Never rub another man’s rhubarb.
One of the year’s most highly anticipated games finally arrives. Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to the monster hit Arkham Asylum game. Game Developer, WB Montreal inherits a solid game engine from Rocksteady but stumbles a bit in terms of escaping the enormous shadow of its predecessors.
First of all the “Arkham Origins,” name is a bit of a stretch. The game may take place before the Joker’s party in Arkham Asylum but the game in fact has little to do with Arkham or any resemblance of an origin story. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a solid stand alone story in the Batman universe that test the theology of the character in interesting ways. Particularly in the games final battle that pushes the boundaries of Batman’s no killing moral code.
The game play has all the signature Batman mechanics we’ve come to expect. But now he’s got a super fancy bat-wing to fly around in. Origins keeps the foundation of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City’s amazing combat intact, including every gadget in one form or another. However Mr. Freeze’s absence means cryo grenades get replaced by concussion and glue grenades. Arkham Origins adds two new enemy types for extra battle variety, including the MMA fighters who can counter your attacks. The use of the highly notarized Shock Gauntlets proves to be a bit too powerful. Using them takes the suspense out of most fights because it’s so easy to obliterate your foes with them. Fortunately you acquire them later in the game. During stealth mode Batman now has a remote grapple that can string up thugs from a short distance. Using it makes you feel like you stepped into Michael Keaton’s Batman instead of the Bale version that fights everyone. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. That simply opens up options for players to take on criminals in different ways.
The Gotham of Origins feels much bigger than Arkham City. A few beta testers we’ve talked with have argued that the world feels a bit empty because there’s no large number of people on the streets. However the this really distinguishes the game from other super hero open world games. Dealing with streets full of people feels more of a Spider-Man thing so we’re more than willing to buy in to the empty streets of Christmas Eve plot here. Ultimately missing the people doesn’t take away from how good this Gotham looks and all the staples of the city we’ll see from the comic books.
Where Arkham Origins excels is in the boss fights with the eight assians buying for Batman’s head. Deathstroke for example is a direct physical super villain mega fight. Each boss battle has a similar level of weight and emphasis on the stakes for the dark knight. There’s a modicum of quicktime events but they’re barely noticeable.
You can’t go through this game without being wowed by the performance of Troy Baker as the Joker. His voice lends a certain depravity to the character that feels like a combination of Mark Hamill’s version and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
What’s really new in the this Arkham game compared to the previous ones is the inclusion of VS Multiplayer. This lets players take part in a team deathmatch style game with Team Batman VS Jokers gang VS Bane’s group. Random players on the Batman side will try to detective mode their way through one of only a few maps to take down the other players. It’s a promising addition but suffers from a few problems in the mechanics department. If you’re not playing as Batman or Robin then the 3rd person shooter gameplay can feel a bit hard on the controls. With some refinement and good DLC polish, multiplayer could add a unique value to the series.
Overall there are a few minor hiccups with the game. There’s a few issues with choppy frame rates during fast travel animations and during audio mix of a couple of cut scenes but nothing that takes away from the game in a major way. What does feel like a bit of a let down is strictly for the comic book easter egg fans. In previous games fans are bombarded with references to their favorite characters and stories; here they’re more lightly sprinkled in.
While it may not be the best of the Arkham games, Batman: Arkham Origins is a solid game with an entertaining Batman story to tell.