Game Review: Batman Arkham Origins [PC/PS3WiiU/Xbox360]

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While Christmas is a time to rejoice for most, it has never brought the same kind of joy for Bruce Wayne and his alter ego; Batman.  It’s been a common and unfortunate trend throughout the Batman’s history and with the last game; Arkham City, that wasn’t much better for him either.  Well we’ll have to rewind some years before the events of Arkham City, five years to be exact.

A jail break is instigated by Black Mask from the infamous Blackgate prison, and Batman being the ruthless hero that he is, attempts to put an end to Black Masks plan.  Obviously this doesn’t go down well with Black Mask, so he puts a $50m bounty on Mr Wayne’s head and eight of the world’s deadliest assassins lead the charge to claim the rich prize.  While Batman and Black Mask have never seen eye to eye on almost everything (for obvious reasons), something doesn’t sit too well with Mr Wayne ($50m bounty aside).  Is the bounty just about Black Mask becoming the King Pin of Gotham City or is there a more sinister plot behind Black Mask’s intentions.  Don the mask of the Caped Crusader and help Batman take on the bounty placed on his head and discover the truth behind Black Mask’s true intentions.   Let’s all become the Batman.

Visually Batman: Arkham Origins is a nice looking game, but nothing stunning.  Perhaps it would have done two years ago, but not so much now.  In fact it’s not really much of an improvement eye candy wise, which isn’t such a bad thing, I just hoped that it would have had a little more polish to it.  I believe that visually it looks that similar to Arkham City, that if someone who is not that familiar with Arkham City or Origins was to walk in the room to watch you playing Arkham City, then left the room with enough time to switch over the game to Arkham Origins, I would doubt that they would initially notice that you are playing a different game.

Though for the eagle eyed gamers out there, you will notice the change in Batman’s uniform.  This is the earliest of days for the Bat’s and his uniform doesn’t have quite the polish that it has in previous games.  But in a odd kind of way, I actually prefer the grittier, rough around the edges Batman outfit.  Arkham Origins is a raw story and that is visually presented with Batman’s look in this instalment.

 

As we’ve already established Arkham Origins is more of the same in many aspects to the previous games and this includes its much imitated free flowing combat.  This combat system was quite revolutionary when it first appeared in Arkham Origins, since then we’ve had games like Assassins Creed 3, Spiderman Shattered Dimensions, The Amazing Spiderman, Remember Me to name but a few.  Despite many games trying to copy what Arkham Asylum and Arkham City had achieved, the series still remained the best at adapting this gameplay mechanic and I’m glad to say that this still remains so with Arkham Origins.

As always Batman will have an array of weapons and gadgets to his disposal, most of which can be upgraded with the XP system that you will earn by beating bad guys, completing objectives and quests.  Many of these gadgets you will already been more then familiar with, especially with the ones have made a return in this latest instalment.  There are some new additions to Arkham Origins such as the Shock Gloves that you will acquire by defeating a certain boss (which I shall not name for spoiler purposes).  The Shock Gloves have a number of uses, for both combat and accessing certain areas.

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Throughout the campaign you may see many subsystems and portable generators.  In most cases these will grant access to areas that will perhaps lead to a hidden item or story progression.  To access these areas you will need the Shock Gloves to assist you, which electrically charges up the subsystem or portable generators.  Once the gloves are also charged, they are a very handy tool in combat.  As they can not only be used to stun enemies, but they will also rapidly increase your combo multiplier with each attack.

But perhaps the biggest addition to Batman: Arkham Origins is the enhanced detective mode.  This has always been very handy feature throughout the series to piece together scenes of a crime and a very handy tool in locating enemies with its x-ray like vision.  The detective mode in Arkham Origins will not only do all the above, but when Batman is investigating a crime scene, when sufficient evidence has been pieced together, he will be able to run his very own visual reconstruction.  This enhanced feature not only adds even more depth to the detective mode, but it also acts as a powerful tool , quite surprisingly in storytelling, as it adds a little more back story to the current goings on in a particular mission in the story.  I very much imagine that when we the next Arkham game arrives, this enhanced detective mode will not only carry over, but it will likely to be enhanced further more.

The Batcave also features a more prominent role than ever before; as in Arkham Asylum it was very small and very limited.  Though as much as I love seeing the Batcave in Arkham Origins, it’s perhaps not as vital as you may think.  Especially as ever, upgrades and abilities will be acquired through the in-game menu.  The Batcave would have donned more of a purpose if perhaps more upgrades would have been acquirable when in the Batcave.  It feels more of a gimmick that’s there for you to explore and to have a chat with your loyal butler; Alfred.  It’s more of a gimmick then anything, but it’s still a gimmick that I would prefer to have, then not.

Depending on what’s going on in the story at the time, the Batcave will play some important roles however.  Which I won’t go into detail here, because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.  In the Batcave you will be able to visit Batman’s science and medical labs, combat trailing areas and the Batwing which will act as a ‘Fast Track’ function to help make your way around Gotham.  You will also be able to view any unlocked Batman costumes that you may have via the Batsuit chamber.

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If you search the Batcave area enough, then you may just find one or two disassembled goodies that perhaps tease aspects that we may see in future DLC or future Arkham games.  I’m trying to speak as cryptically as I can here, because again I do not want to give too much away.  Though I’m sure when or if you come across them, you should know what I’m talking about.

The story telling to Arkham Origins is in my opinion its top trump card and its true saving grace.  The origins story is one that will grip the most loyal of Batman fans and is a perfect opportunity to welcome in fans of new.  While in most part Arkham Origins feels very familiar, both visually and gameplay wise, it’s the plot twisting storyline that will keep me wanting to come back for more.  So my praise must go to the writers of Arkham Origins Corey May (Assassins Creed, ACII, AC Brotherhood and ACIII) and Dooma Wendschuh (Assassins Creed, ACII and Brotherhood).

On top of the excellent writing staff, we also have an excellently composed soundtrack to support from a composer that is very familiar with the Batman Universe, namely Christopher Drake (Batman Under the Red Hood, Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns Part I & II, Injustice Gods Among Us to name all but a few).

To support the excellent script writing and composed soundtrack, the voice acting in Arkham Origins is of a high standard as you will find in any video game.  When Arkham Origins was first announced two very big changes were made and it’s fair to say that it didn’t go down all that well with fans.  The decision was made that Kevin Conroy would no longer be voicing Batman and Mark Hamill will no longer be voicing The Joker.  The reason the voice talent was changed in Arkham Origins was because the game featured a younger Batman and Joker, and it was believed that the new young voices would better compliment the younger version characters in the game.  I suppose in theory that kind of makes sense.

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So brought in to voice the new Batman was Roger Craig Smith, who has a very impressive résumé.  Roger Craig Smith over the years has worked on various Marvel animated TV series and more notably in the video game industry he is the voice of Ezio Auditore from Assassins Creed series and Chris Redfield (Resident Evil 5, Mercenaries 3D, Revelations, Resident Evil 6).  Troy Baker, who is now the voice of The Joker, is vastly becoming a household name in the video game world for his excellent work as Joel from The Last of Us, Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite and will also be the voice of Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.  As much as I love the work that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have done, Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker have really made the role their own and any doubts that you may have, will likely be forgotten soon after starting Arkham Origins.

Despite the great work that Roger Craig Smith has done, it’s safe to assume that Kevin Conroy will reprise his role in the next (non prequel) Batman game.  All in all with the quality of the soundtrack, script writing and superb voice talent, you will arguably have the best told Batman story yet in the video gaming world.

With the addition of competitive multiplayer in Arkham Origins, it already has one up on its predecessors in terms of replay value.  The main mode to Arkham Origin’s multiplayer is one that is called ‘Invisible Predator’.  In this mode you will have two gangs of three, each representing Joker and Bane, and they will both be up against the players controlling Batman and Robin.  Players will win the match be simply eliminating all the members from the opposing team.  During a specific point of each game, the gang members will have an opportunity to take control of either The Joker or Bane, but be warned, it will be one hell of a manic rush to those that want to take control of their respective boss.

 

With two teams of three and the pairing Batman and Robin, odds may not seem to be in the favour of the dynamic duo.  But never fear citizens of Gotham, as the dynamic duo will have a whole host of abilities and gadgets taken from the singleplayer campaign and it includes the Detective Vision, which has never become such an important tool as it is in the competitive multiplayer.  Though gang members will also be equipped with various guns and explosives, which arguably tips the odds back into their favour.  But as always in multiplayer, it’s down to the skill of the players to win the game and not the gadgets.  Well in most cases anyway.

Let’s not of course forget about the challenging ‘challenge maps’, as I’m sure you know this has been an ever present feature in the Batman Arkham series, since the original Arkham Asylum.  From the offset you will able to select to play the challenge maps (though many more will be unlocked as you play through the singleplayer campaign) and depending on what DLC you currently own, you will be able to select to use a variety of Batman costumes and whichever characters you have available to you.  Each map you select to play will vary in difficulty and will have different enemies and amounts, depending on its difficulty.

