Playing “Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate” is inherently odd. Think about the path it took to get to the PlayStation Network. It is a game that was conceived as a distillation of the successful “Batman Arkham” franchise, including hits “Arkham City” and “Arkham Origins”. Take what worked on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and transport as much as possible to the PlayStation Vita. Doing so required the developers to strip away a lot of what people loved about the most successful iteration of a superhero in video game form. The deep storytelling and open-world aesthetic of “Arkham City” (the best of the three games until “Arkham Knight” tries to dethrone it this Fall) was jettisoned in favor of something that worked better on the Vita. A lot of the fighting mechanics, detective mode, even visual choices, remained, but “Blackgate” was kind of an echo of what we loved about the “Arkham” games—a sampler of the full meal you could play on your PS3.
And now that sampler has been moved to the main course, which naturally makes it feel a little odd. Sure, “Blackgate” isn’t the first Vita or PSP game to get the round-trip ticket and end up back on the same console as its more successful ancestors (the “God of War” games included in the “Saga” release transport beautifully to the PS3) but it arguably feels the most incomplete. It raises an issue that’s going to become more and more prevalent as long as the Vita remains at its current capability. What will Vita games look like next to their PS4 brethren? When we play “Arkham Knight” this Fall—and no hopes it’s as great as this disappointed player of “Origins”—and it takes FULL advantage of the PS4, will games like “Blackgate” look even more dated and substandard than it does now on the PS3? It doesn’t help that the Vita is arguably being used more now for Remote Play than for its own games. In your house, you’ll be able to play “Knight” on your Vita via Remote Play. “Blackgate” will look even more archaic. Which is why they’re probably trying to take it for one more financial trip around the block before that happens.
Am I being a bit hard on “Blackgate”? Arguably. The fact is that it’s a mediocre game no matter what system one plays it on. The concept of melding “Arkham” mechanics with a side-scrolling brawler appealed to me but there’s hardly action in “Blackgate”. There’s a lot of moving from screen to screen, a TON of zip-lining (you hit R1 to go to another location more than you fight, I think), and a game design that’s simply too linear and too boring to match with the best offerings from the PSN. Ultimately, “Blackgate” becomes one of those “If…” games. “If…you really love Batman.” “If…you can’t get enough of the “Arkham” games and have played them all to 100% completion already.” “If….you have a lot of PSN credit burning a hole in your virtual pocket.”
Again, I’m kind of being a jerk. But we’ve seen great handheld iterations of console hits before in the aforementioned “God of War” games and the “Uncharted” launch Vita game. “Blackgate” just doesn’t stand with the best of them. And in making the trip back from the Vita to the PlayStation 3, its flaws feel even more pronounced and amplified. If you played it on the Vita, there’s nowhere near enough enhancement to justify paying the price to play it again on the PS3. And if you missed it on the Vita, there might have been a reason for that.