The Batman: Arkham series has been wildly successful to this point, but the crime-fighting has been mainly consigned to consoles. That changes this year with the release of Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, a new portable title for the Vita and 3DS. We got a little hands-on time with the Vita version at New York Comic Con, and even though Blackgate is a completely different style, we're eager to get our Batman on the go.
Developed by Armature Studios, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is cut from the Metroid-vania cloth. Instead of a open-world action title, Blackgate offers 2.5D platforming action, but with the same great free-flow combat system from the core games. Our time with Blackgate was spent running through the opening tutorial, where Batman first meets Catwoman in the Arkham universe. Batman chases her from rooftop to rooftop after she's stolen some secret technology, with each new roof offering an introduction to the way Blackgate plays.
If you've played one of the Arkham games before, combat should seem immediately familiar. With the easy-to-learn attack/counter system, even players who've never played before will be able to enjoy decking foes with Batman's impressive array of martial arts skills. Just because Blackgate offers most of its action on a single-plane doesn't mean you'll miss out on some of the more classic elements of stalking your prey.
In one segment, we had to deal with armed soldiers on a rooftop. We jumped from perch to perch, eying the clueless guards for the right moment to strike. When one wandered beneath us, we used a new grapple attack to yank him up by his feet, drawing the attention of the others. Quickly jumping to the next gargoyle, we waited for the alerted guards to turn their backs before striking down with a vengeance. There are few things in the Arkham games as gratifying as taking down enemies unaware of Batman's presence, and Blackgate captures it perfectly.
For those of you prone to using Detective mode, that's here, too, however with a Vita twist. Tapping the screen instantly turns on the augmented vision, while holding your finger down and swiping the screen lets you use the ability in specific areas. It definitely helps cut back on overuse of Detective mode, allowing you to enjoy Blackgate's visuals a bit more. Though the camera is pulled back more than we're used to seeing in an Arkham game, the camera does still pull in on dramatic moments during combat. All of the characters are rendered in 3D, and look impressive on the Vita's powerful little screen.
The level concluded with a boss fight against Catwoman, which gave us our first taste of what to expect from the various other bosses that'll be locked up in Blackgate. As this was an introductory level, the challenge wasn't too severe, but bosses will provide more of a challenge than the standard foes you encounter. Most will actually require you to have a specific gadget to defeat (similar to Mega Man), and you can tackle the bosses in any order you want. This offers a bit of replayability, as the ending of Blackgate will differ based on the order you choose. With multiple bosses in place, that means there are also multiple endings to earn.
We were unsure if the Arkham series would translate well to the handheld platform, but we rather enjoyed our time with Blackgate, brief as it was. That said, there's still a lot about Blackgate we don't know much about, but the promise of getting the full Batman experience in our hands has us excited to find out.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate will be out on Oct. 25 for the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS.