My Batman: Arkham Origins Review
Batman: Arkham Origins proudly tries to stand on the shoulders of giants, but ultimately falls short of its predecessors. Origins is the third installment of the highly praised Arkham series; a series that has shown Batman, at long last, finding success in the video game world. Rocksteady did a wonderful job making him a force to be reckoned with, as well as show his smarter, more investigate side of him. Also, up until now they did a great job of spreading out the many villains Batman has over the last few games.
Arkham Origins, unfortunately, feels like a simple copy and paste of the other games. It leans heavily on borrowed elements that made Arkham Asylum and City great. It’s sad to see since the Arkham series is arguably, not only the best of Batman video games, but maybe the best superhero licensed video games we have had. Origins simply rides the coattails of its predecessors in a cheap cash grab from WB Games.
Origins is a prequel to the series, taking place before Arkham Asylum. However, you really wouldn’t know that as it never seems like an origin story to anything beyond the first meetings between the characters. Bruce Wayne has been Batman for two years now, so the “origin” story isn’t much of an origin there either, making it apparent they’re just selling it on the Arkham name.
With Rocksteady off on another project, Origins is in the hands of Warner Bros. Games Montreal, and Splash Damage who cover the multiplayer. WB Montreal did a simple carbon copy, adding little and changing almost nothing from the previous games. People like myself that are big believers in “don’t fix what isn’t broken” can understand and get behind that, but it would have been nice for them to take some risks and do more to stand out from the previous two titles.
It’s Christmas Eve. Black Mask has escaped from Blackgate prison and put a bounty out on Batman’s head. Eight villains hoping to meet Batman for the first time are vying for the ultimate prize, $50 million. Over the course of one night heavy-hitters like Bane, Deathstroke, and Deadshot are all looking to make their claim to fame. But with a bounty of $50 million, it’s bound to bring out the bottom of the barrel-types too like Firefly, Electrocutioner and Copperhead. It’s campy, but just solid enough to work. But, as I mentioned earlier, Origins relies on old tricks, and it isn’t long before the assassins take a backseat in favor of the grinning, green-haired clown, and the story comes crashing down.
This game makes light of Batman meeting the Joker for the first time, yet has him become a pivotal role in the game’s story. The Joker was the big baddy in both of the last two games and didn’t need to be in Origins at all, but was shoehorned into the narrative to play it safe. Under the guise of Black Mask things felt fresh, and it should’ve been left that way. The Joker is obviously Batman’s greatest rival, but he has been at the center of two games already. Let another villain have his day to shine as Batman’s rival.
With Origins being so much like the other games, it also brings with it the Predator-type gameplay of Batman; stalking bad guys from atop gargoyles and trying to take them out as silently as possible. This is what Asylum did so well, making gamers believe that Batman could actually have a good video game. Unfortunately in Origins, these predator situations are few and far between, especially with the combat becoming so much more prominent.
Batman: Arkham City, building on Asylum’s foundation, just about perfected hand to hand combat in video games so much so that afterwards many games took a shot at copying it. So it stands to reason that Origins followed suit as well, probably better so than most other games that have tried it. It’s just that WB Montreal not only followed suit, but sent it into overkill. Combat still flows very well, but it happens far too often, and lasts for far too long. The fighting in this game is simply relentless.
Each combat scenario takes forever to take down every opponent. It completely pulls you out of the game seeing Batman hit a guy so hard that he clearly breaks his jaw, yet the guy keeps getting up five times over. Now imagine that with three to five enemies at a time, and sometimes more. At one point in the game Batman gets shock gloves to use while in combat, that supposedly makes these situations easier and faster. Honestly though, I saw no difference what-so-ever outside of the shock gloves allowing me to attack some weapon baddies straight on.
Asylum and City had everyone head-over-heels for the combat, but Origins shouldn’t have made it the de facto element for Batman interacting with enemies. Batman is more brain than brawn, and this is the reason he would stalk bad guys from the shadows. Of course there is the excuse that Batman is new to this and more of a hot head, but that is just ridiculous.
Origins is open world much like City was, even to the point that many of the land marks from that game show up here. It is kind of interesting seeing these places while not being in a prison-city, but more interesting and very odd, is how GothamCity is basically a prison-city. With the game taking place on the night of Christmas Eve, it was actually really cool seeing decorations on buildings and Christmas lights up in the windows. It added a nice touch to the environment that makes it feel real. Never before has an open world game done something like this.
Of course that realism is ripped away almost instantly when the only people on the streets are thugs standing around or walking patrols, just waiting for Batman to show up. There are also cops doing exactly the same thing, even though Captain Gordon (not Commissioner yet) keeps mentioning how busy they have been that night. So basically, GothamCity runs exactly like it does in later years when a large part of the city is turned into a prison. It’s no wonder Hugo Strange had no problems talking government officials into creating ArkhamCity.
Not surprisingly, Origins packed in multiplayer, but what is surprising is that it isn’t that bad. It’s pretty standard control points-style gameplay. There is a Joker team and a Bane team, each with three players and each team is trying to control three different points of the map for points. They are trying to kill each other to do so, but there is a third team that consists of Batman and Robin played by two other players. As the Joker and Bane teams run around trying to kill one another, they must also be on the lookout for Bats and Robin lurking in the shadows, looking to silently take out both teams.
It seems very chaotic, but it works out pretty well. Each team has their own unique set of gadgets to help them take out the other two teams. Batman and Robin even get gadgets that are uniquely independent from one another. You can also customize your characters for both Joker and Bane’s team and buy items with credits you earn in-game. Batman and Robin can both be changed too, but just from a list of different costumes we have already seen them in before, which, admittedly, is still cool. These modes aren’t special by any means, and will most likely be forgotten in the near future. It’s just refreshing to see a slightly different spin on a classic match mode, and one that’s actually fun to play.
Batman: Arkham Origins has a decent story, but nowhere as fresh and original as Asylum’s or as large as City’s. The plot involving all these villains hunting Batman on the same night is flimsy, but it works. However, it’s quickly broken apart and some of the assassins are merely reduced to side missions you can take out at your leisure. Origins copies almost everything from its predecessors. WB Games Montreal had a chance to make some real changes here, do their own thing and maybe show they could do right by Batman. Instead they played it safe, which in the gaming world is never excusable. Arkham Origins is not only the weakest of the trilogy; it manages to kill any interest in another Batman game in the foreseeable future.