Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Hands-On Preview)

The Vita’s Knight Rises

Past industry form indicates that you’d be forgiven for dismissing the presence of a handheld game when it has a bigger and shinier counterpart on your main console. So often we’ve seen them stumble into our hands as shabby ports or overly simplistic, barely related tie-in fodder. Armature Studio is here to change things with their new Vita game. From what I’ve played, it truly deserves a place on your shopping list if you’ve enjoyed the last two Rocksteady games and are planning on picking up Origins on October 25th.

This game will follow on from the events of the console game Arkham Origins, rather than rehash the same story. The Blackgate in the title refers to the prison where the majority of the game will be set. Home to the non-insane criminals of Gotham -although a few are clearly borderline- various well-known villains ‘run’ different parts of the prison. So expect to take on some infamous faces to get the jail back in order. The story is delivered via motion comics, which I suppose is reasonable given the source material, but there’s no getting around they’ll always feel and look like the cheap option.

But there the grumbling ends, let’s talk gameplay. The action unfolds in 2.5D. The environments are designed to appear 3D, but your movements are essentially locked to a 2D plane, so left and right along with a bit of vertical exploration too. Occasional use of the grappling hook also propels you into the foreground or pulls you deeper into the screen. Sometimes you may appear to be on a 3D surface whilst being attacked by thugs from all angles, but you only have to aim your attacks to the left and the right.

 Armature has done a great job of replicating that trademark Arkham fighting style in 2D. Fans of Rocksteady’s rucks will be pulling off lengthy combos in no time. It’s almost identical, you look out for counter-signals, the fluid transition between opponents flows effortlessly and that desire to string together one large combo for a fight is as compelling as ever. I’ve rarely seen a handheld game do such a good job of maintaining a core feature of a console game.

Click here to read the rest of my preview at Dealspwn.com.

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