Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU, PC
After developer Rocksteady brought new life to Batman franchise in the form of Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, given the job of making a prequel to the dark knight seems a bit over-whelming. How to capture the atmosphere of the previous games and make an origins story to batman? WB Montreal took the task on and the result is great, but not amazing.
The story takes place on Christmas Eve. A new villain named Black Mask wants batman dead and therefore he has hired eight top assassins to do the deed. This allows for a wide variety of popular and not-so-known villains from the DC-universe. Though, WB Montreal didn’t quite seems sure about the story, because halfway through the game the it changes directions into becoming a whole new plot, but in my opinion the switch is successful, even though it plays it safe with the transition.
The story is darker than previous games which can be sensed throughout the game’s atmosphere and and Batman itself. He is more cynical and ruthless, sometimes even completely ignoring advice from others and doing things his own stubborn and suicidal way. It shows how the events of the game shape his personality for the future. Presentation overall in Origins is great, especially during cutscenes, that are simple incredible and really bring the characters to live. I would love the see a whole movie made this way.
Both Roger Craig Smith and Troy baker do a great job portraying their characters, even though Troy’s Joker mostly steals the spotlight with his excellent performance. He sounds and acts so much like Mark Hamill’s Joker that it’s barely recognizable if you weren’t paying close attention to it. Other key characters such as Bane and the Penguin are also well voice-acted. Only the NPCs with their cheesy dialog feel a bit misplaced, mostly due to the fact of having bad lip sync, which is annoying.
The city of Gotham looks dark and forgotten, emphasis on forgotten, since it feels dead. Gotham itself is huge with a number of various districts and with a bridge combining bits and parts of the (future) Arkham City, but except for random thug gangs roaming the streets, Gotham feels completely deserted. I would have been happy with a smaller, more lively city, though swinging around the city still feels empowering, like being the actual Batman. There are still a bunch of side missions to do and collectibles to collect that require the use of various gadgets you obtain throughout the story, but mostly it’s just gliding from one end of the city to the other. The quick travel system is therefore and welcomed addition.
Batman is known for its fluent and satisfying Freeflow combat and it makes a return in Arkham Origins. Combining light strikes, with counters, stuns, jumps, gadgets and special moves still feels rewarding and seeing how high of a combo you can achieve during each encounter is a challenge in and of itself. Sadly, the camera doesn’t always keep up with your fighting, especially if you rely on somersaulting, then the camera mostly screws up for future attacks. It also doesn’t work particularly well in tight-spaced rooms.
If you can’t get enough of Freeflow and scaring your enemies in the main story, Origins also has a wide number of Combat and Predator challenges that require you to achieve a certain score or takedown enemies in various ways from a vent and ledge takedown to brute force through a weak wall. These cahllenges are also timed and with online leaderboards to compare with others.
One of the new additions to Origins is detective mode, where it lets you figure out and reconstruct crime scenes. At first it felt like a gimmick, but the more I played with it, the more I ended up liking it. Finding and analyzing evidence, looking into prior events trying to find the last piece of the puzzle and finally apprehending the suspect is fun. Sadly, it’s used only a couple of times in the main storyline and on the side missions it’s a bit dumbed down. Hopefully we can see more of it in future titles.
The most noticeable difference compared to the previous Arkham games seems to me the lack of polish. Arkham Origins has a bigger city, refined gadgets and moves, but technical difficulties hold it back from reaching its potential. Frame-rate issues are common when swinging on the streets from building to building, textures taking long to load up, pop-ins occurring and minor bugs, that I only notice, because of the burden of the almost-perfect Arkham City. These bugs are eg. your cape going through enemies as you fight and NPCs glitching out and walking into/in walls and not being able to interrogate enemies, when you should.
Batman: Arkham Origins also includes multiplayer, which was outsourced to Splash Damage (makers of Brink and Enemy Territory). Their games tend to have great ideas, but the realization is lacking. As it is with Origins. The only game mode available at this time is “Invisible Predator Online”, a 3v3v2 mode where two gangs fight each other basic tdm-style while 2 heroes (Batman & Robin) try to take both teams out to increase their intimidation to win the game.
Heroes have most of the gadgets and takedowns from the single-player, while the thugs have upgradeable weapons and perks such as an exploding mini zeppelin or dual wielding at their disposal. Again, sounds great on paper, but with only four maps, clumsy menus & controls and long lobby times, the enjoyment is small. With a group of friends and a couple of balancing patches and DLC I can see this mode being fun, but for now it’s one of those “Try and forget” multiplayers.
Batman Arkham Origins is a great game. Carrying the success of Asylum and City on its back and being compared to those, it’s inferior, but if you judge the game by it’s own values, or in other words, just want more Batman, you will have a good time. A greatly presented, intriguing storyline with the best parts of combat and predator missions combined with new tweaks to the gameplay make this worth your while. It’s more Batman, what else do you want?