The challenge maps are broken into three categories, Ranked, Campaign and Custom.  With the Ranked challenge maps you will earn XP and rewards, and your scores will be uploaded to the online leaderboards.  Campaign will have you run the gauntlet and allow you to tactically choose your modifiers for each map.  Custom will do exactly what it says on the tin and allow you to select the terms for the challenge maps of your choosing.  You can also participate in the ‘Combat Training’ to fine tune your combat skills.

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Again Arkham Origins features a New Game+, so any upgrades and abilities that you have acquired in your previous playthrough will carry over on to the New Game+.  Also once the campaign is finished for the first time, you will then be able to select any bonus costumes for your New Game+.  There is a new mode in Arkham Origins that I know will please you gamers that appreciate an extra tough challenge, and it’s called ‘I Am The Night’.  I Am The Night will be available once you have finished the original campaign playthrough and then the New Game+.  This mode will not only ramp up the difficulty, but you will not be able to save the game at any point and you will only have one life.  So if (or when) you die, its game over.  During the main campaign you will also of course have a ton of hidden items to discover and plenty of side missions to keep you extra busy.

Warner Bros. Games Montreal had excellent foundations to build upon what Rocksteady Games had left them.  Despite my high hopes, I never really expected anything all that drastic.  Just a few subtle gameplay improvements here and there would suit me perfectly and in principle that’s what the development studio has achieved.  We have an improved detective mode which allows us to piece together evidence at a scene of a crime and run our own reconstructions.  There have been extra gadgets equipped into Batman’s arsenal, such as the Shock Gloves and they have even thrown in some old school style bosses to contend with and more.

But despite these very helpful and subtle improvements, Arkham Origins also become riddled with bugs for a lot of gamers.  Riddled that much, that I even doubt The Riddler himself wouldn’t be able to get his mind around these misfortunes.  Arkham Origins can suffer from a lot of slow down when grappling with multiple enemies on screen, but worse still, some bugs even halted gamer’s progression and wiped saved data.  I for one fell victim to the “Falling Out Of World” glitch which literally left me trapped in a room and when I attempted to walk through a simple door, I would end up falling through the floor.  I actually recorded the glitch from my phone; you can see the dodgy footage by clicking batman_arkham_origins_review07

Many gamers even suffered from a corrupt save data, which resulted in them losing all their progression and having to start again.  Though not ideal, the occasional lag most of us can deal with, but game breaking glitches to the widespread extent to what has happened in Arkham Origins is simply not good enough.  In Warner Bros defence, they are aware of these problems and I am sure they are working around the clock to get them fixed ASAP.  You can read up on further details of its numerous issues by clicking HERE.

Batman: Arkham Origins has proven to be one of the most difficult games I’ve had to review, which is an odd situation to be in for a Batman fan such as myself and considering how much I loved the first two Arkham games.  When it’s running well, it’s an excellent game and is what most fans would have hoped for.  But with a game that has suffered the kind of issues that’s occurred here, it’s even more important that I remain objective.  I have to think as a Batman game from both sides of the fence.  There is much that I love about Arkham Origins, such as the superb story, but there’s also much that I despise, such as the numerous glitches.  If Arkham Origins didn’t have these game breaking glitches then I have no doubts that it would at least score an 8.5, but I can’t pretend that these game breaking glitches don’t exist, because they most certainly do.

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I’m sure when Arkham Origins finally gets patched (and I know it has now for PC and consoles, yet I am still trapped by the Falling glitch), it will be the game that it was supposed to be.  But those glitches have dampened much of my enthusiasm, as I now have to start the game from scratch and find once again all the hidden items and side quests that I had finished previously.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to replay games that I really enjoy more than once, but I like it to be on my own terms, not forced into it via some glitch.  But in the back of my mind, even when I start the game once again, what happens if I suffer the same fate?  Bottom line is, Batman Arkham Origins should be more of the same, just a little better and that in many ways has been achieved.  Yet somehow, Warner. Bros Game Montreal has also managed to have more of the same, but worse.  Which is a very odd situation for any video game to be in and one that I have not experienced (thankfully) too often.

Batman: Arkham Origins saving grace is its story that is being told, without the high standards that it supplies with its excellent voice casting, well written story and awesome soundtrack, Arkham Origins would have scored far less.  When Warner Bros fix all the issues that need to be fixed and I can comfortably replay the game knowing that these issues will be no more, Arkham Origins will be a worthy addition to any Batman fans gaming collection.

Batman: Arkham Origins was reviewed from a retail copy.





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About the Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

In my 30+ years on planet Earth I have been an avid gamer for a month and I have never looked back since. My favourite gaming franchises are Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Call of Duty, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I like to collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I also love my football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake

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