Within just two game releases, Rocksteady Games has managed to change how we look at comic book-based video games forever. That's because both Batman: Arkham Asylum and its follow-up Batman: Arkham City have offered the kind of gameplay and perspective you just don't see in other games. The team has treated the Dark Knight and his foes with the level of respect that all good characters deserve.
Even though Rocksteady isn't handling the newest chapter in the series, Batman: Arkham Origins, it's in good hands over at WB Games Montreal – and it's got its own tale to tell. This is actually a prequel rather than a sequel, telling the story of a younger Bruce Wayne as he fights crime in Gotham and brushes elbows with the vicious Black Mask, a crime lord who's sick and tired of the Dark Knight's meddling.
Because of this, the kingpin has called in a who's who of assassins on Christmas Eve with one goal – kill the Bat and score a big cash reward. He’s enlisted a group of thugs who are up to the task, including the flame-spewing Firefly, the twisted Chameleon, the back-breaking Bane, the top-level assassin Deathstroke and, of course, the Caped Crusader's worst nemesis, the Joker.
Most of the gameplay features from the first two Arkham games make a return in Origins. You'll be able to quickly travel around the city with the help of the Batwing, or swoop in the old fashioned way with your expanding Batcape; fighting once again consists of smooth combos and quick deflections in order to keep enemies off your back; and you'll be able to take on a variety of missions throughout the city, including those based on story and secondary tasks to help clean up Gotham.
That's not to say there isn't new content, though. The first thing you'll notice are Batman's wonderful new toys. He now has access to a Remote Claw. This is a tethering line that he can use both for offense and getting around. In one instance, he can shoot it between two areas and create a tightrope to walk on, in case he needs an alternate way to get around. He can also shoot enemies with it and draw them into each other, or cause an object to collapse on them. It's all about technique with this fun new tool.
The Shock Gloves also come into play, enabling electrically-powered handwear that Batman can use to knock out enemies, disable objects in the environment (such as switches) and temporarily stun larger foes. You'll need to use them sparingly to keep them charged, but they certainly bring a jolt to Batman's fighting arsenal.
Finally, there's the Concussion Detonator. This allows Batman to disable a larger group of enemies should the situation call for it. For example, if you've got a gang of thugs carrying guns, walking in to fight them off with fists would be suicide. Utilizing this weapon, however, they'd become disarmed, allowing him to fly in and finish them off.
These tools are on top of the ones that have become trademarks in the Arkham series, including the signal-deducing Cryptographic Sequencer, the Batarang, the Smoke Pellets, the Batclaw, the Exploding Gel and the Detective Mode, which all make their return.
New missions are also being included in Origins. You'll occasionally lend the Gotham City Police Department a hand with "Crime In Progress" missions, saving them from a gang beat down or saving an informant. As a result, you'll gain more of their respect, which you'll need. This is Batman in his humble beginnings, after all, and the local police chief, Jim Gordon, doesn't trust him in the least. Other mission types include encounters with special enemies, like armored enforcers and martial artists, as well as bomb-defusing missions, where you'll have to defuse the work of local madman Anarky.
Eventually, you'll get to the game's boss encounters, which consist of the assassins hired by the Black Mask to snuff you out. Each one is different from the next. For example, Deathstroke will go head-to-head with Batman in a knock-down fight, while Firefly will require being dragged down from the sky in order to harm – though he may just prefer to fly away and take Batman in tow with him.
Along with the single player mode – and the new Challenge Rooms that come with it – Arkham Origins also introduces a new multiplayer mode, where teams led by Joker and Bane attempt to hunt down Batman and Robin, who are controlled by other players. It's an interesting addition, but one players should try out if they're looking for a new challenge. (NOTE: the Wii U version of the game will not feature multiplayer.)
Batman: Arkham Origins releases on October 25th for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC.