Often carrying a tag-line of bad port, quick cash, and non-functional-crap, handheld titles have commonly been known for their negative aspects of not actually working or being suitable for the system they’ve been ported on to. Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate Deluxe Edition carries about as much problems in the same way it carries it’s over-lengthy name, and the search for actual enjoyability with in this game may require some Detective Mode. Arkham Origins: Blackgate seems to be doing to much with the series’ well established gameplay mechanics and not enough with style of gameplay that it’s chosen to take on, that being 2D.
The game often feels like it’s trying to incorporate too much gameplay elements from the PC and home console games of the Batman series, and because this doesn’t turn out all to well or even feel natural, it’s trying to justify this by having it play out as a 2D side scroller, more traditional to handheld console gaming.
The truth in the matter is that the game should have been a straight up 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up, and it would do well to take note from the earlier Batman games of the 90’s. Of course the elephant in the room is Batman Returns for the SNES but the way the game plays would suggest that the development and research that went into this title clearly wasn’t done well enough or for long enough, as to how 2D games are supposed to work.
Experimentation is welcome but there are certain aspects of 2D games that aren’t meant to be tampered with and that’s largely where Arkham Origins: Blackgate holds most of it’s flaws. For instance camera angles and the incorporation of a somewhat Three-dimensional world, that houses the illusion of the player’s choice in navigation. Continuous view-point changes that the game attempts to incorporate by playing out as 2.5D rather than 2D feel like it’s constantly backfiring at itself in the experience it’s trying to give the player.
It suffers from the same problem that Super Street Fighter IV did on the 3DS, in that it incorporates 3D transitioning into a game that’s well known for its 2D play style. Transitioning from 2D to what is essentially 3D when having to move the character into the distance such as approaching air vents or circling your way around buildings, has you as the player on a slight pause as to where you’re going to move to next.
As said previously the experimentation here is welcomed and appreciated, and it attempts to try something new in order to set itself apart from other traditional 2D games, but it just doesn’t work. I feel it’s best to say that this idea should have stayed on paper, as the word “2.5D” makes about as much sense as Nintendo’s own 2DS being in a bizarre competition of its own with their 3DS. 2D or 3D, pick one and that goes for Batman too.
What’s even more frustrating about the 2.5D nature of the game, and let that be the last time I ever use such a word, is the way in which the game handles combat. The combat system that the bigger games have now famously established, which other games have attempted to rip-off although done so very poorly, makes its way into Arkham Origins Blackgate. While it crosses over quite well visually, actually playing it is best described as tolerable.
The simplification process in which the combat system has gone through is an expected one, but placing such a system into a 2D game has to be carefully refined and treated carefully. Personally I would say it best belongs in the bin and combat should have been created entirely from scratch, but since the game is tied to the same legacy as the previous games I can see why the studio would want to have this system in the game.
There is a problem however…amongst many, and this lies within the enemies that you have to do battle with. The inability to move vertically in the game when engaging in combat causes somewhat of a mixed message as to who exactly you’re fighting with. Enemies position themselves in a 3D plane while Batman attacks who ever happens to be in front or behind him. This proves to be frustrating as he automatically changes who he’s fighting with should you choose to counter attack an enemy that was previously outside of your 2D plane.
It’s as confusing as it is to describe, as it is to actually play and there’s a severe lack of fun in doing so. There’s very little choice here in who you do battle with even though they’re surrounding you, and while the bigger games in the series had its focus on fighting multiple enemies at once with constant counter attacking and fast leaping strikes in all directions. It doesn’t feel as enjoyable here, and this is made worse due to the much slower pace of the fighting itself and Batman feeling quite stiff and unresponsive when he’s fighting.
Combat feels like it’s playing on a basis of enemy proximity as Batman’s quick leaping attacks that the other games made use of, either feel slow or non-existent. Nothing feels quick and brutal like it should, and this is a shame when it’s compared to the other games in the series. I agree that every game deserves it’s own identity and the right to stand out as being distinct, but Arkham Origins: Blackgate regardless of it’s 2D overhaul is part of the Arkham series. Therefore the comparisons to be made to how the other games functioned should and inevitably will be made.
As far as the stealth sequences in the game goes, it plays it out in much similar fashion to the failed sections of Activision’s earlier Spider-Man games way back on the Sony PlayStation. This has you scurrying through air vents and tunnels hidden beneath the floor in order to accomplish take-downs on armed thugs. While Arkham Asylum had you doing this feeling like a badass and paced itself well in making this optional, here it feels like a choir. Making things that much worse by overstaying its welcome for a large part of the game.
Batman feels like a rat in a maze and has you painstakingly navigating back and fourth, as he stumbles upon crates of his own gadgets that are required to overcome certain paths and obstacles within the game. Bigger question is why are all of these million dollar pieces of equipment laying here? Arkham Asylum had the Dark Knight requesting them from Alfred via his souped-up smartphone, which had actually laid purpose to the mission at hand. Arkham Origins: Blackgate on the other hand, “Hey Look a Bat-Claw…in a crate…which only I have access to!” The use of the gadgets in the game proves to be useless in both level design and storytelling. Batman should have had these things at hand and the one gadget he does come prepared with, Detective Mode, serves as nothing more than a Dummy’s Guide to poor puzzle solving and a clear lack of commonsense to being aware of your surroundings.
