than I remembered from Batman: Arkham City, and there was a good reason for that. Batman: Arkham Origins' world is said to be twice as large as its predecessor. In order to make travel less of a burden, a Batwing can be summoned. While it wasn't usable in the demo my feet wished it was.
The choice between advancing through the story arc or hook-shotting around to explore all of the dark places hidden around the city wasn't an easy one. Unlike previous installments, exploring is more than just about enjoying the thrill of Batman and obtaining collectibles. There are many side missions to engage in, many of which assist the unknowing Gotham City Police Department. Nothing says "I'm Batman" like rolling up on a situation out of control and taking care of business like any appreciated superhero would. The inclusion of a new gadget, the Remote Claw, made tinkering with Batman's technologies a blast. With the Remote Claw I was able to tie a thug to a trash can before both collided. It was as effective as it was entertaining.
Progressing through the main campaign, Batman moved from room to room in a way that I found instantly familiar. Thugs patrolled specific routes, perches lined the ceiling, and tunnels allowed covert movement. I had to figure out how to best use the environment to conquer the game's varied scenarios. It's easy to string enemies to the ceiling, the hard part was doing it without causing the area to go into high alert. In the event I did trigger an unwelcome situation, using Batman's abilities to dispatch a group was standard fare for the Arkham franchise. I dropped in and bounced between enemies countering and knocking them out one after the other, and while I was more than they could handle, timing was critical to keeping the fight in my favor. In the end, I could tell that even though this is supposed to be a younger and less experienced Bruce Wayne, he is still as capable of being an unstoppable force.
The evolution of Batman's detective toolkit is one that fans will particularly take notice of, as finding important details in crimes is more than just a hurdle for story progression this time around. It's something you'll do regularly that makes you really feel like you are piecing together a puzzle. While I didn't get to experience it for myself in the demo, it's one of the things I'm most excited about.
Worries about WB Montreal not being able to recapture the feeling of previous games with Batman: Arkham Origins should be laid to rest, as the preview available replicated the best qualities of the award-winning series. Batman still has fun combos, powerful counters, and a belt full of gadgets. The expansion of the game world is something everyone can admire, but it's with how that space is utilized that makes it a fun affair. The addition of dozens of side-missions and the improvement of detective interaction make Batman feel more genuine than ever before.
Batman: Arkham Origins checks off more than enough boxes to be considered a capable title for the adored franchise, although those expecting a complete renovation may be disappointed by the fact that it's not a radical departure from experiences we've had before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.
As this hands-on was limited to only a small segment of the campaign, make sure to stay tuned to Crave Online for more information on the road to its October 25th, 2013 release.
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