I get WHY they chose that naming convention. It’s an Arkham style of Batman game that’s a spinoff of the specific Origins game and title, itself, Blackgate. It just seems so clunky. You could have named it Batman Blackgate or Arkham Blackgate or something. It’s a name that’s serviceable, understandable, and a bit unwieldy. This perfectly describes the game it’s titling.
Maybe that’s a bit unfair. Blackgate (as it will be referred to from here on out) starts out a bit dull. You’re Batman and there’s been an escape attempt at the Blackgate prison. So it is your task to go in there and beat up people until they stop trying to escape. This may sound very similar to part of the plot of the previous game (Batman Arkham Origins) so you’d be forgiven for questioning the administrative ability of Gotham’s correctional staff.
If you forget the other Arkham games and where this story takes place in the continuity then the game has a very good Batman story making good use of the villains featured. In fact, the setting is surprisingly well thought-out and vast with 4 separate maps of maze like corridors each with multiple levels to traverse in well rendered 2.5D space. The problem, then, comes with the actual traversing of those levels. At the beginning you’re only tool is the Bat-Grapple that allows you to pull yourself up to higher levels. This makes you feel rather impotent as Batman, the world’s greatest detective, is unable to navigate what seem like simple obstacles for lack of the specific tool. Lack of navigation makes the map utterly useless for the first few hours of play because you’re location is not well defined on the single level map within the multiple levels of the world.
Thankfully, the villains and your battles with them make up for these early game blunders. Each fight is unique and matches the criminally insane opponents very well. Black Mask blasts Batman with dual machine guns if Batman reveals himself, so you have to sneak about distracting him and knocking out lights. Penguin employs multiple gun toting henchmen and actual remote controlled drones, but is a pushover himself, etc. These moments are when the games mechanics and story come together in a cohesive and satisfying way… unlike when you’re clumsily stumbling through levels trying to find the next item you need to continue.
I will say that the last few hours provide relief from the world traversal because you’ve found ever gadget you need and are able to finally make sense of the terrible in game map. For the last few hours you’re jumping about on tightropes and crossing previously uncrossable gaps and gliding around in what almost feels like a Bionic Commando style platformer. It’s a bit too little too late though, as it only makes you regret the previous hours of dumfounded walking.
If you’re a fan of Batman, like me, I think Blackgate provides the best examples yet as to what the relationships in these games should be between the Dark Knight and his adversaries (especially The Joker). And while the game takes a while to find its legs, there’s enough there to get you into the meat of the game and it finishes very satisfactorily. Maybe Armature felt a bit wobbly at their new home and needed a bit to really find their stride. Here’s hoping their next game is a banger from beginning to end.