Batman:Arkham Origins (PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU, PC)
Developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal/Splash Damage (Multiplayer), Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Arkham Origins is a prequel to Arkham Asylum and City, yet he’s more capable and has more gadgets at his disposal than Asylum. Huh. It’s understandable that gameplay would have to stay consistently improved, since the grapnel boost and dive bomb weren’t in Asylum, however, it doesn’t stop combat from being worse than in City. The combat system is basically the same as it was in City, with X being punch and Y being counter, where Batman wails on one thug, counters the one trying to punch him from behind, then uses a beat-down to knock out a third, to a less competent one. While in City Batman would stop his current combat action to counter, in Origins he simply doesn’t. So I would find myself beating up one thug only to be blindsided by another from behind, who couldn’t be countered. Then I’d try again, only to fail, because after City I’m hardwired to think that Batman can counter outside of having previously stood still.
Otherwise gameplay is similar. The gadgets are essentially the same, with the Freeze grenades being glue, and the line launcher replaced with the Batclaw, which makes tightropes in specified places. There’s also the addition of the Shock Gloves, which were only in the WiiU’s Batman: Arkham City: Armoured Edition, and new to most players, which build up power within combat, and powers up Batman’s blows when activated.
Story is another place where Origins is lacking. The plot is supposed to take place 2 years after Batman starts his crime-fighting career, and the crime boss known as Black Mask hires 8 assassins to take Batman out for the sum of fifty million dollars. My main expectation of what the assassins would be like is something along the lines of this trailer (specifically at 1:55):
Batman fighting Deathstroke in the middle of the street, and another assassin interferes in the fight. This is hardly the case. All of the assassins are their own clearly defined boss fights, most of which aren’t even challenging. Deathstroke is a particularly disappointing boss in this regard, being essentially waiting to counter his attacks, then some QTE action. Furthermore, some of the assassins aren’t even part of the main game, instead merely side missions. The fight against Deadshot is most closely comparable to the Two-Face stealth mission in Arkham City that is played with Catwoman. Bane manages to be a real threat, despite being the first of the dodge charging brute bosses in Arkham City, and one where he is merely tricked into being trapped in a cell in Arkham City. Maybe Batman hit him so hard he forgot how to fight.
With the main draw of the game, i.e. the bosses being an utter waste of time, the game has to rely on its storytelling to be effective. Fortunately, or unfortunately, halfway through the story the game forgets about the assassins to focus on the Clown Prince of Crime. Again. For the second time in a row, the Joker steals the show. That’s not to say that the Joker is ever badly portrayed, not at all. In fact, Troy Baker delivers a compelling performance (an example of his talent can be seen in this monologue [2:12])
As good as the Joker is, it’s a rather tired scenario at this point to have the Joker jump in mid-game and make everything about him, especially after the send-off he received at the end of Arkham City, and the retirement of Mark Hammil from the role. One might wish that this installment in the series would leave the Joker out for once. And on the topic of voice actors, Roger Craig Smith delivers a performance as Batman that one could call a younger Batman voiced by Kevin Conroy, with a little bit of Christian Bale’s Batman voice thrown in for interrogations (I say this in the most complimentary of ways).
The Riddler returns as “Enigma”, looking to blackmail everyone important in Gotham at once. His Riddler trophies are replaces with blackmail data that Batman must find, in addition to the broadcast towers that must be shut down to enable fast travel. Trophies are now just found. There aren’t any real puzzles to find them, so it’s a meaningless pursuit, besides getting XP and collectibles.
The Challenge mode returns as well. More of the same combat maps or stealth missions, with the additional use of Deathstroke with DLC. More of the same good stuff.
And….the online. An utter waste of time and resources. A crappy third person shooter within a game where the mechanics were based around a superhero who took an oath against guns. The goals are based around holding certain areas, killing opponents to reduce their reinforcements to zero, and taking out the heroes who are trying to strike fear into you. It is simply boring, and reeks of being something on a corporate checklist. The only saving grace is that one might get the chance to play as Batman. The mere chance, within an entire game about Batman.
Also, as far as glitches go, I’ve experienced none, so my review took that into account. I’d recommend looking elsewhere for information on glitches.
Overall, the game is a disappointment, although the fun parts are when it most effectively apes Arkham City. Not to say that the combat or flying around aren’t fun. It’s just that there’s already a better game in the series for those mechanics.