|System: Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360*, PC|
|Dev: Armature Studio|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive|
|Release: April 1, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence|
by Becky Cunningham
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate made the move from handhelds to consoles rather quickly. This side-scrolling beat'em'up take on the Arkham formula received generally middling reviews the first time around, so how has the console Deluxe Edition improved on its formula? Not a great deal, it turns out, as the 2.5D game remains stuck between the world of Metroidvanias and that of its 3D action adventure cousins.
At least things start with a splash, showcasing the stylish comic-style cutscenes that were universally praised by reviewers in the original. On the big screen, the transition from those cutscenes to bog-standard 3D graphics and lumpy character models is almost painful. If only the creators had the courage and vision to create the entire game in that comic style, it could have made something of itself visually.
As it is, Blackgate doesn't gain a great deal from the transition to HD. It turns out that there's a reason people hate being sent to prison. The game takes place entirely in the Blackgate correctional facility, and save for the single prison wing that has been vandalized by the Joker, the environments are bland, blander, and blandest. Character models look oddly misshapen and are generally unattractive. It's probably easier to pick out important environmental details in HD on a big-screen, but Detective Mode has always been available to cause those details to shine with neon intensity.
Gameplay remains the same, and that's the biggest issue with Blackgate. It attempts to take the basic formula of the Batman Arkham games into a 2.5D Metroid-style exploration and beat'em'up game, but the compromises involved seem to have doomed the title to mediocrity. Most of the combat lacks the challenge or excitement of the kind of arcade title that the game emulates. Batman has several combat abilities, but it's generally easier and more efficient to mash the basic attack button and punch people out than to attempt to evade attacks or use the cape stun. Boss battles fare better in the interest department, but are few and far-between.
The exploration elements in the game fare better, as long as the player has the patience to backtrack through the dull prison environments whenever Batman obtains a new tool. Players who enjoy finding hidden treasures and power-ups will find plenty of them here. The game helpfully marks hidden treasure areas with a question mark on its map, which informs the player that something is available in the area without spoiling the secret of how to find it. A bit more variety in hidden areas might have been nice, as there's a great deal of crawling through air ducts involved, but the rewards for exploration (helpful power-ups or fun things like new bat suits) are nice.
What really bogs down this element of gameplay is the confusing design decisions made around the exploration and detective elements. Many common actions simply take too long. Batman frequently needs to enter Detective Mode and scan objects in the area, a process that involves holding down a button for entirely too long as a scanner bar fills up. Worse, there's a frequent requirement to tap A repeatedly in order to perform an action. Who thinks this is good design? Having to tap a button repeatedly does not cause the player to feel like Batman, muscles straining as he struggles with the rusty grate or tugs on the bat claw's cable. It only causes the player to feel mildly annoyed at having to mash a button several times to perform an extremely common task.