- The amount of time Shiva has to be awesome
While most people would prefer dreaming of sugarplums dancing on Christmas Eve, Batman prefers to head out in his Batwing to beat the crap out of criminals. In those first couple minutes, broadcasts reveal that Gotham is experiencing a strong blizzard and advises Gothamites to stay indoors and that Black Mask has broken into Blackgate Prison. With that said and despite Alfred’s attempts to stop him, Batman suits up and heads out.
This starts Batman: Arkham Origins, the new entry and prequel in the Arkham series popularized by Rocksteady but now helmed by newcomer WB Games Montreal. There was some worry from the gaming public because of these reasons, but the game is here regardless. So, how does it stack up?
As one may be well aware, the plot focuses on a young Batman who is only a couple years into his career. On this fateful Christmas Eve night, Black Mask places a bounty on his head for fifty million dollars and hires eight assassins to attempt the job. There is also the appearance of certain clownish villain, but I’m sure you already knew that as well. Without diving too much into spoiler territory for those who haven’t played, the plot is something in Arkham Origins that excels over its predecessor. Where Arkham City had an interesting premise but disjointed narrative, Arkham Origins manages to have a more concise story that doesn’t do too much jumping around from new plot point to new plot point. The story does start off a bit slow in the beginning, but you can expect it to pick up once a certain popular villain makes his appearance.
As far as gameplay, Arkham Origins does much of the same as the two games that precede it. Playing as Batman, you can travel through Old and New Gotham using either caped flight or your trusty Batwing jet through fast travel methods. Using your combat prowess and gadgets, you fight groups of thugs and piece together crimes using the ever trusty Detective Vision or “Case Files System.” This “Case Files System” is another improvement over the Detective Mode investigations you’ve done in previous games. Using this, you can piece together a whole scene by scanning different clues and replaying/fastforwarding actions. This new form of Detective Mode investigation is an interesting concept, but it isn’t used to great effect sadly. With that said, I would like to see this more in newer games.
Combat is also far more fluid than the past two titles. While the free flow system is still the same, much of the problems that I faced in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City have been fixed or tweaked (namely the “air punching problem”). New gadgets also make appearances alongside old ones. However, many of these new gadgets are just revised or renamed versions of older ones save for my personal favorite: the Shock Gloves which, not only allow you to charge electric panels and systems, but can be used in combat to cut through defenses and instantly stun enemies.
Side missions also make a return and while there are many of them, this is where the game starts to see some lows. Many side missions in the game end very quickly and don’t usually amount to a whole lot compared to some of Arkham City‘s side missions which held some surprises. Boss battles also don’t amount to anything too special despite WB Montreal stating that all boss battles would be unique in testing your skills. First of all, only a few of the eight assassins make it as actual story bosses with the others sent into side mission territory with barely any challenge to them (I weep for you, Lady Shiva. You could have been so awesome). Granted there are a couple boss fights that stand out: Deathstroke’s battle is centered on correct counter timing whilst Firefly’s battle is quite epic in its scope. Other boss battles tend to require finding a specific move or gadget to use and spamming it (ex. I explosive gelled Copperhead and Bane is beaten like any other big enemy from past games).
Where the game really falters is the generous amount of technical bugs and glitches that it flings your way during gameplay. Granted, past Arkham games haven’t been free from bugs, but Arkham Origins really takes the cake. Every time I went between FMV and gameplay, dialogue and sound would never synch up properly with what’s displayed. I also encountered moments where sound just completely vanished, in-game freezes, and a moment where I dropped through the graphical plane upon entering a door. Thankfully, I never came across a corrupted data bug like others have, but I think it’s suffice to say this game is riddled with glitches all over the place.
Let’s not forget about the obvious tacked-on online multiplayer called “Invisible Predator Online”. In this mode, you enter into a 3-on-3-on-2 battle with 3 Joker elites, 3 Bane elites, and two people playing as Batman and Robin. The job of the Elite is to wipe out each other or take control of opposing posts. As Batman and Robin, you must increase your Intimidation by taking out the Elite and prevent teams from winning using your skills and gadgets. Sadly, the online mode is not free of bugginess as I once again encountered freezes during loading times not to mention the inability to find a match room half of the time. When you can get past this, you’re in for a rather average third-person shooter team battle–unless of course you’re playing as Batman or Robin where the match is more like the story mode play…just not as fun though.
To end off on a more positive note, the cast as one might imagine is nothing more than stellar–especially the amazing Troy Baker as the infamous Joker. Roger Craig Smith does a rather good job as well at capturing the inexperienced, brutish sounding voice of Batman in his early years. Many of the voice actors from past games return for this installment and they do a fine job voicing their respective characters (that Cockney accented Penguin still bugs me a bit though).
Batman: Arkham Origins is no way an absolute horrible game. In fact, it’s still a rather decent game that is still fun to play especially if you liked the previous two games. WB Games Montreal took some steps to further add to some elements of the series, but sadly there were many others that didn’t see enough polish: boss battles that don’t live up to expectations, technical issues, and the addition of a rather pointless multiplayer mode are just a few. Even though there is quite a bit of darkness in that batcave, some light does shine through for many.
This review was based upon a retail copy of Batman: Arkham Origins for PS3.