Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition
As a slimmed-down approximation of the series and a direct sequel to last year's underwhelming home console release, approaching Arkham Origins Blackgate is a trepid affair. Furthermore, its initial release on handheld systems last October drew mixed reactions, meaning this spruced up version needs its Caped Crusader to come out fighting from the off.
Sadly, Blackgate’s combat is one of the first casualties of the transition. Where previous titles showcased an impressive, flowing system of time-sensitive manoeuvres, Blackgate is a more ham-fisted affair. The 2D perspective effectively breaks the illusion of Batman skilfully taking on numerous foes by lining them along its planes, making it look as if the thugs are politely biding their time before taking on the Dark Knight in an orderly fashion.
Of course, it could be argued that the Arkham series has always operated this way, but in Rocksteady’s larger 3D environments this was papered over by the finesse of its star and the deft mechanics of its system. Armature’s take on this simply feels staid and unresponsive by comparison. It’s all too easy to think you’re targeting one assailant only to watch Bats fly off elsewhere. Your fist may still find its target, but it feels unrewarding as a result.
Broader gameplay designs also suffer from some odd decisions. Though played out in a 2.5D style, a la Shadow Complex, Armature have put more of an emphasis on that ‘point-five’ meaning the action will unexpectedly flow into the background scenery as you turn a corner or enter a wall grate. The addition of a map was perhaps wise to give a sense of place, but presenting it in isometric 3D only muddies the point. Coupled with some repetitive industrial prison locations and it’s all too easy to spend too much time scratching your cowl as you try to work out just where the hell you are.
Detective mode fares better and there are plenty of secrets to unearth should you wish to but the often-punishing fetch quests the game throws at you could make tacit exploration something of a chore. Boss fights are more rewarding and something Armature’s title has built for itself and is a sign of what could have been had a few more risks been taken. Mostly though, Arkham Origins Blackgate seems to have borrowed too heavily from its predecessors and whilst imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it can also leave you looking pretty undistinguished.