Warner Bros. Montreal's Batman: Arkham Origins will ship with a multiplayer mode called Invisible Predator Online, which is being developed separately from the campaign mode by British studio Splash Damage.
The multiplayer mode, which will ship with the game on October 25, will allow players to be part of one of three factions: the heroes (Batman and Robin), Bane's elite thugs (three players) and the Joker's elite thugs (three players). The game will play differently depending on which faction players choose.
Players stepping into the role of Batman and Robin will experience an extension of the campaign mode, except the thugs that are normally NPCs are controlled by real players. Instead of engaging in hand-to-hand melee combat on the ground, the focus of the heroes is to stay in the darkness and perform surreptitious takedowns. During a hands-on demo with the game, we played as Batman and had access to his usual arsenal of gadgets, including the Batarang and detective vision. Staying high above the chaos was to our advantage and allowed us to hunt down one thug after another while the Joker's and Bane's factions fought on the ground. We were vulnerable on the ground because the thugs — some of them dual-wielding firearms — could easily shoot at us.
"We wanted this tension with the hunter/hunted mechanic."
The goal of the heroes is to take down as many thugs as possible to fill up the intimidation meter. Once the meter reaches a certain point, both Bane's and the Joker's factions will retreat.
Speaking to Polygon, Splash Damage creative director Alastair Cornish said it was extremely important for Batman and Robin to play the way they do in multiplayer mode because the developers wanted to retain the Arkham DNA through and through.
"We wanted this tension with the hunter/hunted mechanic," Cornish said. "If Batman's primary method of engagement was to just run in and club people, a) that's not very Batman and b) it's not that tense or rewarding.
"So we worked out a clever system with the scoring, so you would vary your takedowns and be patient and not just go in swinging, because that's not Batman. The whole idea is to instill fear and intimidation into players."
When we jumped into the role of the elite thugs, the multiplayer mode took the form of a third-person shooter where we had to wipe out the enemy thugs while also keeping an eye to the sky for the heroes. We were able to use an enhanced vision mode — similar to Batman's detective vision — for short bursts of time, allowing us to scan areas for both enemy thugs and heroes. Midway through the match, Bane and the Joker become playable, but only if certain conditions are met. At some point during the battle, both faction leaders will call to their thugs to open a door to allow them into the arena. The first side to get to the door and open it will gain access to their leader, and the player responsible for opening the door will assume the role of either Bane or the Joker. Faction leaders are more powerful than the elite thugs, but when killed, they do not respawn like thugs do.
Cornish said the thugs play in a third-person mode because it helps the player connect with the character. Players can also customize their thug's appearance, varying the body type, facial hair, face paint, clothing and weapons. The third-person field of view also lends itself to a heightened sense of tension.
"It really came from thinking of the Invisible Predator Online and what that might be like," he said. "So the heroes' perspective was quite straightforward in terms of how they play, [but with the thugs], sometimes you can see things moving behind you just as Batman is about to grab you."
Cornish said that having these dynamics between the different factions keeps players on their toes. A member of a faction might be observing the sky to see if Batman or Robin are within close proximity, but that makes them vulnerable to the opposing faction who is on the ground. Similarly, a player who is focused on shooting the enemy thugs might get picked off from above by Batman or Robin.
"It's been interesting seeing people behaving like the AI," Cornish said. "We had players working through a map as a team, and the guy at the front said to his teammates, 'OK, I've got the front. You've got my back, right?' And his teammate said, 'Right. Can you see anything?' "No, I can't see anything.' And they kept walking through a corridor and the guy at the front said, 'You still got my back, right? Guys? Guys?' And just as he turned around he saw the feet of his buddy zip up into the darkness as Batman did the inverted takedown.
"All hell broke loose and he just freaked out and started running everywhere. When we saw that, we thought, that's absolutely perfect."