So, a Metroid-style sequel to a prequel that was a handheld but ported to console. Well, let’s see if Batman still has it. (Special note: Having never played the handheld version, this review is entirely based on this console version of the game)
Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition (try saying that five times fast) is an HD port of the handheld game that was developed by Armature for the Vita and 3DS. Set three months after the events of Arkham Origins, Batman learns of a mass breakout at the prison known as Blackgate. Much like Arkham Asylum, Batman must enter the prison, save the people, and subdue the villains, this time with the aid of Catwoman. The plot idea is average, mostly because this game doesn’t actually add anything to the overall story of the Arkham series beyond Batman’s first encounter with Catwoman.
Both visually and sound-wise, this is recognizably part of the game’s universe, with dark and disturbing visuals, and quality voice-acting and music. The major things that are changed are the perspective and the gameplay. Rather than its predecessors’ choice to have a fully-3D open world that follows a Zelda style of progression, Blackgate goes for a more 2.5D Metroid/Castlevania feel, with one of the big draws being that you can tackle the game’s major bosses in any order you want. The exploration is pretty fun, and the game manages to maintain a 3D environment in a 2.5D game style through clever use of the camera and transitions between the foreground and background. This, I really really enjoyed.
The problems start building up slowly as you continue to play. First of all, the most Arkham elements of gameplay, the Free Flow Combat and the Invisible Predator stealth mechanics, do not lend themselves well to a non-3D setting. When in combat and surrounded on a two-dimensional plane, sometimes you find yourself hitting the wrong opponent. The Predator encounters also suffer, mainly because being confined to a 2.5D environment means you can never truly unleash your stealth skills. Once you make your takedowns, or if you make a small mistakes, it’s way too easy for the enemies to spot you, and there’s often very little room to maneuver, meaning that regaining your hidden status takes a while and a lot of movement between short distances.
The game doesn’t utilize an experience point system like the others, preferring to leave new gadgets and armor upgrades, as well as new costumes, hidden through the game. This is both a good thing and a bad thing: it’s good because it encourages exploration of all the major nook and crannies of the prison, and bad because it means that outside of new tools and armor, Batman never improves throughout the game. No new combat maneuvers to make things easier, no new tricks for the Predator rooms. How you start is how you end.
And now we come to the biggest problem this game has: the monotonous and forced backtracking. See, the three big bosses of the game are in the three major areas of the prision: Joker in the Administration building, Penguin in the Cell Blocks, and Black Mask in the Industrial section. You can pick which ones to tackle, but they’ll still make you feel like you’re running the entire prison trying to get to one. For my playthrough, I decided to tackle Penguin first, and was having a decent enough time even with the complaints I already made as I pursued him. He eventually fled to his boss arena, and then I find out to get to him, I need a new gadget… one that is in the Administration building. So I had to go all the way to Administration, deal with Joker’s various deathtraps, get the gadget and go all the way back out of Administration to get back to where I was so I could use the gadget to get to Penguin. The game does this repeatedly to the point where I was getting tired of having to backtrack over and over just to make a little progress. A better choice would have been to make each boss’s part of the prison its own self-contained mini-adventure, where the gadgets you find there are necessary to explore, and gadgets you find in another boss’s territory are just useful for full exploration of the game’s many secrets.
There are plenty of additional things, such as all the armor upgrades as well as the bonus costumes. One of the other elements are clues to what happened prior to your arrival, where you use an add-on to your detective vision called scrubbing. You basically move a large circle over the environment to scan objects, and this is how you also scan things like traps, vents, and weak walls to blow up. This also gets annoying as for the explodable walls you must always scan them first before you can blow them up, otherwise they never show up on detective vision as weak walls. I’m sure this felt more natural on the Vita or 3DS with their touchscreens, but on console it can get tedious.
Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition is not a bad game. It still has a great atmosphere and a lot to explore. The problems stem from trying to do two things at once: being a 2.5D exploration action-adventure game, and maintain all the gameplay elements that make the Arkham series so beloved and unique. If they had chosen one and stuck to that instead of trying to do both, they may have had a much better game instead of an average one.
– Great design on the visuals and audio
– Lots to explore and find.
– Can often feel monotonous to constantly be forced to backtrack.
– The combat and predator sections could have been executed better.