The announcement of a new iteration in the Arkham series has left all of our eyes and ears filled with Batman. There isn’t a place you can go without being reminded that Batman: Arkham Origins is coming and that it’s going to be awesome. But with all the hype towards its release being doled out by the company, a lot of other information that came with it had some people concerned. Firstly, the release date seemed so close to the original. Surely a game as ambitious as a follow up to Batman: Arkham City should take more than two years to complete. Secondly, and most suspiciously, that the previous developers, RockSteady, would have nothing to do with the title. It would instead be developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal and it would be their overwhelming job to create something worthy of it’s juggernaut predecessor.
The Warner Bros. booth at E3 2013 was massive and had a multifariousness of games from Injustice to Infinite Crisis to even LEGO games. But Batman: Arkham Origins was the real star of the show floor and decked its section out with towering curtains dappled with the Origins bat logo and a menagerie of colorful characters. Inside these curtains was display of current and upcoming DC action figures and merchandise, behind glass, in a display lining a large monitor looping the Origins reveal trailer. The line was at least an hour wait throughout the entirety of the event and excitement spread in a exponential radius around the booth as everyone twitched and bobbed their heads to peek inside the demo room.
The demo opened with the Batwing flying overhead dropping Batman into the familiar Arkham City, now taking on a new look for an earlier story. This will be the main mode of fast travel as this world is far bigger than the last. Free roaming is still a staple as the Lead Level Designer Adam Alim showed us how much the city has changed from what we once knew. The design was dark and yet peaceful. Having taken place long before Arkham City was a prison, each building was lit and covered in a powdered snow; Christmas decorations mottled across every ledge and windowsill. As Batman effortless glided from ledge to ledge, the serene atmosphere was suddenly broken by the sound of thugs antagonizing a civilian.
The minor scuffle was quickly averted showing off some of Batman’s staple fighting engine now with more flashing takedown animations. An experience meter opened up on the left-hand side of the screen and rather than portray some arbitrary number for a meter, a list of attributes to the fight highlighted and exemplified every exp. point earned and for what reason. Adam pointed out that we would have earned more had we been flashier and not been hit. But as soon as he prepared his speech on what skills we needed to work on for the next fight, another crime in progress broke out. This one, a tad more severe, was a bank heist.
Demoing one of the new enemy classes, the armored, a group of petty thugs were slinking their way out of the side of a newly exploded wall, bags of cash in hand. The much larger, armored thug watched on to supervise. Batman easily pummeled his way through the line of crooks, but as the last of them fell and armored thug sprung into action. Acting much like the Titans from earlier games, the armored thugs must be stunned and beat down into submission. But an added element of difficultly is that they must be made vulnerable. Batman juked his way to the giant thug’s back and tore his heavy armor off. He swung back to the front and laid down a triple stun, beat down the perp and finished with a showy take down. Again, the experience reflected the fight showing how in depth the system actually goes.
Batclawing his way to the nearest rooftop, Batman confronted by, yet another, group of flunkies. They also had a new class: the martial artist. These ninja-esque punks have the capability of countering your attacks. As Batman starting his flawless stream of punches and kicks through the throng of baddies, the martial artist slid in and grabbed his arm. As time slowed, Batman got a punch to the face breaking his free flow combo. Timing is everything as the only way to maintain a streak is to counter each of their counters and wait for an opening to connect. After some experimentation, the martial artists fell and Batman returned to the night sky.
Though we were assured there was an in depth storyline, none of what we had seen was scripted. These were all random crimes that were completely optional. It would appear that not only was there a ton to do, but the action would never stop. Our course of action was always sidetracked by a crime. This left no dull moments and felt like we were actually needed in the city. It consistency never let up. But while scouting gangs on rooftops and bank heists were all well and good, the idea of petty crimes was getting old. It was time to show off some of the bigger optional side missions.
