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Batman Arkham Origins Preview

Continuing with our series of previews from this past weekend’s Eurogamer Expo 2013, we’ve got Batman Arkham Origins stepping up to the plate. This game is intended to serve as a prequel to the incredibly popular Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games that saw the titular hero of Batman take on classic villains such as The Joker and Scarecrow.

Now we get to see how the caped crusader earned his infamy amongst the underworld of Gotham in Arkham Origins.

This demo on PS3 let me explore the wintery world of Gotham City and gave me access to a small variety of weapons in the bat’s arsenal. Thankfully the demo was open world, meaning that I wasn’t restricted to a single building and could get a better idea of what the final product would be like.

I’ll be honest, I’ve not played Asylum or City so I didn’t exactly have much to compare it to. I was going into this demo with a completely fresh experience of the Batman Arkham series, and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I would get a chance to play as the eponymous dark knight.

Batman Arkham Origins

Straight from the get go I was impressed by Origins. You’re dropped into the city of Gotham on Christmas Eve with many a nefarious plan to put a halt to, and the open world lets you naturally and fluidly find new missions as you explore.

Speaking of which, Warner Bros have definitely put a lot of time into the traversing of the city. The gliding and grapple gunning feel smooth and let you get just about anywhere without running into any jarring obstacles.

The only complaint I found was that gliding was a bit too sensitive, and it would be a bit too easy to send myself into a nosedive and crash off of a ledge. I was also annoyed by the constant reminder at the top of the screen telling me that I could grappling hook onto a nearby object, but it was ignorable.

Combat was a lot more fun than I expected. I’m not usually a big fan of open combat games that lean towards hack n slash, but I found myself getting into a comfortable rhythm whilst I was bashing in henchman skulls.

It was repetitive, but with all the tools at my disposal it wasn’t difficult to shake things up when I was getting tired of the usual routine. It added to the open feeling of the game that I could pursue whatever combat options I wanted as well as explore wherever I wanted.

Enemies come in groups with a good variety of types between them which you’ll have to approach differently.

If there’s numerous heavies sitting around with lighter foes, then you won’t want to rush in punching everything as the heavies will beat you down before you can take everyone out. Some should be tackled with stealth by gliding from the rooftops and discreetly dropkicking them.

Batman Arkham Origins

I very often found myself not turning off Detective Vision after I’d used it, because I didn’t see much reason to do so. Since it highlighted anything important, the only reason I could see to turn it off was so that I could better enjoy the art assets that someone had to spend all that time on.

Crime scene investigation was a bit wonky. It was easy to miss a hint and not know what to do next, and I ended up with a crashed helicopter in front of me and no idea of what I was supposed to be doing.

I wandered about the area for a bit looking for clues and accidentally stumbled into the first two parts of the investigation, but couldn’t manage to get any further than that, leaving the crime scene only half looked into.

One of the things that really got to me was the lack of fall damage, and I’m not sure why. No matter what height you throw yourself from, Batman always opens up his cape last second to create an air cushion which stops him from shattering his shins.

It’s sensible from a game design point of view, but it takes away all aspect of danger when you’re trying to discreetly explore the city. It doesn’t matter if you screw up, and without the consequence of death then exploration has less appeal. There’s no challenge in it.

Batman Arkham Origins

I highly enjoyed the time I spent playing Origins, and because of that twenty minute demo I think I’m actually going to pick up Asylum and City to tide me over until the release of the game in a few weeks.

After spending half of the weekend playing next generation titles, I wasn’t instantly impressed by the graphics, but that isn’t to say that they aren’t good. The visuals are stunning, and at the end of the current console lifecycles we’re still seeing amazing graphic quality from developers.

I didn’t get to see much of the story and writing, which was disappointing.

The characters appear to have been put together very well, and I want to see a lot more of that. Particularly the perverse relationship between Bane and the Joker, and the various efforts that Black Mask is putting into trying to assassinate Batman. Would be nice to actually see Deathstroke for more than half a second as well.

Overall, I was very happy with my experience playing Origins. It was fun, and well designed. The combat is stale, but because it lets you mix things up it constantly feels fresh.

Exploration was definitely my favorite part, as I was never in want of something to do. If you enjoyed the previous games, then I imagine that you’ll have just as much fun with this prequel as you did with those.

Oh, and the Joker really doesn’t sound right when he’s not being voiced by Mark Hamill.