Batman is on a roll. After being subjected to the Joel Schumacher double-whammy of “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin” in the mid-90s, the franchise has recovered due Christopher Nolan’s excellent Dark Knight trilogy and Rocksteady’s critically acclaimed Arkham series. Warner Brothers Interactive want to keep the good form going so this year will see the release of Batman: Arkham Origins, a prequel in the Arkham universe from an all new studio, Warner Brothers Montreal. That’s right, franchise creators are not involved. Worried? Don’t be, the Batman is in safe hands…
Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?
Origins is a “Year Two” story. We’re fine with that. Batman has been fighting crime since 1939 – that’s nearly 75 years! His is a rich mythology, full of interesting characters and enticing villains. We would love to see the Arkham universe after the thrilling and bold ending of Arkham City, where *MASSIVE SPOILERS* The Joker is finally killed off *SPOILERS END*, and explore what effect this has on the Caped Crusader (we still hope this is what Rocksteady are working on). However, adventures from early on in Bruce Wayne’s career, his efforts to clean up crime in Gotham and make the Batman the feared and respected vigilante he becomes are still more than welcome. A prequel may well be seen as a cop-out by some (we were initially guilty of this!), but that doesn’t mean Warner Brothers Montreal can’t create an excellent and intriguing narrative.
WBM look to be doing just that. Set on Christmas Eve (it had to be!) early in Batman’s career, the old mob families of Gotham City are being beaten back by the Dark Knight’s efforts. As we’re shown in Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the Batman’s presence brings about escalation. Super-villain Black Mask (sorely missing in Nolan’s films and Arkham games until now) aims to fill that void and puts a price on Batman’s head. The hunter becomes the hunted as the DC Universes deadliest assassins all converge on Gotham with one aim – to kill the Batman.
I Believe in Jim Gordon
It’s a strong premise. Not only does it give WBM the chance to utilise more of the Batman series excellent villains (we’re very excited by the prospect of Slade Wilson/Deathstroke), it also has terrific gameplay potential – being hunted plays to Batman’s strengths: stealth, swift and powerful attacks, evading enemies and the like. We’re also excited to see Batman meet some of his arch-enemies for the first time; the Penguin (interestingly without the glass bottle stuck in his eye socket) has already been confirmed. It won’t just be enemies we’ll be coming across; Arkham Origins‘ Batman is still wanted by the (corrupt) Gotham Police – his relationship with Jim Gordon has yet to begin.
The game has strong foundations. While Rocksteady have little to do with the title, WDM have inherited their excellent engine and tech, promising to evolve on what many though was the 2011 game of the year. While the size of the sandbox is doubled with the introduction of the trendy “New Gotham” (in addition to a revamped “Old Gotham” seen in Arkham City“), WDM are working on making Gotham seem alive, dangerous and unpredictable. Though the city is being hit with the worst snow-storm (Mr Freeze?) in recorded history, Batman has a Most Wanted list to work through, as well as dealing with emergent crimes in progress. These modes mean side-missions and stories focusing on other villains from Batman’s Rogue Gallery. Detective mode is getting an overhaul too – Batman is known as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective‘ and Origins aims to show us why.
A Tale Of Two Cities
Gotham City is just as important part of the Batman mythos as anything else and the setting of Christmas is a tantalising one. Gotham is a place dislodged from time – grim gargoyles mixed with towering skyscrapers and archaic 1930s trappings – and setting it against the usually joyous and merry time of Christmas could be a master-stroke. Including the skyscraper heavy area of “New Gotham” adds verticality to Batman’s traversing and arsenal – it will give us more freedom and inventiveness to approach situations. While there are justifiable fears the game world might be TOO big, WDM have added in Batman’s trusty BatWing for quick travel.
We’re optimistic for Arkham Origins. While the initial announcement made us wary, we have warmed to the prospect and, frankly, we’re excited by it. While we still want Rocksteady to carry on the storyline started in City, we’d be more than happy to explore the Caped Crusaders past. If Warner Brothers Interactive’s plan IS to turn the Arkham series into a yearly franchise like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, we hope each addition gets the time to innovate and evolve what has come before – just like Arkham Origins.
Batman: Arkham Origins will be released on October 25th on 360, PS3 and PC; and we’d be astonished if there isn’t PS4 and Next Xbox versions too.
– Dave Green. Talk to him in a gravelly Batman voice on Twitter @davidpgreen83
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