After the first 10 minutes of playing Batman: Arkham Origins, my original cold attitude toward another Bat-title were doused. Hearing first of an early Batman story made me disinterested - why would I want to experience Batman before all the good villains entered Gotham City? As it turns out, there's not only a lot more to this equation than the storyline, there's also a lot more to the storyline than I expected - in the first 10 minutes of gameplay, I'd encountered four characters I recognized (not counting Black Mask, Bruce Wayne, or Alfred on the intercom, of course).
Right off the bat you're headed into a busted down and broken-into Blackgate Prison, and inside you're back to the same - or rather similar - controls as the previous Batman title. There are improvements, as it were - especially if you're just aiming to learn how to play this series of games from this origins story first. Turning the game over to its hardest difficulty presupposes the idea that you're well versed in all the customs.
Once inside you find that you're not just fighting against Gotham's lesser-known villains - this isn't just an off-season collection of bat guys. Right away you'll catch a glimpse of one of the more terrifying freaks in the rogues gallery: Killer Croc. But don't let the appearance of a single familiar face fool you - you're still in the first wisps of the days of these larger-than-life beasts of villains.
From this point out, we'll be doing no more spoiling. You'll need no worries unless you're against seeing gameplay from the first 20 minutes this title. While the rest of the game does grow more diverse and certainly more challenging as you progress, we're well and by satisfied to use images and video from this first part as proof before the pudding.
This game places you in the second year of Batman's transformation from an unknown shadow of a mercenary into the real Dark Knight. Suppose you're the Batman from the first Tim Burton Batman film and you'll be right around the same period of time - not precisely, but there are quite a few cross-over characters from that period - Vicky Vale, for example.
The one thing this game makes a big effort to work with and/or avoid is the action presented in the Batman: Year One comic-bound story. This Batman fits in rather well with that particular realm of reality. This Batman is not yet teamed up with the police force - Commissioner Gordon is still Captain Gordon - and you'll find quite a few characters throughout the story downright surprised you exist!
The headliner villains know who you are - that's for certain. Once you enter Gotham, you'll find an abundance of gang members and topside bosses that aren't just aware of the existence of Batman, they're aiming to draw you in. This is one of the main ideas of the game, mind you - masses of gang members causing a ruckus so you'll be either distracted or drawn in.
Drawn in for the kill, of course - this is Christmas Eve, and your death is on the minds of all those that've heard the call of Black Mask, a fellow who's put a bounty on the head of Batman, calling in the biggest and the best in assassins from around the globe.
This is a world in which Bruce Wayne hasn't yet learned to be in perfect tune with his emotions - not that he ever really is, of course. He's ready to do heavy damage to the bad guys as well as the cops - where he deems necessary - and there's not nearly so much sneaking around, so to speak.
That's not to say that you're not still playing the role of a detective. This part of the legacy of Batman began before he put on the mask, and you're ready to investigate from the first moment the game begins. It's just not quite so technical in this case.
You don't quite have the same toolset as you do in the latter two games - they're quite close in proximity to one another, quite a few years after this first chapter takes place. Here in year two of Batman's history, you're just a newbie. This goes for Alfred as well. Where in Arkham Prison and Arkham City it's Batman and Alfred, best friends forever, here you're still being scolded by the man and warned not to be so harsh when it comes to knocking out the law.
REMINDER: We also laid out a Batman: Arkham City Review for PC back when it was released as well - there lies another game that's as fresh today as it was when first ushered in!
As for how the game looks - this all depends on what you're working with. Of course it does - but with the build we've got rolling here, we're busting out the most top-notch settings available in the game, and it looks downright fantastic.
We got a full run-down of the elements optimized in this game for and by NVIDIA earlier this month in Montreal, with a presentation by no less than WB Games Montreal and NVIDIA's own.
"Outside the Batcave, Gotham City is ready to be explored in full. This map is twice the size of the open-world map of Arkham City. Here you’ll find NVIDIA’s optimization taking full effect. One example of how realistic NVIDIA’s optimizations made this game, Mattes showed off the dynamic snow system in a simple demonstration – walking around Gotham City on Christmas Eve.
Here you’ll find Batman’s footsteps sticking – snow moves, and different locations have different amounts of snow. Snow falls from the sky and is moved when Batman flies through it. And this is only the beginning.
This game also works with PhysX particles for smoke, environmental cloth and tearing cloth for Batman’s cape, contact-hardening shadows, HBAO+, and lots of depth of field effects for Batman’s sensors and the like. There’s action in turbulence for more than just getting smacked through the air, too – there’s bigtime turbulence at times for the blizzard conditions that come down upon you throughout the night – the long, Santa-less night of darkness."
You'll find additional demonstrations of this game's capabilities in our recent Batman: Arkham Origins NVIDIA Graphics Optimizations and Gameplay eyes-on. The snow crushes underfoot, the bombs explode with debris that can then be kicked around, and the toilet paper banners overhead can, indeed, be hit by your Batarang.
The build we're using, by the way, is the Falcon Northwest Tiki we reviewed earlier this year. Inside is a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan graphics card rolling out with the ASUS PB278 27-inch LED QWHD display which we've been using in-game at 2560 x 1440. Everything is cranked up to 11, as it were.
Batman: Arkham Origins presents a visual depth of a new generation in gaming. This game - again - centers Batman as the hero for not just comic book fans, but those in search of the best visual experience available in the gaming world today.
In short - of course this is a game you're going to want to play. If not just for the sheer joy of seeing the best of the best in gaming development, then for being Batman - the original Batman - in his very early, brutal state. Knock some skulls together with this extremely dark Bruce Wayne as fast as you can.
Below you'll find a gameplay gallery with a variety of angles on up-close fighting action. We've also got a couple of HD jamming gameplay videos on their way later today - stay tuned, and please feel free to ask any additional questions you might have on the title and we'll do our best to answer as best we can!