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Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate

Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate
Studios: Warner Interactive, Armature Studios
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Vita, PS3, XBox360, WiiU, PC
Home Video Release Date: October 25, 2013, Deluxe - April 1st, 2014

Synopsis: Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate is a 2.5D game developed by Armature Studio that brings the Batman Arkham experience for the first time to Nintendo and Sony handheld systems. A companion game to Batman: Arkham Origins, players can continue the storyline of the console version and discover more details of the Dark Knight's past.

-2.5D game set after the events of Batman: Arkham Origins
-Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate captures the genuine Arkham feel players have come to appreciate for the very first time on the handheld format
-Featuring stealth gameplay, free-flow combat, and Batman's infamous gadgets

Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate Review
By Gervaise B-A

The Batman: Arkham series has been known for revolutionizing superhero videogames. The impressive story, intense combat, and lengthy campaign has no doubt impressed gamers. The popularity of the Arkham series has spread to comics, action figures, and mobile titles, but never a handheld console ... until now. Enter Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate, the first ever handheld Batman: Arkham title for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.

Developed by Armature Studio, Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate follows the events of Batman: Arkham Origins. On patrol, Batman (voiced by Roger Craig Smith) confronts an elusive Catwoman (wonderfully voiced once again by Grey DeLisle) after she steals from a high-tech building. Weeks after sending Catwoman to Blackgate Prison, Batman is informed by James Gordon that the facility has been take over by the Joker (Troy Baker), the Penguin (Nolan North), and Black Mask (Brian Bloom).

The game's story is serviceable yet flawed. I wasn't excited to see what happened next. I was interested in the story, and some moments were pretty interesting including a side plot and a cool final boss (story and gameplay wise), but the storyline felt by the numbers. The story was there because the game needed a story rather than because the game developers wanted to tell a story. Additionally, some questionable moments appear in the game (Batman already met Solomon Grundy before this game).

The intense combat of the Batman: Arkham series has been adapted for a 2.5D environment. The result? A solid yet erroneous combat system. When battling foes, players can strike enemies and counter attacks as wonderfully as the previous installments. The action is fast-paced and requires the player to pay attention to the enemies around them. Because of the 2.5D environment, players can't jump between enemies in a big circle like the original titles. Instead, Batman leaps between the foreground and background to seamlessly knockout foes and, yes, the slow-motion final blow is included! Sadly, sometimes Batman strikes an enemy and jumps backwards to strike an already downed enemy, ruining the combo.

Stealth takedowns are uncommon but floor grates can still be used to take out thugs silently. If an enemy won't move to a position where you can take him out without being detected, you can use a noisemaker to distract him. During boss battles, these skills are needed as the bosses feature multiple tactics the player will need to figure out. These fights aren't simple beat-em-ups. While occasionally frustrating, the boss fights are inventive and unique (especially the final boss).

Exploration is a big aspect of Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate. The grapnel gun comes in handy to zip across the facility. A handful of gadgets are also at your disposal such as the Batarang and Line Launcher, which can be upgraded over time. These upgrades can only be unlocked when players search through the environment, rather than through XP (experience points). Sometimes, players will need a new item to progress in a section of the prison.

The map can be useful to navigate, but it's not always clear, which can make exploration difficult and frustrating when you have no idea what to do next. That's when Detective Mode comes in handy. Players can scan the environment and analyze hidden items, secret clues, enemies, and more. Occasionally, even Detective Mode won't quite help you figure out what to do next, so backtracking and considering all available items is necessary to avoid getting stuck in one section (or slowly scan the environment using Detective Mode so you don't accidently miss anything). Additionally, Batman can use the Crypto Sequencer to hack into security consoles via a number-based mini-game.

The graphics look relatively sharp and crisp. The opening sequence especially looks nice. Blackgate Prison looks dark and grungy. Batman's animations are nice, and the prison looks abused. Unfortunately, the environments can feel monotonous, save for Joker's colorful section of the prison. The music is decent, with some interesting music during battles and other big events. During calmer moments, the music sounds uneventful. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, yes, you get to hear the thugs banter, and yes, you hear some inappropriate language like it was ripped straight out of Batman: Arkham City. While familiar, I was hoping the derogatory language would have been toned down for the handhelds. Fortunately, the language isn't as commonly heard as the home console titles.

Collectables and unlockables are fairly serviceable. All of the motion comic cutscenes are available to view once you've seen them once. Concept art can be unlocked in the game. Evidence for detective cases can be found in Blackgate Prison via Detective Mode. Once you find the evidence for a specific detective case, you can unlock a detailed file to read. Special items related to each boss are scattered across the prison, requiring Batman to destroy each item he comes into contact with. Alternate costumes can be unlocked as you find different pieces of each suit. Additional, for all PlayStation Vita owners of the game who have a saved file of Batman: Arkham Origins on the PlayStation 3, you can unlock a Beware The Batman costume! It is admittedly disappointing that this bonus costume wasn't included for PlayStation Vita owners without these qualifications or Nintendo 3DS owners, but those players who can unlock this feature should enjoy the few efforts to promote this truly excellent animated series.

The replay value varies on your enjoyment of the game. After you beat the game, you can play New Game Plus mode (no way!). You can tackle the game's three bosses in a different order to unlock a different ending and find collectables you missed the first time through. Fans who play Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate: Deluxe Edition will notice some slight upgrades such as HD graphics, a new map, and additional alternate costumes.

Looking forward, Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate leads into the gritty, violent, and fun animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham (reviewed by the excellent and most efficacious James Harvey). I highly recommend you watch this movie and replay the games in time for the next installment, the highly anticipated Batman: Arkham Knight!

As a side note, some of the Batman: Arkham game features missing from this game include character bios, audiotapes, Riddler trophies, figurines, challenge maps, and DLC.

To wrap this up, Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate is a solid installment in the Batman: Arkham series. While the game includes many flaws such as uninteresting environments, a prosaic story, and a confusing map, the game's strengths outweigh these issues (mostly). While falling short of the Arkham expectations, judged on its own merits, Blackgate is worth a look.


Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate is now available to own on assorted consoles and for the PC.


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