RELEASED: October 25, 2013
AVAILABLE ON: PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360
DEVELOPER(S): Warner Bros. Games Montréal, Splash Damage
PUBLISHER(S): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
In the summer of 2012, Warner Bros. hinted at another Batman game in the fabled Arkham series, this time a Silver Age prequel which would feature several members of the Justice League, and among its stories to tell would be Batman's first confrontation with his arch nemesis, the Joker. As more and more people dropped out of this project early on, including voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, writer Paul Dini, and finally, series creators Rocksteady Studios themselves, and as the game's title was unveiled to be something as typical as Batman: Arkham Origins, people's disbelief in the game kept on growing with each step until Warner Bros. had trailers to prove that they'd apparently adapted Rocksteady's methods quite faithfully, and that the new voice actors knew how to get the job done. Written by Corey May and Dooma Wendschuh of Assassin's Creed fame, the game might even finally have a solid story to it even if it was not what was originally promised, or even the supercavalcade of rogues the previous games were. In a nutshell, Batman: Arkham Origins is a good game - but there's no denying that with these couple of years in between, it could be much more.
I am the (rough) night!
Roger Craig Smith : Bruce Wayne / Batman
Troy Baker : The Joker
Martin Jarvis : Alfred Pennyworth
Brian Bloom : Roman Sionis / Black Mask
JB Blanc : Bane
Michael Gough : GCPD Captain James Gordon
Nolan North : Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin
Mark Rolston : Slade Wilson / Deathstroke
Steve Blum : Lester Buchinsky / Electrocutioner / Loose Lips
Wally Wingert : Edward Nashton / Enigma
Batman is in an early stage of his crimefighting career. The highly corrupt police force of Gotham City considers the Dark Knight a threat to both of their businesses, and his name is a terrible urban legend on the streets - no-one outside the Blackgate prison walls really believes in Batman's existence. Drug lord Black Mask finally has his fill of Batman and places a $50 million bounty on his head on Christmas Eve, drawing the attention of eight of the deadliest assassins in the world - Deadshot, Deathstroke, Copperhead, Firefly, Electrocutioner, Killer Croc, Shiva, and finally, the mental and physical powerhouse known only as Bane. In the thick of it all, Batman has to deal with the sudden appearance of a mysterious psychopath calling himself "The Joker", as well as a seriously self-absorbed hacker who is hell bent on collapsing the political climate of Gotham City, and a few more loose cannons. It's going to be a Christmas to remember.
|Playing around with the Remote Claw. A bit|
tacky, yet fun.
This was my journey as a Bat-fan from the very beginning to this day. Judging by all this, you'd think that Batman: Arkham Origins was right up there with my most anticipated games of the year, but it really wasn't. Although I always knew it was going to be a good game - I mean, how could it go wrong with all the most important bases covered? - the truth is that Rocksteady's already done it all. Be it a sequel, interquel, prequel, whatever-quel, they can't possibly give us nothing as grand and especially as definitive as what we've already seen. That much has to be understood from the start. Instead of delivering with a non-stop thrill ride conducted by another fantastic collective of exciting rogue designs, the "new" developers (they made the Wii U version of Arkham City) focus a bit more on the integrity of the story, here, and although Batman: Arkham Origins is not really a cohesive origin story (Batman's origins are actually exploited less than in the previous games), it does explain many things, how things came to be as they are in the Arkham universe. It does that for quite some while and it's exciting to watch... right up until it stops explaining. As solid as the story is, it ultimately hits yet another brick wall, leaving many loose ends wide open, perhaps to pave way for another prequel. I hope for DLC instead of another full-length game, because I firmly believe the line can't be stretched any further than it already has been.
|This Christmas, Gotham gets a dose of Anarky.|
Of course you can be the mean critic and say it looks like a prequel, too - something dug up from the drawer from somewhere between Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. As blunt as it is: Arkham Origins is not a step forward in any sense, except maybe for once again slightly enhanced combat mechanics. Luckily it's not much of a step back, either - if you loved Arkham City, you're going to like Arkham Origins. Whether you treat it as a new game or a gigantic add-on to its predecessor is up to you - after all, it does look exactly the same and half of Gotham City does comprise of what "became known" as Arkham City. That's the most boring part, I think, re-gliding through an already fine-sized map you've had plenty of time to scout through and through dozens of times. Also, I find it more than a bit illogical that "Arkham City" is actually the same size as the rest of Gotham - in other words, the world map is almost exactly twice the size of the one in the last game. So what, the government spent all those resources on splitting the greatest metropolis in the world in an exact half and giving one half of it to criminals? Doubtful. The level design is OK for the most part, but I'm really annoyed that almost all of the story levels consist of climbing upwards and maze-like corridors, points which make a post-story hunt for the last remaining collectibles really tedious, and perhaps the greatest disappointment of all was the mandatory hallucination segment - should come as no spoiler - which was, yes, predictable by all accounts, and not too fun to play either. I miss Scarecrow's nightmare segments. (Where did the guy disappear to, anyway?)
