A group of lowlifes are mercilessly laying into a couple of beat-cops towards the end of their shift. Suddenly a massive black figure drops down from above, overwhelming them with speed, strength, and fear. They scream as they realize that the rumors are true. The batman exists and he is darker than they thought.
Batman: Arkham Origins is the newest installment in the Arkham series, a prequel that expands on the familiar territory of its predecessors under the helm of a different developer: WB Montreal. Rocksteady handed over the title, coming out at the end of the current-gen systems’ life cycles, to the new company earlier this year, leaving little room for complaint. Even though the game is in new hands, if you loved Arkham City, then you won’t be disappointed.
I had been anxiously awaiting my copy of Origins from GameFly in the mail since its release almost two weeks ago. Once it finally arrived, I wasted no time in sitting down and starting my new adventure as a much younger Dark Knight.
The game wastes no time throwing you right into the action, dropping the caped crusader into the middle of a prison break at Black Gate, caused by the notorious crime lord, Black Mask. All of the controls and gadgets you start with are very familiar, since they are all items Batman had in Arkham City. The fighting system also has very little changes. The Dark Knight seems to fight like his older self in almost every way, except for a few minor changes. I almost wish his moves had altered a little, even if it was just making his moves more brutal, to help exemplify the inexperience of this early hero. Nonetheless, the best parts of the game that help the player understand that his is a much younger Bruce Wayne lie almost completely in the storyline, which is where the heart of the game also lies.
In my opinion, even with the amazing ending the previous game held, this is definitely the best overall story arc. The voice acting of Roger Craig Smith (Batman/Bruce Wayne) and Troy Baker (The Joker) is phenomenal. If no one had told me, I wouldn’t have even been able to tell that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill hadn’t returned for this title. The much grittier voice of Batman is what truly made me feel that this was a very young, emotionally driven vigilante. My favorite moment of showing how inexperienced he is was a part where he accidently forces a henchman to pass out while choking him, attempting to obtain some information on Penguin (who by the way does not currently have the infamous bottle smashed into his eye). Then, once the Joker steps into play, you almost hate any scene that he isn’t in, mainly due to the fact that this is possibly the craziest version of him I have ever seen outside of the comics, really driving in where all of his insanity comes from. All in all as this story becomes more and more emotionally driven, each moment leaving you with a since of, “Holy s*** this game is crazy!” Though I loved every part of the storyline, the most memorable part was literally walking through the mind of the Joker (as the Joker) while having his first psychiatric evaluation from Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Holy foreshadowing B-man!) Though the story is really what seems to pull the entire game together, there are still plenty of holes that leave the player longing for something more. Since the main difference that sets the game apart from the other seems to be time, there truly isn’t enough “new” dynamics that set this game apart from previous entries. The map is twice as big Arkham City, but the only addition is an equally sized (and not very unique) island connected to the previous one by one lengthy, annoying bridge, that you will find yourself crossing constantly in order to complete the many side quests and collectibles. The only other real change from before is a new bad guy in the combat system, the martial artists, who can counter Batman’s counters and a couple of new gadgets, like the shock gloves and the zip line tool, which are picked up old school Mega Man style, by beating different bosses. One of the few highlights of the new combat mechanic is an incredibly long battle with Deathstroke, in which batman literally trades punches with the assassin, proving his combat ability. So the combat is pretty much the same, the side quests are pretty much the same (picking up Riddler stuff again), the gadgets are the same except for a couple of new toys, and the map doesn’t feel that new either, just bigger. So where are the pieces that make this a new experience besides the story? Mostly in the details.
The first difference that is the easiest to spot in the story mode is the new crime scene investigations. This has actually become one of my favorite parts of the game, mainly due to the fact that it makes the player get the feeling of why Bruce is nicknamed the world’s greatest detective. This was something the previous games failed to do and I hope it becomes a new staple in the series. There are several points in the main quest and side quests alike where the players will find themselves looking over a murder scene from first person view. Although the new mode is very straight forward, literally being talked through it by Batman’s inner thoughts, it’s very refreshing. The player will scan the body, do blood spatter analysis, and be able to rewind and play forward the crime as it happens, in order to catch any small details needed to close the case. Seeing a body reanimate and watching its death by a thrown air-conditioning unit in reverse is quite a thing of beauty. Once Batman has found enough DNA evidence to tie the killer to the body, he then has to track them down and take them out. Very satisfying.
The other big change to the series is the introduction of the all-new multiplayer, 3 vs. 3 vs. 2 mode, in which three members from the Joker’s gang, three members from Bane’s gang, and Batman and Robin, face off against each other in a bout to control territory. The gameplay mechanics of the new online mode are fairly straightforward, basically being a 3rd person shooter for the gangs while Batman and his sidekick roam the shadows above. On paper the idea is great, but there isn’t a lot of room for newcomers to be able to face off against others who have been playing a lot longer. The higher the opponents level, the more likely it is that their weapons over power a newbie, basically being able to mow down anyone who is not as experienced with ease. Nonetheless, one of the other enjoyable parts of the online is being able to create load-outs of different baddies on each side, choosing how they look and what the wear, along with being able to earn new outfits for the two heroes (I really want the 1990’s animated series costumes). Though there are a lot of good things about the online, the worst part is the lobbies. Within a matter of an hour, I was only able to successfully play about 4 matches, since the game’s matchmaking forces the player to wait until all 8 possible spots are full before counting down, leaving 45 seconds for someone to change their mind and back out, starting the process all over again.
In the end, the further into the story I played, the more I loved the game. But once the game was over, even with all of the side quests to explore and multiplayer left to attempt, I began to lose interest, feeling like most of these activities became a chore. Though the game is not as being as a jump as the one from Asylum to City was, it’s still fun to dawn the cape again and experience a much younger, darker knight.
I give Batman: Arkham Origins 8.5 gee willikers out of 10.