These sections of the game appear to be catered to the oblivious and don’t do anything whatsoever as to providing challenge. The use of Batman’s gadgets seem to be more designed to the hardware and control features of it’s original handheld platform.
Batman himself seems to have gone through some minor change, I think anger management sessions is the appropriate term here. Batman’s personality seems to have been neutered slightly to that of Arkham Origins. The much aggressive and brutal attitude that the caped crusader had in dropping of crooks of buildings and beating the Joker half to death, has for the most part disappeared.
Batman’s personality in Arkham Origins: Blackgate acts as a bridging between Arkham Origins and Arkham Asylum, and although the character is largely dumbed down in actually making the player feel as though he or she is one with the character, the character development here between the three games can’t be knocked. Batman’s maturing in his career and the young man with a trust-fund fueled by his anger has calmed down ever so slightly.
Something that’s come to my attention, one of which I was hoping Arkham Origins: Blackgate would do away with, is the same method and reasoning for Batman’s purpose in the past two games. Arkham Asylum had your attention placed on an overrun hospital which you couldn’t escape and Arkham City had your attention placed on overrun part of the City, that had you feeling as though you were stuck on an island.
The repetitive method of storytelling which has a group of super-villains, none of which actually like each other let alone being fond of Batman, being placed in a location working together by controlling sections of the world in a gang-like fashion, doesn’t feel unique in progressing the series forward.
Instead it has you thinking in a predictable way as to which villain is going to declare miniature world domination in the next game, and where it is going to be taking place.There’s no doubting this formula works well and the stories in the past games helped to provide depth with their amazing plot twists and the relationships between the characters, but only in those past games did it actually work. It would have been great to see Arkham Origins: Blackgate take a different route and one that’s more suitable for its method of 2D gameplay. The reason I mention this is due to the nature of the gameplay itself.
While the past games encouraged exploration because of their story-lines, it worked well in an open 3D space. Arkham Origins:Blackgate on the other hand struggles at delivering enjoyable exploration because it tries to or at least thinks it’s implementing 3D gameplay in to a 2D space. This integration of failed exploration within the wrong genre of game has attempted to offset this, by making things easier with a map displaying the game’s world.
This is accessible by pausing the game and will no doubt have you going back to it a fair number of times because you don’t know where you’re even going. It’s almost as if the developers were aware of just how horrible the exploration was in the game and decided to throw in the map just for good measure. Kudos for confusion in making a map of madness.
Taking place around 3 months later after the events of Arkham Origins the game had huge potential to expand the Batman universe and bring in characters unseen to the series. The story does nothing spectacular in introducing newcomers to the Arkham series. Catwoman’s first meeting with Batman during the first ten minutes of the game could have done more than to follow the same traditional route and mindset that we know Catwoman for being defined as, a thief. It would have been amazing to see Hush, Arnold Wesker, or Carmine Falcone. Heck! I’ll even take Man-Bat if the story’s written correctly, but no. Sadly we’re given another dose of Penguin and The Joker…oh let us play with a painful smile on our faces as we laugh at the bad joke this game is.
Thankfully, the game doesn’t last that long although backtracking throughout its non-diverse levels would have you thinking otherwise. Looking at this from a positive side the villains in the game seem to be the only thing that carried over from the past games that actually did well in remaining the same, as opposed to the combat and navigation systems. Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker return to the roles of the rich vigilante and the no-excuse needed to be a lunatic.
The cinematic motion-comic book cut-scenes that hold the story to it’s gameplay are actually more enjoyable to watch than what takes place in-game, and this had me thinking two things. The first being wouldn’t this be great if the entire game had this visual approach with traditional 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em Up mechanics. The second being that this game would have done well as an animated movie that released alongside Arkham Origins.
On the much debated subject of visuals that inevitably saturates our modern day presumptions of what ignorantly makes a game worth playing. Arkham Origins: Blackgate is clearly screaming for an HD texture pack. Given that this game is a port it’s only fitting that one would expect one too. Visual improvements to the game only seem to be in the form of a resolution upgrade. The potential to see just how good the game could look is clear when observing it’s environment. The tone and atmosphere of the Batman games are there but the barely impressionable surfaces of metal and wood that comes in the form of low-resolution textures cannot be overlooked.
Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate Deluxe Edition is a game that’s best experienced when the player chooses to become a member of the audience, through the means of a video walkthrough accompanied by commentary. The potential that the game holds on the surface is so obvious, but the approach taken to its gameplay through the use of a Two-Dimensional and something or the other viewing angle, is a large nuisance that causes more damage than good. However the cut-scenes that help in delivering an interesting story are where this game propels, and with that being said one can only look forward to a possible animated movie or a comicbook series that follows the game.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.