This fall, WB Games will deliver the best of both worlds to Batman fans. Those who prefer console action can dive into Batman: Arkham Origins, a prequel to the previous games that pits the Bat against memorable villains. Those who enjoy on-the-go action with the Caped Crusader will have an option as well, as Armature Studios is almost finished with Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, a separate adventure with its own play style. WB invited us to go hands-on with the game to see how it works.
Blackgate doesn’t play the same way as its console brethren. You still have access to Batman’s aggressive fighting style, as well as his wonderful toys, including his grapple gun and the scanner that activates Detective Mode. However, the game operates like a 2D platformer within a twisting 3D world. You’ll grapple onto ledges and swing around levels, but you’ll do this via side-to-side movement, rather than full 3D.
Armature Studios, who previously worked on various Metroid Prime titles, created a gameplay system that clicks on the handheld. You’ll work your way through each level moving left to right, and occasionally use an item from your utility belt to get further.
At one point during the demo, Batman hit a dead end with no place to grab onto or climb up. However, once you switch on Detective Mode – which is as easy as tapping the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS screen – you’ll enter an alternate view with X-Ray style vision, with clues on what to do next. In this case, it’s finding a ladder and using your Batarang to knock it loose, allowing you to climb up to the next level.
Detective Mode also serves another purpose, as you can turn it on to see where guards are nearby. There are a lot of them roaming around on the rooftops, and most of them pack weapons, indicated by glowing red, rather than yellow. Once activated, Detective Mode shows you their spectrum of vision. If you enter it, they’ll open fire, so you’ll want to make sure they’re turned away before moving in to knock them out.
When it comes to getting around, Batman has plenty of options. He can run up to ledges, grab onto the edge and hoist himself up – which we saw early in the demo while chasing Catwoman – and he can also use his grapple gun. Once you reach a point in the stage where it’s necessary, an indicator will light up. Simply press the highlighted shoulder button, in this case the right trigger, and it’ll automatically grab hold, zipping him from point A to point B in the matter of seconds.
Since Batman relies so heavily on stealth, he’ll need a combination of things to sneak past enemies. As with previous games, he can grapple onto gargoyles, surveying the scene and waiting to strike. He can also throw a Batarang to knock a gun out of enemy hands, or swoop in with a quick glide kick and pounce to take them out. Be careful, though. If enemy patrols spot you, you’ll need to get out of there quickly, or get riddled with bullets.
Perhaps the most surprising part of Blackgate is how well the fighting works. There are situations where you’re surrounded by enemies, both to your left and right. However, when Batman launches his physical attacks, he automatically switches planes, jumping and hitting anyone that gets in front of him. That’s when you’ll want to strike with combos to take down enemies, complete with a dramatic slow-motion close-up when you take out the final bad guy.
He also protects himself with defensive tactics. Batman uses his cape to temporarily disable anyone within range, and also counters an incoming attack if an enemy appears with “strike lines” over his head. Armature modified the fighting system so it works almost flawlessly on the 2D level, though some players may prefer beating up thugs in a 3D environment. Regardless, it still feels like you’re Batman. That’s what counts.
Although the demo was brief, it did provide an idea of what Armature has in mind for the Dark Knight. That said, fans should keep Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate in mind when it releases October 25th for both Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita.