One of the most intriguing - and slightly worrisome - games at E3 2013, at least going into it, was Batman: Arkham Origins. Could a new developer possibly live up to Rocksteady? Would it just be more of the same? Luckily, the questions were answered in a positive light, with the game emerging as one of the best at the show, and a worthy successor/predecessor to the Arkham franchise. We sat down for a developer walkthrough and hands-on demo with the game, and even got to play with some of the brand-new features.
"You play a young Batman who's about to face his deadliest challenge of his early career," the WBIE demurs began before playing the new trailer.
Black Mask, Deadshot, Deathstroke are quickly introduced in the new E3 trailer as Mask says "I don't care who does it, how they do it, I just want the Bat dead." The game will see Black Mask task eight super assassins with taking down the fledgling Batman before he can become the hero we all know and love.
From there, we start with Batman holding one of Black Mask's thugs by a rope. After a brief interrogation, Batman glides over to a rooftop, and that brings us to the beginning of the gameplay.
The demo we watched then played takes place in South Gotham, full of tall buildings, and of course random crimes throughout. The grapple and glide mechanic from prior games is intact, and free flow combat is there, too, though Batman carries himself a little differently. He seems a bit more brutal, and fights more like a boxer than a martial artist.
After any fight, whether it's a random encounter or a major plot point, you'll get a threat level and a "grade" on the fight, which gives you different levels of experience points. In addition to stumbling upon thugs, you can also get a "Crime in Progress" alert, which leads to a bigger challenge. The first one we saw in the demo included the "Armored Enforcer," a harder to take down character. They don't take much damage from standard punches, and pack a heavy wallop on their own. You have to tear off their armor and beat them relentlessly for the win. Special counters, gadget attacks, and smart play will win out over direct attacks more often than not, encouraging you to play smarter.
After a couple of fights, Batman villain Anarky shows up, via a recorded message playing on the side of a building.
"Not only are there assassins, but also there are other criminals in the city also wreaking havoc," said a WBIE representative. Starting going after a name villain via the "Most Wanted" alert gives you a timed mission (in this case six minutes) to try to stop his plan. We see another new enemy, the martial artist, who can counter like Batman and requires much closer timing to defeat. They're fun to fight, with swift movements, double counters, and again, more strategy required than during "thug" matches in the prior games. It's interesting to see that drive - since we have a younger Batman, as if his natural ability to drop low-level enemies isn't there yet, and the player has to make up for that with his or her own.
The new detective system is called "the case file system." Batman scans in evidence, then has the Bat computer reconstruct the crime, allowing him to see what happened by rewinding and replaying parts of the scene. In the demo, a police helicopter got shot out of the sky. Batman analyzed the crime scene multiple times, going to the crash site, then back up to the roof, and finally around the building to find where the high-powered round that took out the helicopter came from, a few buildings away. When he gets there, it's a member of SWAT, which leads Batman to continue to review, finding that it was a ricochet shot from farther away - by Deadshot. At this point in the full game, you'll have choices. You can start going after Deadshot, or you can keep taking on some of the low-priority or "crime in progress" side missions, or you can continue on and head to where you got tipped that Black Mask was hiding out.
There's a new gadget in the game, the remote claw, very useful for "predator rooms." He shot the claw, and it extended a rope between two high vantage points, allowing him to get a better angle on the enemies. The remote claw will also bring two objects, two enemies, or a combination, together. Think explosives plus bad guys, or stunning two enemies by slamming them together so you can fly in for the takedown.
Going up the elevator, the newest assassin revealed at E3, Bane, throws Batman around, dropping him at the feet of the Joker. The Joker has bombs all over the city, and he drops a plunger to blow one building up. As Batman screams at him in frustration (though it turns out it was an abandoned building) and tosses him aside, Joker picks up another plunger, promising this one will be full of people… And that's the end of the demo.
The new features like a slightly more strategic free flow, the new remote claw, and the new case file system are just the start of innovations promised for Batman: Arkham Origins. With the excellent base gamers know and love to build on, it seems Warner Bros Games Montreal are well up to the task, and are clearly big fans of both the previous games and of Batman in general. October 25, 2013 can't come soon enough.
Note: While not mentioned at the demo, a Knightfall-inspired "Az-Bats" costume and the Batman costume from the 1960s television show are both PlayStation 3 exclusives, as announced at the Sony press conference. Keep it in mind when choosing which platform to pre-order for. Our demo was played on the PlayStation 3.