Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition Review

In a move everyone saw coming, the previously 3DS/PS Vita exclusive side game to Batman: Arkham Origins, Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate, has been given an HD upgrade and moved to the PS3 and Xbox 360. On handhelds, the game was pretty good; a solid side-scrolling Metroid-vania adventure with some decent fights and the usual cast of Bat-villains. Now, with a graphical upgrade and displayed on a larger television screen, some of the game's more irritating flaws and misfires are amplified, and the "pretty good" status of the original handheld title takes a bit of a hit. And if you did play through the game on your 3DS or Vita, there is almost no reason to go through it again, save for some upgraded textures and access to pointless online leaderboards.

Let's just call the game "Blackgate" from here on out; I need to save myself from overly long title carpal tunnel syndrome. Blackgate takes place entirely inside the prison of the same name. Readers of the Batman comic will know Blackgate Prison as the place where the non-supervillain criminals go to rot in Gotham; Arkham Asylum is reserved for the insane, and therefore most recognizable Bat-villains. Since Origins and Blackgate serve as prequels to the previous two Batman games, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, you'll find supervillains within Blackgate's walls - I guess Arkham hasn't been built yet. Anyway, Batman swings into the prison during a full-scale riot, and the three main wings of the complex have been taken over by Penguin, Joker and Black Mask (who should be thrilled to be mentioned in the same sentence with the first two) and their goons. Other villains make appearances as well, as does Catwoman, who plays a central role, but most aren't the big names you'll want them to be. Deadshot? BRONZE TIGER?! Somewhere out there, Booster Gold is wringing his hands, thinking, "If they put Bronze Tiger into a video game, they'll put ANYONE in! Surely my time has come!"

Back on topic, Batman's job is to bring Blackgate back under control and out of the hands of the villains pulling the strings. This means exploring the decent size prison from top to bottom, looking for clues, fighting enemies and doing other Bat-stuff. In true Metroid-vania fashion, the map expands as Batman's gadgets and powers do; a grapple will let him swing over previously insurmountable gaps, a gas mask allows him to traverse poison-filled rooms, new codes allow him to short out new door locks, etc. This semi-open world style has worked excellently in other games, especially in 2D, but Blackgate falls short. The reason? The game has a 2.5D (a 2D world with 3D flourishes like corners, interesting angles, etc.) look, and somehow the in-game map wasn't updated to reflect it. Corners, secret passages, even whole areas are left off the ever expanding map, making another Metroid-vania hallmark, backtracking, more of a chore than it needs to be. You'll really need to memorize your paths as you explore the prison, as the ineffective map will more often hinder than help in making progress. If you're a gamer who can vividly remember the maps for Planet Zebes or Dracula's Castle, the imperfect map will annoy you even more.

Since we've established that the map is not a good one, my main criticism of the game, we can move onto some of the more positive stuff. The fighting very closely resembles the scuffles in the Arkham console games, and successfully makes in work in 2D. I should mention, though, this mostly goes for your battles with random goons, not bosses. The method for finishing big baddies off usually relies on some gimmick; hiding from Deadshot's sniper as you pick a path to approach him, electrocuting Solomon Grundy to immobilize him, etc. Some of these battles work, some don't - the fight with Penguin is especially annoying - but at least they switch things up a little bit. The console games had gimmicky boss fights as well, but none of them felt as forced as some of these do.

Another positive, though not a major one, is the upgraded visual performance this version boasts. I played the original version of Blackgate on the 3DS, so the updated graphics were a huge step up. Vita fans will also notice the difference, but perhaps not as much of one. It would have been nice to see the cutscenes reworked to more closely match the rest of the Arkham console titles. This HD release sticks with the semi-static comic book panel look of the portable game. They seemed right at home in the palm of your hand, but on a PS3 or 360 they look almost lazy. As I mentioned before, online leaderboards have been added to this version, but to quote Peter Griffin, "Oh my god - who the hell cares?"

Your enjoyment of Blackgate really depends on two things: How much you love Batman and the Arkham games and whether or not you already played this on a portable. If you are a die-hard Bat-fan, by all means check this out. It is the definitive version of the game on consoles, and has a decent price point for what you get. If you've not yet played it, go for it. If you have, well, maybe just playing through Arkham City again will scratch your itch. There's no real reason to double dip here.

Final Rating: 66%. Not bad, but no need to play it twice.