BADGP Reviews: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Warner Bros., Armature Studio)
Released: October 25, 2013
November 11, 2013
Review: Mr. Wayne still has a few things to learn from the Belmonts and Samus Aran
My opinion of Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate greatly vacillated over the 6-8 hour journey through the Blackgate prison. Blackgate makes an incredibly strong first impression. It is extremely cinematic and the designers play a lot with the camera angles and make the introductory sequence exciting and engaging.
The game begins with Batman chasing Catwoman. Using her, an instantly recognizable character, and the way the tutorial is built into the chase make it one of the best tutorials I have experienced in some time. It was well designed and kept me interested while not asking me to “press A if you can read.” As turns out, a riot breaks out in the penitentiary where the player had just sent Catwoman to serve her sentence: Blackgate. When Batman arrives he arrives to chaos and the prison has been broken up into pieces led by the various crime lords and whatnot. If this sounds suspiciously similar to the set-up for Batman: Arkham Asylum, one would be correct; the premise for each game is identical. This does not have to be a bad thing, but it certainly makes me question where this Batman: Arkham series can go after already doing a prequel in Origins.
Technically, the game is impressive (played on 3DS). I would like to see the Vita version; I am sure it is also gorgeous. Though I ran into several small glitches, nothing was game-breaking or overly frustrating. The presentation is top notch, but where Blackgate shines most is in how well it brought over the combat from previous Arkham games to the handhelds. I was somewhat skeptical after playing a release from earlier in 2013, the incredibly okay Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate. Mirror of Fate did not do a good job in transferring the combat from its big console brother, and had seriously struggled to maintain a steady framerate. Though, Mirror of Fate had more set pieces and moments of higher action, Blackgate is by far the technically superior product. These two games have more strong points of comparison aside from being released in the same year and on the same system, the progression, gameplay, and genre are all also similar.
Blackgate is an excellent Metroidvania game. It has the player running around back and forth between the three major sections of the prison looking for the item to get passed a certain roadblock in one of the other sections of the prison. The moment-to-moment action of Blackgate, I found to be a lot of fun. 1. Exploring the prison. Though the environments are drab and depressing there is an impressive amount of detail that had me scanning everything in sight to get as many secrets and upgrades as possible. 2. Core gameplay and combat. Blackgate operates on a 2.5 dimensional plane, where the player only controls two directions, but Batman may move freely through the 3D environment. Combat looks great in 3D, seeing Batman pummel thugs into submission moving effortlessly across the field through different planes is exciting, just as it is in the console games. 3. It looks great, and sounds great. The voice acting is outstanding, the music acceptable, and the sound effects, great.
So, what went wrong?
The longer I played Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, the more I found wrong with it, the most grievous offence coming in the form of the boss battles. There is poor check pointing around boss fights and players will have to retread, what is in my opinion, too much ground to get back to the fight, skip the scene, go through the motions of what one already did, and hope to figure out how it works this time. And you will die, potentially a lot… like I did. The Penguin boss fight, though perhaps the hardest, is the best. I found it to be slightly reminiscent to the Mr. Freeze fight in Arkham City where there is a huge battlefield with many opportunities for a myriad of strategies. The other four to five boss fights are not great to actually being bad. Frustration was the name of the game for my time with the rest of the menacing cast, except for maybe Grundy and Deadshot. I won’t spoil all the fights, but it will not take much to guess who is in there. I also found some of the roaming back and forth near the end to be tedious and unnecessary.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a fine game. I was hoping to score it higher, but the last 60-90 minutes was hardly what I would consider enjoyable. The end was designed well enough and made sense, I just did not find it fun. But I won’t let a weak finish ruin the generally impressive first 80% of the game! Blackgate is an obvious choice for fans of 2D Metroid and Castlevania games. To others, if one likes Arkham Asylum, then this is one to check out. I enjoyed my time in Blackgate prison, just not when coming face-to-face with the psychopaths closed within.
8.0 out of 10