If you were worried that Rocksteady was not returning to develop the next installment in the Batman: Arkham series, you can put those fears to rest right now. Batman: Arkham Origins is shaping up to be just as good (and if not better) then its predecessors.
Once again, Warner Bros. has decided to create an open world for Batman to explore and fight crime in, only this time instead of a piece of blocked off Gotham City to explore, Batman now has free rein over all of Gotham, This is his city and it is his job to keep safe.
The gameplay demo started off with doing what Batman does best, striking fear into the hearts of thugs. One of Black Mask's crew wakes up hanging upside down being held by Batman. And Batman wants information. The thug is reluctant to answer any questions, but soon changes his mind once Batman decided to drop him and let him crash against the face of a clock tower. Once Batman has what he is after, he immediately drops him and sends the thug crashing into a Christmas Tree.
The cinematic scenes for Arkham Origins look downright stunning. You get a fast-paced visceral feel to them when they are being shown. The camera shakes, actions go by at a lightning pace as scene when Batman crosses the city in his Batplane and jumps out and nosedives down to the streets of Gotham. What follows next will feel very familiar to players of Arkham City. Batman already had talents unlocked already during the demo such as the Grapnel Boost. Once Batman finds crime on the streets below, the freeflow combat kicks off. The system that was redefined in Arkham City returns once again here. Batman may be a younger Batman, but he has apparently learned from his previous titles. Returning are quick gadget maneuvers such as snagging people with the Line Grab and my favorite; stunning an enemy with a cape and unleashing a flurry of blows to knock them out.
Once Batman finishes off a few crimes around the city, he meets another vigilante trying to fight the good fight in Gotham, but not in a way that Batman can get behind. A vigilante calling himself Anarchy has wired an entire building with explosives and Batman must disarm them in order to save innocent lives that could be affected by Anarchy's misguided quest for justice. After deciphering the location with the cryptographic sequencer, he heads to the location of the bomb guarded by a new type of enemy for the series. Arkham: Origins introduces the martial artist to us and they are just as dangerous as they sound. Batman was always able to get the upper hand thanks to his combat awareness allowing him to easily counter moves, but the martial artist can actually counter Batman's own moves. They seem rather easy when taking them on one-by-one, but get surrounded by them and you may find yourself in trouble.
After Batman takes care of them and the bomb, he decides to continue his search for the Black Mask, only this time he is stopped in his tracks by a police helicopter. We are dealing with a newer Batman here, so cops aren't one to greet Batman yet as the city's savior. However, before the cops can do anything, the rotor of the helicopter explodes sending the helicopter into a tailspin. Batman rushes to save those inside, but it is too late. They are already dead.
It is here that we see the updated version of crime scene investigations. Batman still looks for pieces of a crime that could be useful to his investigations, but after scanning it, he can now recreate and entire sequence of the crime that can be fast forwarded or rewind to give clues where to go next. He deduces that a high powered round took out the helicopter rotor and must travel to the point of when the helicopter got shot. Once in the area, Batman can scan a new area for the next clue, leading him to where the rotor crashed into the building leading him to a Police SWAT shooter; but unfortunately he is dead. After one final crime scene, Batman has concluded that the sniper, who in fact was aiming for Batman was taken out by the same bullet that took out the helicopter. A bullet bounced off one surface, killed the sniper and finally took out the helicopter. Only one marksman can do that, Batman states: Deadshot. But Batman must save him for a later date. Black Mask is more important.
The scene switches into an upscale hotel where some of Black Mask's thugs are hold up. Here were switch over the Silent Predator Mode. As always the gargoyles high on the walls are at this point a constant in the series. It is here we also get a look at a new gadget; the remote claw. The remote claw can lock onto targets and send them crashing into each other. You can set them to make almost anything slam together; enemy to enemy, enemy to gargoyles, even things in the environment like propane tanks to enemies. One the room is clear, Batman makes his way to the elevator, but is quickly brutalized by Bane who delivers him to his partner the Joker. The Joker once again is up to his mindless mayhem and we once again see Batman have to restrain himself from killing him.
The Arkham series has indeed found a gameplay system that works and Batman: Arkham Origins has only built upon it to create and even more robust game experience to make you feel like the Bat. October 25th seems to far away, but is is definitely one many gamers will have marked on their calendar for this title.