Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
No other game series delivers an authentic Batman experience better than the Arkham Series. The first game in the series introduced the Freeflow fighting mechanic which made everyone who picked up the controller feel like a badass. Players could attack from the shadows, be a master when in combat and utilise some awesome gadgets from the arsenal of the Dark Knight. The latest game in the series, Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel that focuses on a younger, brasher Batman possibly during the very first of many long nights for the Caped Crusader.
As mentioned before, Arkham Origins is a prequel and focuses on a younger Batman about two years into his crime-fighting career. It’s Christmas Eve and there’s been a breakout at Blackgate penitentiary led by Black Mask. After making his way to the prison to investigate, Batman discovers that a bounty of 50 million dollars has been put on his head by Black Mask. This results in eight of the world’s deadliest assassins coming after him. That is the basic premise for the game and for fear of spoiling the game for other gamers, I’ll leave it at that. The story has been very well written, making use of the various villains featured in the game to great effect. Warner Bros. Montreal have really done a good job at creating a bit of a flawed Dark Knight who realises that the criminals he was used to fighting was just the tip of the iceberg. The 50 million dollar bounty also gives a valid reason for Batman to face such an illustrious line-up of villains in one night, a good move from the developers.
Gameplay in the game is largely the same as its predecessors; ol’ Bats can sneak around and pick off foes one-by-one, engage in hand-to-hand combat while making use of his gadgets and investigate crime scenes. The Freeflow combat system makes a return and is as responsive as ever. Batman can start up a combo with one button, creating a chain of attacks, but the chain gets broken as soon as an enemy hits him; thankfully, the counter button can remedy that with most enemies. Using these mechanics in tandem with gadgets is fundamental to surviving some of the harder group fights. Players can really feel like a complete badass when racking a huge combo chain without getting so much as a scratch on them.
Stealth gameplay is still rather enjoyable and there are quite a few sections to play through during the game. Stalking enemies from gargoyles or vantage points is still fun especially when stringing up enemies from them after doing and Inverted Takedown. Pretty early into the game, Batman gets hold of a gadget which allows him to tether two points together. This can be used to string up goons from a distance but I shied away from this because it seemed a little too easy and feels less rewarding when getting through a section without anyone knowing that you’re there.
Each fight or stealth section also ends off with a rating on how the player did. The amount of XP (experience points) will be determined by your rating, which in turn can be used to buy upgrades, which include combat armour, ballistic armour, special combat manoeuvres and gadget enhancements. So there’s motivation for doing well in enemy encounters.
Crime scene investigation makes a return and this time comes with some upgrades. When investigating a scene, Detective Mode switches to a first-person person perspective and zooms in a little, allowing players to scan pieces of evidence. However, as Batman collects more and more evidence from a scene, an option to create a simulation of the crime becomes available, allowing for more clues to be discovered. It all feels on-rails and isn’t really puzzle solving but it’s still really fun to rewind and see what might have happened.
Boss battles have also been changed for the better. They now focus more on strategy with a bit of raw ass-kicking, as seen in the Mr. Freeze fight in Arkham City. This was a needed change as it makes gameplay a lot more interesting. Aside from the main story criminals, encounters with Edward Nigma, Mad Hatter and Anarky make up for some interesting side missions and collectables quests. Gotham City in Arkham Origins is a lot bigger than the one available in Arkham City; so much so that the developers have added a fast travel system to get around the city once a jamming comms tower has been deactivated.
Challenge maps make a return to the series with both Predator Challenges and Combat Challenges. These add more replayability to the title – even more so now that the maps can be accessed from within the campaign. In addition to that, the XP gained from the challenges transfer over to the campaign Batman. New Game Plus is also back, allowing the player to replay the game with all the gadgets, XP and abilities attained thus far, but throwing tougher enemies at the player and taking away the signal for when Batman has to counter an attack. After completing New Game Plus, “I am the Night” mode opens up, which is a test of patience and skill as the game ends if Batman dies at all during the campaign.
Sometimes the game can seem a little repetitive and may lack some new features but thankfully those factors don’t bring the game down too much nor do they kill the fun that could be had while playing.
Arkham Origins is the first game in the series to feature multiplayer. As can be imagined, it’s rather unique it its execution very much like the Spies vs. Mercs Mode from the Splinter Cell Series. Players will be put into a three-man team that faces off against a rival gang, also consisting of three players. The unique bit is that two random players in the lobby will play as Batman and Robin (just a note; the Boy Wonder does not appear in the campaign) creating a third team. The players then enter a “violence triangle” (yes, that’s what I’m calling it) in which the gangs face off while Batman and Robin pick off members from both sides. Gangs win by killing off all the rival’s reinforcements while the Hero team wins by racking up intimidation points from picking off gang members. Depending on which gang the player is in, either Bane’s or Joker’s gang, they will get the opportunity to play as their respective boss; accessing some powerful abilities in the process.
It’s quite a tense environment during matches. Players have to be cautious at all times. While they might be busy trying to sneak up on the rival gang member, they might get taken out by a hero and vice versa. The third-person shooter mechanics feel a little clunky and while the multiplayer can be fun and is rather unique, it probably won’t win any awards. It’ll keep players around for a few matches at best. It should be noted that the multiplayer component is not present in the Wii U version of the game.
Arkham Origins is a good looking game. Animation seems a little more fluid, character designs are detailed well and cutscenes are an absolute pleasure to watch. I have experience some framerate drops throughout the game; other than that, there have been no other visual issues. The soundtrack to the game is classic Batman mixed in with some disturbing Christmas renditions.
Voice acting is top notch; both Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker do a great job at voicing Batman and the Joker respectively, the latter even more so. Smith delivers a solid performance of a younger and brasher Batman as opposed to the more reserved and experienced version done by long-time Batman voice actor, Kevin Conroy. Troy Baker does some amazing work with his rendition of the Joker, definitely paying homage to Mark Hamill, one of best voice actors to lend their voice to Mr. J. This is mainly because Baker does such a good job that it’s a little hard to tell the difference between his and Hamill’s versions. However, there are times where he brings his own uniqueness to the character, not becoming just a copy of Mark Hamill’s Joker.
Batman: Arkham Origins is a great game. The story is enjoyable, dark and mature, delivering an experience that will keep players glued to their screens. Gameplay remains largely the same but with a few enhancements but still falls victim to some repetition and a lack of new features.
Multiplayer is a unique experience and can be fun at first but the novelty soon wears off. Visually, the game is a good looking, both during play and cutscenes. However, there are some framerate drops throughout. The soundtrack is a classic Batman affair while the voice acting is top notch, helping to carry the story along nicely. Arkham Origins is definitely an awesome choice for all Batman fans out there.