Batman: Arkham Origins
The Batman: Arkham series of games are two of the best action games money can buy. Combining stealth, exploration and fluid combat with the fantastic Batman universe, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City have well earned the praise they received from critics and fans alike.
Unlike the previous two Arkham titles (which were developed by Rocksteady games) ‘Batman: Arkham Origins’ is developed by Warners Bros Montreal, a newly formed studio that cut their teeth previously on the succesful Wii-U port of Batman: Arkham City.
Instead of continuing directly after Batman: Arkham City (which had a very conclusive ending) Batman: Arkham Origins takes place before the previous two games. Batman has only been active in Gotham city for two years, and as such, he’s the enemy of both the Gotham City Police Department and the criminal underworld.
It’s Christmas Eve, and the arch-criminal Black Mask has hired 8 assassins to eliminate Batman. While the majority of Bat-fans will know the assassins, those more inexperienced with Batman’s Rogues Gallery (the collective term for themany villains Batman has thwarted over the years) will come to know them well by Christmas morning. There’s the muscle-bound mastermind Bane, the electric shock-glove wielding Electrocutioner, the poisonous acrobatic contortionist Copperhead, the expert Marksman Deadshot, the flying pyromaniac Firefly, the deadly supermutant Killer Croc, master assassin and martial artist Shiva, and the veteran mercenary Deathstroke.
As with previous Arkham games, there is much more to the game’s story than the over-arching plot of the 8 assassins. Throughout his long night Batman will also meet other characters, such as the Mad Hatter, Jim and Barbara Gordon and Swat team leader Branden.
As one would suspect of a new developer, Batman: Arkham Origins contains a fresh take on an established franchise, with the city, characters, gameplay and even Batman himself feeling familiar, but also very different. There are times where some of the new mechanics feel strange or even forced, but overall Arkham Origins is a welcome addition to the Batman: Arkham franchise. Similar to Arkham City, Arkham Origins is an open-world game, where the player has the freedom to explore any of all Gotham City whenever they wish, and complete missions in any order they choose.
Warner Bros Montreal has given players an expanded Gotham City, and changed various locations to keep things fresh. Player have immediate access to Batman’s grappel (as well as a few other starting pieces of equipment) and can traverse the city with Batman’s gliding ability. Players can also unlock various quick-travel points, by ascending various radio towers and destroying the Riddler’s jamming equipment. The ability to quick-travel saves a ton of time, and unlocking different areas to quick-travel to feels very rewarding.
In previous Arkham games, I felt as though I could foretell the game’s story before it unfolded, but with Arkham Origins, there really is no way to predict the story, including Batman himself’s behaviour. Warner Bros Montreal have done a fantastic job of showing us a Batman that is inexperienced (that is at least, in regards to specific criminals) and still learning the difficulties of having a moral code in a world full of criminals.
According to the amazing documentary Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of Batman, Batman’s superpower is his ability to restrain himself. He has learnt to resist his violent impulses and if that is true, then this is a Batman still honing that skill. He is an angry, almost-irrational vigilante, and when he threatens to ram a criminal’s head through the wall, I couldn’t tell it was an empty threat or not.
Combat is almost identical to the combat in previous Arkham games, so players can rest easy knowing that it is highly-accessible, with some pretty nifty new enemies to keep experienced Batman players on their toes. There are the new enforcer enemies, (who are almost unstoppable!) and the martial artists (who are quick, and can counter Batman’s counter attacks).
One of the ways Arkham Origins improves upon previous games are the new boss battles, which are more varied than before and require better strategy than before (no more dodge-and-counter fests!). We also learn more about the bosses, as they fight in fashion true to their character(s), such as Copperhead attempting to poison and constrict Batman using her body, and Deathstroke relying on perfectly-tied counter attacks and quick-time events. Speaking of quick-time events, the ones found in Arkham Origins are actually quite clever in their execution, and did not produce groans of disappointment from me when I encountered them.
In addition to new enemies and boss fights, there are also a few new gadgets for Batman to acquire. These open up new opportunities for exploring the city, as well as new ways for Batman to fell his foes. There are times where you encounter exploration puzzles, where you are challenged by how to progress through a building or the city, though these usually involve a gadget or a combination of gadgets. It can get tiring constantly shifting through your various gadgets to find the right one, and quite often the puzzle’s solution is obvious.
Arkham Origins also adds to the detective experience established in the previous two Arkham games, though instead of simply following scent trails or searching for DNA evidence, Batman must completely recreate the crime scene and its events as they unfolded. These can both be entertaining an a little long in the tooth, as they quite often don’t challenge the player, but they do flesh out the story and Batman’s character. Similar to the new gadgets in Batman, the crime scene investigating segments are overall a welcome addition to the game.
When Warner Bros announced that the iconic voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill would not be onceagain present in the latest Arkham game, gamers have been blessed with the presence of the talented Troy Baker. With the Joker playing a less prominent role in Arkham Origins, it makes sense to get a different actor to portray him in his own way, but it does feel as though Troy Baker is simply mimicking Hamill’s Joker, and not actually putting his own spin on the characters.
Batman too sounds like an impersonation of his previous actor, though the end result is exacly what Warner Bros Montreal had hoped for: Batman sounds younger and inexperienced. This isn’t to say that the voice acting in Arkham Origins is bad, it is in fact, the opposite, it’s just that the two fan-favourites sound a tad weaker than the established voices.
It seems as though Warner Bros Montreal are hell-bent on perfecting the Arkham games, or at the very least, offering as much content as they possibly can in one game. In the spirit of this, they have also included an online multiplayer mode, where players compete in games of 3 vs 3 vs 2 combat, where they can play as rival gangs competing for control of the city of as Batman, attempting to thwart them. The mode is fun overall, however I doubt it will gain enough attention to warrant its inclusion.
To summarise my experience with Batman: Arkham Origins, I would have to say its a fantastic game. Sure it may have a few clashing ideas (or ideas not executed as well as they could have been), but the game starts strong, and gets better as you progress throughout it. There is some pretty graphic content in the game, and parents would be well-advised to avoid children getting their hands on it. There are a number of deceased victims, as well as characters who deal and/or do drugs, so it goes without saying don’t let kids play it. Its a must-have title for us adults though, and it offers a great experience to new and experienced Arkham players alike.
- Brilliant story.
- Highly accessible.
- Minor bugs (which im sure will be corrected in the first update)
Score – 8/10