Set five years before Batman: Arkham Asylum, this third game in the series chronicles the story of a younger, rougher Batman who has yet to gain the polish of his older and wiser self. This inexperience is put to the test as the mob boss Black Mask decides to hire eight deadly assassins to hunt down our titular hero on Christmas Eve.
- Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal (Campaign)/Splash Damage (Multiplayer)
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Reviewed on: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3
- Also Available On: PC/Wii U
- Release Date: Available Now
“I AM THE NIGHT!” – these are the words that were constantly shouted by myself in 2011 (driving my flatmate insane) whilst playing Batman: Arkham City, so when the announcement came of a third title to the series, you can imagine my excitement. However, when the reveal came for Batman: Arkham Origins, I started to worry. Alarm bells initially rang when Rocksteady confirmed that they would not be working on Batman: Arkham Origins and then again when Paul Dini, Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy all announced that they would not be back for this iteration also. Following previews from this year’s E3, gamescom and Eurogamer events however, reporters had reassured Batfans of the world that Arkham‘s core mechanics had been left intact. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t progressed much further from them.
If you’ve enjoyed Batman: Arkham City and played it to death, then you’re going to feel right at home in Origins as its gameplay includes few changes from the original formula. The Caped Crusader still uses that same brand of free-flow combat that has been lifted for so many titles (such as Sleeping Dogs and Deadpool) to build up his hit meter and perform painful looking finishing moves, punching evil in its turkey neck. Free-roam travel returns too – allowing Batman to glide around Gotham City using his massive cape span, ducking and rising to increase momentum, using the Grapple Gun to clip onto buildings and either scaling heights or travelling at greater speeds. Even collectibles have returned, although Riddler Trophies have been replaced by Data Packets belonging to the pre-quizzing master ‘Enigma’. Side quests are included again and used to include characters that couldn’t fit into the huge story-line containing a handful of the rogues gallery. So, with all of these original characteristics of Batman: Arkham City, its own innovations must be huge right? Wrong – I wouldn’t be surprised if you played Batman: Arkham Origins and thought you were playing a DLC expansion to its previous title.
When Warner Bros Montreal stepped into the cape and cowl (after previously working on Batman: Arkham City – Armoured Edition for the Wii U), the changes they put in place seemed to be as follows; Using the same map as Arkham City and adding a new section with what has to be the longest bridge in a free roam title connecting the two, changing key items that Bats acquired in the previous title with new gadgets that use the same functions (Mr Freeze’s Ice grenades become glue grenades,used to block steam pipes and create makeshift rafts) and adding two new gadgets in the form of Deathstroke’s Remote Claw that gives you the ability to string enemies to gargoyles from a distance and Electrocutioner’s Shock Gauntlets that can be activated during a fight to provide more power to The Dark Knight’s punches (effectively giving you a win button).
It’s a huge shame when comparing the game’s ‘improvements’ to those made between Arkham Asylum and City. A modification I did quite enjoy was the build on Batman’s Detective Mode, which now brings a higher element of interactivity for the player. When visiting a crime scene to start an investigation, you are able to create an Augmented Reality simulation of the events that have occurred. This is achieved by searching for clues and adding sections to the recreation, which you may investigate to find new clues and solve whatever mystery you are looking into. It’s not the most challenging aspect of Origins but it is one that made me feel once again like I was stepping into the big boots of the Batman, only this time in the role of World’s Greatest Detective instead of a Dark Knight.
When getting into the game’s story, the title of Batman: Arkham Origins is a little misleading as neither the origin of our hero or the Asylum are covered in its plot. Instead the name Origins actually refers to Batman’s relationship with The Joker, who in this story is the only villain Batman doesn’t know everything about (although the story does actually recap Bill Finger’s original story of the Red Hood, which shows the two have actually met before). Comparing the story to that of the series’ previous plots makes it really obvious that Paul Dini, a man who managed to capture the feel of his original Batman: The Animated Series and warped it into a much more mature world, was not on board here. That isn’t to say that the plot of Origins is bad, it just is not up to the same standard. Speaking of the animated TV shows of the past, thanks to Mark Hamill retiring from his iconic role as Joker and Warner Bros. decision to replace Kevin Conroy, we are instead treated to the vocal talents of Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker. The decision to recast Batman has been a confusing one for me as whenever I read a comic (no matter what era), the voice of Batman is always Conroy in my head. That said, Smith actually puts on a pretty good impression of his predecessor and it isn’t until any interrogation moments that he seems to give the game away by adding an element of Christian Bale to his vocal range. While Baker’s Joker isn’t as clear cut to be an impression of Hamill, he definitely brings in something welcome to the character – what else would you expect from a voice actor of that caliber.
One of the main focuses of the game (at least in the title’s advertisements) is the eight assassins that have been hired to take out the Bat, of which you encounter all but two in the main plot and most of those are only for a short while. Instead, the story mainly focuses on Black Mask, Joker and Bane, with other characters popping in for a boss fight. A very odd choice I thought, seeing as there was so much focus put into Deathstroke in the initial Batman: Arkham Origins promos. Boss battles seem to be varied enough, with the objective being to fist-fight while utilising weapons you’ve picked up on the way. This keeps each villain fresh and makes you want to rush to reach the next encounter.
At the height of Batman: Arkham Origins‘ issues are the amount of bugs in the game, which are slowly being fixed with multiple patches but plagued my experience. Problems I encountered included; Batman falling through the floor randomly, full buildings disappearing, lag, Achievements ‘pinging’ without unlocking (never to be unlocked again) and the game actually crashing completely. At times, I’d have to reset my Xbox several times to get through one mission. After many hours of frustration, I went out and rented a PlayStation 3 copy of the title to see if I’d have any better luck trying to beat the campaign. Graphical issues seemed to have stopped on this platform and had instead been replaced by the sound being out of sync with the game. Once again, the game would crash but this time, only when using the game’s new fast travel system. Friends have since told me that the PC port still has its faults, just not as many.
Perhaps the biggest addition to the Arkham series is the inclusion of multiplayer (unless you have a Wii U) and while it is an interesting idea, there is still more work to be done here. So the twist on this 8-man multiplayer is that there are two teams of 3 working for either Joker or Bane, then the two remanding players get to play as Batman and his sidekick Robin. Gameplay stems from a basic third-person-shooter model, whilst all the time having the added challenge of constantly having to be aware of the Gargoyles above for fear that a masked vigilante may swoop down and knock you out. I’ll admit that playing as the Dynamic Duo with a friend is actually pretty fun and the premise of this mode is a really good one, but paired with the terrible shooting mechanics, it’s not likely to stand the test of time when compared to more popular online titles. Wii U owners will not be missing out much here.
Mechanically, Batman: Arkham Origins is a good game and probably still a must-have for the majority of Batfans out there. Unfortunately, thanks to the lack of major innovations brought to the title and a large amount of glitches, it’s definitely the weaker adventure in the Arkham series. You may want to wait for the game to be reduced in price and hope by then that the bulk of bugs have been patched.