Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition (Wii U) Review

By Kyle Henderson 16.06.2014 1

Review for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition on Wii U

Anybody who has played an Arkham game can probably imagine how this instalment pans out; it is the same but with a 2.5D perspective and a reduced move-set. For the uninitiated, the Arkham games set out to allow gamers to really feel like Batman. There is going to be smooth combat, gadgets, exploration and some puzzle solving. Whilst Batman Arkham Origins left a somewhat bad taste, does former 3DS exclusive, Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition from Armature, made up of former Retro Studios team that worked on the Metroid Prime series, fare any better?

Another Gotham night, another campaign of violence and insanity from the city's larger-than-life criminal underworld. On this particular night there's an uprising at Blackgate Prison; ostensibly orchestrated by inmates Joker, Penguin and Black Mask but with someone else pulling the strings. A newly incarcerated Catwoman acts as Batman's guide to the complex and a handful of other, more minor villains make appearances.

It's fairly strange to see villains like Joker and Penguin given equal spotlight alongside a mid-stable character like Black Mask. This is because neither of them has really reached arch-nemesis status against Batman at this point of their story and it's quite refreshing really, it's a point in the Batman mythos that isn't given as much spotlight as it should. The comic has such a wide range of bad guys and the main games have done a decent job of including a good number of them but it never hurts to see more.

The story isn't as enjoyable as the ones found in Asylum and City but it's not awful either. There's a handful of twists (one of them extremely obvious, and this comes from someone who almost never calls twists!) and a decent pace to it. Bad guys being bad and Batman introducing them to his fists is the order of the day - standard, but mildly enjoyable, stuff.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition on Wii U

Given the smaller structure of what was original a portable title, developer Armature has taken the opportunity to be a little more creative with player agency. The main manifestation of this is the option to choose the order in which the three main villains are faced. Depending on which is defeated last, the final chunk of gameplay will be cosmetically different and post-credits scene featuring the ultimate prey is presented. This is a nice idea but it doesn't really make a huge difference as the last half hour or so before the climax is essentially the same regardless of who is fought last. The effort is appreciated but it feels like development time may have run out before the team could really do what it wanted to do with it.

The most apparent distinction from the main series is that Batman is now controlled side-on - a perspective that makes sense for the game's original platforms of Vita and 3DS. On the handhelds, it is an attempt to bring a version of the console experience without too much compromise for the less powerful systems. This translates fairly well back to console in this "Deluxe Edition," although not without the wrinkles present in the original release.

It clearly wasn't an easy task for Armature to bring the style of the Arkham series into this smaller frame. There's a lot of perspective shifting, the camera jerking around Batman like a wild thing as it desperately tries to be somewhere useful. To the game's credit, there is no frame-rate drops caused by this and the camera is usually somewhere useful. It very rarely feels like the action is obscured and the fixed angles mean that there's no getting stuck on walls and scenery. It perhaps wasn't the best design choice, though, as the constant shifting can become quite disorientating, and Batman often ends up facing an unexpected direction on the map, making navigation a nightmare.

As tricky as it can be to use, the map is actually a considerable upgrade from the 2D effort in the original release. Now it's in full 3D and actually provides a fairly good representation of the prison complex, although on occasion becoming a bit like an MC Escher illustration, resulting in players attempting to follow pathways that are purely an illusion. Fortunately, the environment itself is well-designed and learnable - the map is only really a hindrance in new areas.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition on Wii U

That's a good thing as the map is invaluable while searching for the game's wide array of collectables and upgrades hidden - sometimes fiendishly - in secret rooms. Question marks indicate the location of equipment upgrades and new suit components but the real challenge is figuring out exactly how to access them. Signposting where the secrets are is really the best way to get players interested in collecting them, but the fun lies in the puzzle of getting to them, not the tedium of combing the environment. Unfortunately, Blackgate's other hidden items - detective case clues - aren't marked on the map at all and players will find themselves doing exactly the latter to find them.

Batman's arsenal has suffered a bit of a downgrade, which is clearly a necessity of the more compact structure. There are now only four gadgets at the player's disposal, although some do have the capacity for upgrades and expanded use-sets. They are all pulled straight from the previous games, with Armature preferring to stick with the tried and tested, which is a little disappointing. While the Batarangs, Batclaw, Line Launcher, and Gel Launcher are just as enjoyable to use as ever, it would have been nice to see some innovation, such as some items that take advantage of the more unique aspects of Blackgate.

The series' beloved free-flow combat also remains largely untouched, although now taking place on a fixed horizontal plane. Enemies will still surround and outnumber Batman, the fighting coming down to crowd control and rhythm just as it always has. That horizontal plane does rather get in the way of flawless fighting though, with the player's only directional options being left or right while aggressors are free to move around on different planes, meaning that an enemy directly behind or in front of Batman is untouchable and either breaks a combo or gets a free shot in.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition on Wii U

Missing, too, is the ability to use gadgets during combat - something that only really comes into the bigger games towards the end when the player is fully comfortable with the system's nuances. Blackgate being only around 6-7 hours long, there's maybe no need for such complexity but veterans of the series may be a little disappointed in this exclusion.

The Metroidvania style is one that really fits the Arkham series, Asylum having been a great example of the genre writ large. Blackgate is even closer to the games that spawned the genre than ever before and it's glorious, likely thanks to the origins of many of Armature's team members, having worked on the Metroid Prime games in the past. There are branching paths, areas that are inaccessible until the right equipment is gained, secret rooms, and tons of exploration. Batman's nature is slow and considered - not a character that requires massive action set-pieces and explosions - so this is a perfectly natural place for him to be.

In the end, Blackgate doesn't hit the same highs as its bigger console brothers manage. It's shorter, less varied and shoddy in more than one area. It still allows gamers the fantasy of being Batman, though; outwitting master villains and becoming the master of an environment on both ground and air-based levels is as irresistible as ever. It will never match up to Asylum or City but Blackgate is still a worthy addition to the Arkham series.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

A good Batman experience that is overshadowed by its bigger brothers in almost every way. Definitely worth playing for anybody who hasn't had their fill from the main series, Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate - Deluxe Edition doesn't strain to do anything new. There is nothing original to be found in any of the mechanics and the 2.5D perspective is more irritating than worthwhile. This shouldn't be the first game for anyone new to the series, but experts will find enough to like.

Developer

Armature

Publisher

Warner Bros

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I actually think this works better on 3DS. From what I played of that version, it'd be around the 7/10 mark, purely because it's such a good fit for the portable system.

A few niggles that bugged me:

1.) Trying to figure out where to go after backtracking proved a pain at times, with the map not always being clear;

2.) Batman's movements were a bit too laboured at times, making quick movement to switch attack focus to another enemy awkward;

3.) The auto-positioning camera caused all sorts of problems when perched atop a ledge and having to take down one enemy stealthily before quick zipping back upwards to hide and then take out another enemy on the ground. It got really confusing as the camera was all over the damn place.

However, saying that, I loved the comic book style cut-scenes and the additional scanning sections to gain more information about all manner of things (very reminiscent of scanning in Metroid Prime).

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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