E3 Preview: Batman: Arkham Origins

When it was first announced, there was some speculation as to whether or not Batman: Arkham Origins would live up to the same quality level as it predecessor. And while many might be quick to write off the fears and concerns of fans, it’s hard to argue that the criticism isn’t unfounded. After all, the Batman: Arkham series is one of the most beloved and praised superhero game series of all time, and there’s more than a little pressure riding on the studio that decides to take on another adventure set in the Arkham universe.

Developers for Batman: Arkham Origins knew of this pressure going into the project as well. Created by the team at WB Montreal rather than the usual suspect Rocksteady, many (including myself) have been skeptical as to whether or not the game would shine in the hands of another team. Creators knew the odds they were facing going in, and have kept it in mind throughout production of the game. There’s a certain level of quality they’re expected to meet, and gaming fans are not the most unforgiving of people.

Thankfully, it looks like the developers have managed to create a new experience out of the Arkham universe that will both deliver on the most successful elements of the Arkham series while introducing new ideas to keep things fresh.

Rather than being a complete origin story starting at the beginning, Batman: Arkham Origins sees you taking the role of a Batman who is still new to the job, but has a decent grip of what he can do and what is expected from him. Creators aim to tell a story that sees him morphing from masked vigilante to the infamous Dark Knight.

The story begins on a bleak and snowy Christmas Eve, when Gotham’s crime lord Black Mask places a hit on Batman for a whopping sum of $50,000,000. Calling on the eight deadliest assassins in the DC Universe, Black Mask begins a manhunt with one ultimate goal: put the Batman out of commission once and for all.

Featuring key characters such as Deathstroke and Deadshot, Batman: Arkham Origins tells a story of a manhunt that promises to take you through several twists and turns, all while introducing you to several iconic characters in the Batman universe.

And while the story will remain the main emphasis of the game, WB Montreal has constructed an open world roughly two times the size of those found in previous installments through which you can interact with villains and troublemakers while taking on side missions and gaining experience points that can later be used to purchase upgrades.

At first glance, it’s really hard to discern Batman: Arkham Origins from the likes of Arkham City. The HUD looks startlingly familiar, and even things like traversal and combat feel almost like mirrored images of one another.

Combat looks to be just as fluid as always, sporting a dynamic counter-based system that features brutal hand-to-hand fighting moves and combos used to take down enemies. Animations are fluid, and each hit has the same heavy look and feel of that found in games within the franchise itself.

One of the biggest and most notable changes in Origins is the overhauled Detective Mode. Riding on the idea that Batman is the “ultimate detective,” creators wanted to do something new and unique with detective mode for Origins that would feel unique and original. In order to do just that, they ended up allowing Batman to essentially “see” a crime scene and extrapolate answers from using a unique type of augmented reality.

How does it work? Essentially, Batman uses his evidence scanner to look for clues at a crime scene. Once all evidence has been gathered, sensors in his cowl scan it, take the data, and upload it into a computer in his cowl that re-constructs the evidence into an augmented reality scene that shows the events of the crime. Players will be able to scrub through the feed in order to learn about bullet trajectory, track down criminals, and figure out solutions to crimes. While this all might sound confusing, it’s actually an interesting sight to behold and could potentially add the new element to gameplay that the team is looking for.

While I’ve voiced my concerns for Batman: Arkham Origins in the past, I’m happy to say that seeing a demo of it has officially made me a believer in what WB Montreal is trying to do. From top to bottom, the game looks to be incorporating the ideas and mechanics that made the original Arkham games great, all while adding in their own flair and giving it an identity all its own. If you’re a Batman fan or just love third-person action games, keep an eye on Arkham Origins as it nears its release. It might just be the game we both want and need.

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