The soundtrack is composed by Christopher Drake, who's worked on several animated films based on DC characters, including last year's film adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, and also the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. Amazing work, once again, by a different composer - although once again you can play the part of the mean critic and say how it doesn't take a musical genius to figure out what sort of compositions Batman fans like. Yeah, it's traditional Batman fare - mixed with a little bit of the darker side of Christmas carols. So, again, amazing.
|Showstealer No. 1: Deathstroke, making his|
major platform debut in the series.
Most gadgets are unlocked from the beginning, but you can't use them for all of their several purposes before unlocking upgrades to 'em by making progress in the main story, and taking care of some particular side missions. Almost all of them are either exactly the same as your Bat-gadgets in previous games, or modified versions of them, but there are two completely new ones. The Remote Claw allows you to, not just somewhat illogically, secure a tight rope between two anchor points you don't have to be in any direct contact with. Via a few upgrades, you can also shoot it at an enemy to hang 'em upside down from afar or smash a projectile into 'em, and do takedowns while balancing on the rope. Illogical... yet quite neat. What's even more neat is the pair of Shock Gloves, which you can use to manipulate electrical equipment, and even gain a huge advantage in overwhelming combat situations; not only does high voltage deal a lot of damage to even armored enemies without any special attacks, each freeflow hit counts as two, allowing more takedowns for starters. Could be quite useful, since there are a lot of annoying bastards in this game. And a lot of fights, at that.
|Showstealer No. 2: Bane, looking more "hardy"|
The Predator rooms haven't changed one bit, despite the Remote Claw's presence. The enemies are just as stupid as they ever were, speak as stupid as they ever did, and fall for the same stupid stunts as they ever did. The rooms are maybe a little tougher to completely scout out and navigate especially while under fire, but I don't think they'll pose much of a challenge to someone who has already survived the worst places and the worst stipulations in the past.
Stipulations remind me of the challenge tracker, tied to your Freeflow and Predator skills, as well as your knack for finding secrets. This tracker would make the game much more entertaining... but what's totally wrong about it is that you have to do its challenges in a specific order. For example, if you manage to survive a Predator room without switching the ever-so-useful Detective Vision on once during the whole sequence... good for you. It won't make a stinking difference until you've cleared the previous challenge on the list. And no, it doesn't clear out automatically if you've done it long before - you'll have to pull the same stunt off AGAIN to nail the challenge. The best thing for you to do here is stop trying early on. Ironically, you'll clear much more challenges that way.
The last thing on the list is the puzzles - where do they fit in? Are there any? Sure there are, but not those question mark challenges and spotting challenges we so loved, although there are tags hidden around the city which poorly reflect on those. The actual puzzles are of the exact same variety as they were in Arkham City, nothing more and nothing less... and nothing as clever, but a nice change of pace anyway. Some tricky gliding challenges between two or more particular spots, heavy use of the Remote Batarang and Cryptographic Sequencer, exploring the full potential of all your gadgetry basically... nothing to really twist your brain in a cramp, except maybe finding the right source of an obvious map marker every once in a while. This game is too vertical for its own good.
|Showstealer No. 3 needs no introductions.|
Batman: Arkham Origins is a good game, but while other huge video game franchises of the stealth action and/or sandbox genres keep developing - mostly referring to the nice surprise the other big October release delivered, and the game of the year which was released in September - time has stood still for Batsy. You'll play it. You'll like it. But after that, I wouldn't be surprised if you went back to the old ones for even better time. Actually, this might be a good place for newbies to start dissecting the Arkham series - if you haven't played the previous games, you just might look upon Arkham Origins as a masterpiece, and unlike many prequels, it won't spoil anything for you.
+ A solid story with delicious twists - total integrity is lost towards the end, though
+ Awesome cast of characters; The Joker, Bane and Deathstroke steal the show
+ Fantastic music
+ Actually being able to visit the Batcave and meet Alfred adds to the experience
+ About half of the boss fights
+ Challenge maps from both sides of the coin are always fun
+ Combat mechanics are once again upgraded...
- ...That's pretty much it; time has stood still
- A little too much of that initially fun combat, found in every story and side mission
- Half of the map is literally Arkham City all over again
- About the other half of the boss fights
- Dumb challenge tracker
- A patch suggestion rather than a down: a deadly audiovisual lag and other buzz killing glitches in the PS3 version, especially after the story is completed
< 7.9 >