Batman leapt into the air and glided his way atop a nearby overpass in front of a worn skyscraper only to be halted by a booming intercom. On the edifice in front him him a projected image of a villain by the name of Anarky mugged and cackled spouting propaganda of civil rights and freedom. Batman’s detective mode turned on to reveal tens of bombs strapped to the sides of building all around town. It was his job to diffuse them all and stop the nefarious Anarky before Arkham became a smoldering crater in the ground… had this not been a mere demo, of course.
Mr. Alim forged ahead guaranteeing more detailed and immersive side missions than prior installments, but we’d have to play the game to find exactly what they had to offer. He continued on leaving the town to fend for itself on a wing and a prayer against the imminent blitzkrieg. He established a way point and ventured toward it. Climbing up to one of the taller buildings Batman was confronted by a S.W.A.T. helicopter barking over the PA and shining a spotlight into our heroes eyes. Taking place so early in Batman’s career was a crime fighter, the police are still none too privy to his vigilante intentions and would also prove to be an obstacle in the way of the greater good. As we prepped ourselves for a face off with a chopper, a larger explosion bloomed from its back end. Spinning uncontrollably, it spun to the ground below.
“I should see if there are any survivors.” Batman spouted and drifted down to the wreckage. Detective mode initiated again, but this time is was similar to Arkham Asylum’s crime scene investigation system; first person view with full control. A system in his cowl started up and the crime scene was completely recreated by connecting blue fragments. From they the player would have full control over everything they just saw. They would be able to replay, fast forward. rewind, pause anything they needed to find out what happened and what the next step toward solving the mystery was. Through a complex series of replays and analysis, Batman discovered a bullet had clipped the tail of the chopper and taken it down. The bullet trajectory lead to a building not far from the crash and upon his arrival, Batman found a dead S.W.A.T. team member lying on the roof with a sniper rifle by his side.
“Why would a S.W.A.T. member shoot down one of his own men?” Batman pondered as he replayed the murder a few times.
Then, by analyzing the bullet hole, a secondary trajectory appeared and it was revealed to have been a ricochet through the officer and into the tailfin. Adam turned to the crowd and smiled.
“Obviously, this is Deadshot. And if we were to follow that trajectory, we would start a mission to hunt him down. But we’re pretty close to our waypoint, so let’s head there instead.”
He hooked a right and made his way down an alley that lead to an elevator shaft. Batman entered the car and started up triggering a cinematic. From below the elevator’s cage a large set of hands tore away the floor and pulled Batman below. The hands lifted Batman up by his ankles to reveal Bane who then slammed Batman into the ajacent wall. Despite a series of tucks and rolls, Bane overpowered him and dragged him, half conscious to the final part of the demo. There, feet elevated on a desk, was a very young Joker barking orders at Bane. The insubordinate luchador was not interested in the Joker’s commands and threatened to “finish the job himself.” Joker twittled his finger about the room revealing a rather intricut series of explosive plungers each marked with the name of a building. Bane obeyed and left Batman to the Clown Prince of Crime. The usual back and forth between Batman and Joker ensued and the scene climaxed with Joker pulling a dummy plunger. Batman, unamused, threateningly asked if he realized how many people he could have hurt.
“That one was just a test.” admitted the Joker. “But this one isn’t!”
He reached over the table and pressed down the handle as a bright, orange blast lit up in the distance ending the demonstration.
You’ll be happy to know that the new team in charge has done their research and the game presented was more than enough to satiate our inequitable and jaded expectations. They took everything about Arkham City and multiplied it ten-fold while still keeping the closeness and detail we’ve all come to love. New play styles and story give the title a fresh feeling without alienating those who came for more of what City had to offer. The new enemy types add a level of strategy to an old mechanic and the detailed experience meter helps you understand what you as a player need to train in. The side missions seem constant always giving you something to do when you need a break from the main story which, in and of itself, showed quite loyal to the license and entertaining for the public. There’s no doubt that this Batman game may be the best yet.
For more pictures from the E3 show room floor and Batman: Arkham Origins booth, check out the Random Assault Facebook page.