Review: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition (PS3)

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Title:  Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition
Format:  PlayStation Network Download (2.0 GB)
Release Date:  April 1, 2014
Publisher:  Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer:  Armature Studio
Original MSRP:  $19.99
ESRB Rating:  T
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition is also available on Wii U, Xbox 360 and PC.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Before the lore was put into the masterful hands at Rocksteady, most video games featuring the Caped Crusader were confusing half-efforts or strategically released alongside a movie for a quick buck.  Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition semi-fortunately falls somewhere in between the plagued Batman titles of yesteryear and the modern classic Arkham trilogy.  This game was originally released for the Vita and 3DS in October of 2013, day-and-date with Batman: Arkham Origins.

Gameplay:
The most unique feature of Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition is the use dynamic 2D to skillfully convey believable depth amongst various backgrounds and environments.  Whether you’re soaring across the rooftops of Gotham City or investigating the perilous depths of Blackgate Prison, the game moves you between the foreground and background, creating a new 2D plane with each traversal.  Even though you’ll always be holding either left or right, the Batman’s seamless maneuvering around corners and finesse with which he grapples onto a distant building never feels forced or out of context.

One of the best achievements of the console Arkham games was the fleshed out combat system and the combo strings capable at high level play.  Bats could take out dozens of thugs in an elegant flowing motion, strategically planning the next goon to punch, all the while cape-stunning armed enemies and baffling bad guys with seemingly endless gadgetry.  The foundation for what made the combat system so exceptional makes its way into Blackgate, but it is intensely watered down.  The counterattacks, take-downs, and best of all – the slow motion finishers are however, all included.

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Being the stealth nut that I am, one thing that I loved about Arkham Asylum in particular was the ability to perch on a gargoyle, use Detective Mode to scan a room full of henchmen, and plot the most optimal route to take them all out silently.  Working with the limitations of the handhelds for which this game was originally developed, the talented (and very nice, might I add) folks at Armature Studio were able to create an engaging stealth mechanic in this 2D world.  Utilizing ventilation shafts, underground maintenance trenches and grappling points on multiple levels, sneaking up behind enemies is both challenging and fun with an emphasis on strategy.

Creative boss fights with the likes of Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and Deathstroke are another series staple whose spirit found its way into this little brother Batman: Arkham title.  Without spoiling anything, using gadgets to interact with the environment to bring down a seemingly unbeatable foe was probably my favorite part of the game.  This type of combination between puzzle elements, quick reaction time and flowing combat concocts a recipe for impressive gameplay, limited only by the capability of the original development platform.

After the initial opening sequence involving a rooftop pursuit of Catwoman, the game presents a pseudo open-world environment, giving the player a choice of three main objectives to be explored in any order.  Progressing through the game can become very difficult as Batman will need to go to certain areas to obtain gadgets necessary for accessing other areas.  Going in blind could call for some tedious backtracking and frustrating, aimless wandering.  The confusing map helps to an extent but leaves much to the imagination.

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For the perfectionists, there are plenty of goodies to find and collect with hidden areas tucked away in many nooks and crannies throughout the world.  Some replay value is added to the already multi-hour campaign, providing for a fleshed out experience in handheld terms but also losing a little in translation to the console.

Visuals:
The downgraded visuals of full-fledged PS3 games later ported to the Vita bear a close resemblance to the graphics in Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition.  A noticeable degradation of character detail and environment effects made their way into the Vita versions of both Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition – the latter of which was ported by the same studio behind this game.

One reason that so many comparisons have been drawn between Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted: Golden Abyss is because the Vita is obviously better suited to recreate the visual fidelity of earlier PS3 games.  Naughty Dog’s ramped up artistry in the 2nd and 3rd Uncharted games could not be mimicked on the handheld.   I drew the same comparisons between Blackgate and Arkham Asylum, the first and earliest Batman game in the console trilogy.

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There are some very short cutscenes that run in-engine and the lengthy story development is done through comic book-esque still shots.  It is very similar to the method used in the inFAMOUS games with narrator-like voice work assisting the pictures.  Although the higher definition does have an impact, the imperfections hidden by the Vita’s compact screen are front and center on a TV.  Punches and kicks sometimes pass through bad guys, wobbly limb physics can ruin the slow motion bone breaking, and environment textures are largely dull and grey.

Audio:
While fan-favorite Kevin Conroy does not reprise his role for Batman/Bruce Wayne for this game, Roger Craig Smith, the same actor who voices Bats in Arkham Origins, does a phenomenal job bringing our troubled hero to life.  He is complimented by a stellar supporting cast – expect to hear more familiar voices from Arkham Origins.

The soundtrack is largely comprised of ominous chording that provides the backdrop for the dark undertones of the Batman universe.  Slow, creeping melodies accent the experience of getting lost in the maze that is Blackgate Prison.  High energy action cadences are used during intense battles while explosions from gadgets and destruction of the environment layers the audio.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
The excitement leading up to the release of Batman: Arkham Origins was highly intensified when it was announced that a Batman game was also coming to the portable platforms on the same day.  Players would be able experience the thrill of being the Batman wherever they were.  After some mediocre critical reception, it was clear that Blackgate would not make it to Vita must-have territory.  Taking place shortly after the events of Arkham Origins, this HD remake gives fans without a Vita or 3DS a chance to add that cherry on top of their Arkham trilogy experience but it does little more than piggyback on the series’ popularity.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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