It’s Christmas Eve, and Gotham City’s underworld kingpin Black Mask has put out a hit on the man known as “Batman”. Many doubt the existence of such a person, in fact, many believe the Batman is just an urban legend. But the real players of Gotham’s underworld know the truth. Batman is not a myth, he is real, and he is coming for them.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the third installment in the Batman: Arkham Trilogy is here! This time, however, the series’ veteran development team, Rocksteady, is not involved with this game. Instead, Warner Brother’s Montreal is handling it. WB Montreal is a brand new studio that’s been handed the mantel of Batman, but did they succeed? Did they fail? Read on and find out!
Batman: Arkham Origins is an interesting game to say the least. The previous two Batman: Arkham titles were the best Batman games ever released. Batman: Arkham Asylum proved that Batman could be in a blockbuster triple-A title that bares his very name. It established the ground work that Arkham City, and now Arkham Origins, is built on. And City did it well, it took Batman out of the semi-linear world of Arkham Asylum and let him lose in the much larger, and much freer Arkham City. Not only that, the combat system from Asylum was improved tremendously, really making the player feel like the caped crusader himself.
What Origins does right is take all the good parts of Arkham City and tweak them for the new game. Combat feels just as amazing as it did in the previous games, albeit with a few minor changes. The window to counter attacks feel smaller, but it creates a more immersive and realistic feel to the combat. Series staple gadgets like the bat-claw, bat-arang, and smoke pellets return with the addition of gadgets obtained from the assassins that are out for Batman’s blood.
Another staple of the Arkham trilogy is detective mode and the investigations that come with it. Origins shines in this respect; the investigations are much more engaging and feature “crime scene re-enactments” that help Batman discern exactly what happened at each crime scene. Granted, the cases you are tasked with all seem fairly short, and feel too easy to solve, but watching the scenes play out is a ton of fun.
The combat systems were tweaked in a way to make you feel like you are, indeed, a younger Batman. His reaction times are designed to feel faster when countering and attacking. When silently taking down enemies in an invisible predator situation, the remaining enemies freak out more and act recklessly compared to the previous two games where Batman is an established figure.
This contributes to an already established formula that has worked in the past, so what could possibly be bad about this game? First off, the major difference between Origins and City is that City came first, expanded on Asylum, and introduced us to an open world, whereas Origins took a lot of what made City great, and copied it. The Gotham City of Origins is really just a re-skinned version of Arkham City. Even though Origins takes place years before the events of Arkham City and even before the establishment of “Arkham City”, it still feels like a cop out. Many of Arkham City’s infamous locations make an appearance, none of which will be mentioned here of course.
The tweaked combat systems will take some getting used to for series veterans, which isn’t too much of a problem. Once you start getting into a free-flow groove, it’s easy to regress into the old timings of the previous games and get knocked out of your free-flow combo. However, gadgets play a large role in compensating for this newer system. Gadgets have been designed to integrate seamlessly in combat, although it’s easy to regress into the old habit of not using them.
The biggest problem with Origins are frequent loading spikes that force the game to a screeching halt in order to catch up with the action happening on screen. I’ve encountered a few instances of screen tearing and frame rate drops. It felt as though the game wasn’t entirely optimized. These problems are only more glaring whenever Batman becomes stuck in the geometry of the environment when traveling by foot or through grappling. There was also a time when I jumped from a high place and tried to land on top of a smaller, adjacent building, only to have Batman’s “soft landing” animation activate, making me miss the building entirely and float awkwardly down to the street below to be attacked by thugs for my troubles. A patch has already gone out to fix a few of the bugs encountered by players, but not everything is quite fixed yet. I haven’t come across any game-breaking bugs, but they do exist and are out there. So watch out!
The bottom-line: Batman: Arkham Origins is a fantastic game and a great addition to the Batman: Arkham Trilogy. It is a game with many faults, but makes up for it with solid game play and an interesting story that has much more going on than one would think at first glance. The game is filled with side-story events, just like the previous titles, and the boss battles play out like how Batman fans would want them to.
If you have never tried a Batman: Arkham game, this would be a great place to start, although I would recommend playing Arkham Asylum first, as it has the best atmosphere, story, and gameplay. If you aren’t a fan of Batman, you should at least give Asylum or Origins a try before playing City, since it is chronologically the last game in the series and arguably the best.
Batman: Arkham Origins is out now for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC.
And now, a word from your voice actors.