It was the night before Christmas and all across Gotham City, thugs, villains and assassins were stirring from their lairs in search of one $50 million gift – the mysterious masked Batman...
On Christmas Eve, Blackgate Prison – Gotham's high security compound that houses the city's most dangerous criminals – shakes to the sound of explosions and sirens. Black Mask, one of the most violent inmates, mounts a daring escape alongside fellow villains The Calendar Man and Killer Croc, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. As they flee, a black-cloaked figure gives chase, arriving just too late to stop Black Mask – but in time to discover his deadly plan.
For one night only, a $50 million bounty has been put on the head of Batman, the caped vigilante who has only recently appeared as the scourge of Gotham City's underworld. Feared by criminals and police alike, to some Batman is just a myth – but to others, he is all too real. Now, to protect the innocent citizens from being used as pawns in Black Mask's game, Batman must put himself in the firing line and track down eight of the world's deadliest assassins – before they find him first.
Silent night? Not in Gotham...
Batman: Arkham Origins takes place during the early years of Batman's crime-fighting career, so the caped crusader we see here is a little rougher around the edges than in previous games. Gangs of enemies are taken out in the same frenzy of gadgets and combos, but Batman's trademark takedowns have a more brutal, unrefined edge to them. Having only been waging war on the criminals of Gotham for around two years, both the thugs and police of the city know little of the masked vigilante. Some see him as a myth and question whether he even exists at all – making the confusion and panic that spreads amongst the hoodlum gangs even more satisfying as you pick them off.
Gotham City retains the grim, gritty darkness that bat-fans will remember from previous game Batman: Arkham City, along with sinister locations like Amusement Mile. The sprawling industrial metropolis is packed with tall buildings to grapple between and high vantage points to silently swoop down on enemies from, this time on a much larger scale. Arkham Origins takes place over two islands connected by the Gotham Pioneers Bridge, giving you plenty of space to practise your gliding, dive bombing and attacking skills on the groups of enemies you'll pass – including the "crime in progress" alerts you'll randomly hear, giving Batman a chance to foil even more criminal capers and earn valuable XP.
Become the world's greatest detective
Surviving through the night and taking down Black Mask and the eight bounty hunters – not to mention the armies of hired goons – will take a combination of stealth, tactics and all-out bone-crunching action.
Getting around the city and tracking down your objectives is done by grappling between buildings and gliding through the districts or, to cover distance more quickly, using the Batwing to travel between locations. Using the Batwing depends on Batman having visited an area and activated a homing beacon – which means brawling through the squads of villains patrolling the area. Crime scenes, places of interest or enemy lairs can be investigated with Batman's detective mode – X-Ray vision that shows clues, information and enemy positions.
Gotham is littered with gangs of thugs for Batman to brawl with, each with different abilities and attacks that you'll have to learn to counter. Timing is key in linking attacks together to form combos that can dispatch large groups of enemies in quick succession, if you keep a cool head; panicked button-bashing will soon see you overpowered. As you fight enemies and perform combos, you'll earn XP that in turn can be spent on upgrades to Batman's armour, attacks and gadgets, making him an even more powerful vigilante.
Fight crime online
Fans of online multiplayer games can discover a new twist on the usual deathmatch modes with Invisible Predator Online – the three-vs-three-vs-two battle that pitches gangs of villains against each other, along with some uninvited guests. You play as either Bane or The Joker's elite troops, locked in a fight to eliminate the other team, or take control of vital beacons dotted around each of the maps. Using an arsenal of special abilities and weapons – like remote control drones and explosive sticky bombs – your teams will need to work together to attack the enemy and defend your position, particularly with the dual threat of Batman and Robin stalking the criminal gangs from above. Two additional players take on the roles of the dynamic duo, earning XP for taking out the elite troops in silent, inventive and unexpected ways using an array of gadgets and powers.
If Batman and Robin versus gangs of hired mercenaries sounds a little one sided, there's a further surprise in store. When players from the elite gangs reach a certain level, they can bring their super villain bosses into the game and take on the role of either Bane or The Joker, equipped with an even more devastating arsenal and a deadly grudge against their masked foes.