Release Date: October 25 2013
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Metacrtic Score: 76 (PS3)
Upon release a lot of critics said that “Batman: Arkham Origins” was released too soon after the last game an innovated too little. What I felt was a bit different. Yes, the lack of innovation hurt the game, but so did an obvious lack of polish and lack of love that Rocksteady had for the series and for Batman specifically. Throughout the game I was excruciatingly aware that another team took over the reins. That isn’t too say that “Arkham Origins” is a bad game, but it is the lesser of the trilogy.
The story take place on Christmas Eve two ears into Batman’s Career. The gun running gangster Black Mask is sick of you interfering with his operations, so he has put out a fifty million dollar, one night only bounty on your head.
This draws the attention of eight of the worlds best assassins. Knowing that they will start hurting innocent people in order to find him, Batman goes out to find Black Mask and force him to call of the bounty. As the night progresses however, Batman finds that there may be a new criminal player in Gotham city. I’m wasn’t going to spoil who it is, but if you know batman and the Arkham series, then you know that there is only one reason to make this game a prequel. It’s the Joker. Big shock, right?
The story has some issues, to be sure. The biggest of witch, in my opinion, is on;y having you fight three or four of the eight assassin in the main story. Five if you count one early game boss, but he really is not worth counting. But the Joker’s big reveal about half way through the game is very well executed, even f you see it coming a mile away.
The most amazing accomplishment of the games story is that it manages to tell one of the most well known origins in comic history, and still make it compelling. But don’t be fooled this isn’t the origin of Batman or even Arkham Asylum. It’s the origin of Batman’s relationship with Gordon, his rivalry with the Joker, and his public persona. And in those area’s the game really does shine. At the beginning of the game Batman is just a brooding hulk in a bat costume. You seem him go from caring about nothing and no one but Justice to being the kind of man who will search for a missing friend, like he does in “Arkham Asylum”.
As far as the main story goes, it may very well be the best in the series, and it is very well does, but it is far less entertaining. While it is always nice to see some character development for batman (lets face it, that is always in short supply) there was nothing really here that wasn’t done better some where else. But at the end of the day, I didn’t really mind this incarnation of Batman’s early years, so I can’t dock it too much.
Here things get a bit more complicated. The core of the Arkham game play is here, but it feels much less polished that it did before. And this effects every major part of the game play, it’s not just one or two little things that seem out of place.
To start off with there’s travailing around the world. Trailing is handled much the same way as it was in “Arkham City”. But in that game I felt like I could get around the entire map without ever having to stop at an give time. This was because of the way the Bat Claw allowed you to hook onto an object then shoot off of it. You can do the same thing here, but I often found myself with either nothing to claw onto or having to try and readjust the camera mid flight to look for something to latch onto. Then there is the massive bridge that separates the map into two parts. It’s not a pain to get across, but it is overly long that it seems like with just a bit more planing the developers could have avoided such a nuisance. And in one respect they did, but they also managed to screw that up as well. They added the Bat-jet to give you the ability to fast travel between sections of the map, but in order to use it you have to unscramble communication towers that The Riddler is using to block communication with the batcave. And that’s all well and good. Something similar was done in “Far Cry 3” and I loved that game. But here it just doesn’t work. Most of the time I would be headed to a section of the city where I simply didn’t have the right tool in order to deal with the tower yet. This is meant to encourage you to play the game metroidvania style, but after an hour I just said “screw it” and glided where I needed to be.
The next big issue is with the hand to hand brawls. Like in the other games it is based off a simple three button control scheme where you can attack, counter or stun enemies. However, it just feels loser here than in the other games. In more that a few fights I died a lot because i’d get hit when I hit the counter button. That was an issue I never remember having with the first two games. Because of this, fights felt more like I was just broodishly hitting things instead of being a master of combat.
This isn’t helped when you get the shock gauntlets either. Once they are charged up they allow you to ignore the different tactics needed to defeat one enemy type over another and literally allow you to just punch everyone till they’re down.
This flaw also has it’s claws in the boss fights, witch otherwise would have been the best in the franchise, Sure, there is nothing as good as the Mr. Freeze fight, but each of the bosses were based on the hand to hand combat. They actually felt like fights against harder, more deadly opponents instead of the shlock we usually got. But then you have to deal with the controls being not as tight as they were and just become frustrating again.
Then there is the “Invisible Predator” mode, witch have always been a highlight in these games for me. There are here and they are largely unchanged, but again, they just do not feel as polished as they should. Each of the missions take place in rooms that don’t seem like they were made for a “stealth mode”so it almost forces you to think out side of the box…until you realise you’re doing exactly the same thing you’ve always done. Wait for an enemy to open himself up, the swoop in behind him. The only real difference is that it is easier to get caught now as the stages weren’t built for stealth. Often I would get caught because a guard just happened to look over at the wrong moment. It should feel that much better when you get through one of these sections with out getting caught, but almost every time I jyst wished more time went into the level design.
The Game Play isn’t broken, but you can feel all the love Rockstead put into the game has been sucked out. This was clearly made by talented but apathetic developers.
Game Play: 3.5/5
Music and Sound:
Quite a stir was made when Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill chose not to reprise their roles, but stand in Roger Crig Smith and Troy Baker do very well as Batman and the Joker respectively. In fact, only a few times did I ever notice Bakers Joker wasn’t Hamill. Smith also does good work, but every now and again, when Batman is meant to be angry he slips into Christian Bale “Dark Knight” territory. But personally I think it works really well. Batman isn’t always yelling, witch is nice, but you know when you’ve pissed him off and you are going to regret it. The Soundtrack is also very nice, but I think we’ve all come to expect that with this franchise.
Music and Sound: 4/5
Over all score: 3.8/5
Who is this game for:
I’d say anyone who likes batman. Ths still is an Arkham game, so you know it’s not going to be bad. Just know going in that is simply isn’t as good as the first two.