Batman Arkham Origins Review
Batman has become unarguably one of the most prolific superheroes of this day and age. With epic movies starring A list actors along with numerous comic series and the thing that many of us love the most: the Arkham video games, Batman doesn’t seem to be grappling his way out of the limelight any time soon. Gamers fell in love with the first Arkham game entry, Batman: Arkham Asylum, with its spooky corridors, amazing fluid combat, and edge-of-your-seat boss battles, and were even more enticed upon the release of the second entry, Batman: Arkham City, which gave us free reign of the havoc in Gotham with a glorious open world to explore. Because of how amazing these previous two games were, expectations were surely high upon the announcement of the third game, Arkham Origins.
For multiple months news of Arkham Origins was rampant on All That’s Epic, especially when it came to who would be voicing Batman, as iconic Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy was tossed back and forth on numerous occasions, with the final chosen voice actor for Batman being Roger Craig Smith, known for voicing Ezio Auditore in the Assassin’s Creed series. Gamers were also extremely excited when Troy Baker, one of the most popular video game voice actors of the year after voicing Joel in PS3 hit The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite’s Booker DeWitt, was announced to be doing voice work for iconic Batman Character, The Joker.
With an amazing background from the previous two games and stellar accredited voice actors, Batman: Arkham Origins had us all anxious and ready to get back into Gotham. Unfortunately though, Arkham Origins falls short of its high expectations and, while a fun experience, its flaws and lack of beneficial change may not make it that last-minute game that you want to get your hands on before next generation consoles release.
The story of Arkham Origins takes us back to a time when the people of Gotham believe Batman to be merely a myth. At the time the story takes place, Batman has been on the scene undercover, avoiding news coverage at all costs, for two years. Defending the city of Gotham during that time, Batman managed to rack up a hefty number of Gotham criminals seeking to put an end to the bat. Thought to be behind the group whose soul purpose was to take down Batman was masked vigilante, Black Mask. Yet throughout the course of the game, Batman’s detective skills reveal new information about Black Mask and the organization and leads Batman to hunt down and apprehend the group before they kill him first.
When it comes to the story, the title Arkham Origins is a bit misleading as the ‘Origins’ part makes us believe that we will be able to play as a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne at some point in the game. It makes us think that we will go through the life of a young Bruce Wayne, feel the torment he went through upon the death of his parents, and witness the creation of Batman himself. Yet none of that happens. In fact, since the game starts two years after the creation of Batman, you are in the batsuit for the entirety of the game and therefore get very little insight into Bruce Wayne himself. Batman: Arkham Origins isn’t really an origin story, merely a prequel.
Gameplay is where previous Batman Arkham games really stood out and shined bright through the sea of mindless first-person shooters. Combat was super fluid, as you could easily take down numerous cronies by bouncing back and forth between enemies and packing a powerful punch while their eyes and brains are helplessly attempting to process your speedy movements and advanced combat techniques. Stealthy takedowns were executed easily and the grappling gun easily swept you away out of sight from enemies or aided you to reach the next objective. While Arkham Origins has the same basic gameplay mechanics, it is not as smooth and polished as previous games. Counter-attacks often fail even if you are doing it right and the grappling gun will often shoot you off to somewhere you weren’t meaning to go, as the icon indicating grappling gun use will appear in front of you, but will somehow take you somewhere behind you. This can be extremely frustrating when exploring a large city. Overall though, combat techniques are still fluid and it is always fun to come across a large group of enemies and take them out in one fell sweep.
In Arkham Origins, boss battles are a hit or miss. Some battles, like those against Deathstroke and Bane, can be intense and a lot of fun. However others like Electrocutioner and Copperhead leave much to be desired (especially Electrocutioner) as they are supposed to be these tough vigilantes that will be a sure match for Batman yet they fall short. A lot of these villains also have very little background given on them unless you read their character profiles. Copperhead comes pretty much out of nowhere and is only relevant for maybe 20 minutes of the game, same with Firefly. This takes away from the whole ‘origins’ aspect and gives us very little reason to be anxious to defeat these villains.
Throughout the game, there are also items to search for for all of you scavengers. There are Datapacks that are placed throughout the city by Enigma, which hold blackmail of government officials. While these are fun to find and you feel a sense of accomplishment when you do, many of these require a large amount of backtracking as you will make your way through a building, find a Datapack, and discover that you do not yet have the necessary equipment needed to obtain it. However, you can scan in the Datapack by simply pressing LB and it will mark it on your map for you to return to at a later time. There are also symbols placed throughout Gotham marked by criminal and activist Anarky. These spraypainted tags are invisible to the human eye, but can be located using Batman’s Detective Mode. Upon scanning in an Anarky Tag, you will receive a large sum of experience points to upgrade your combat techniques and perks.
One new addition to Arkham Origins that previous Arkham games did not have is the multiplayer mode. In Origin’s multiplayer you play as a gang of thugs and is set as a third-person shooter in which you battle the opposing gang for territory. This may seem like just an ordinary online shooter, but the added bonus that makes this mode unique is that two players are chosen to embody Batman and Robin and stealthily hunt down the thugs. This take is interesting and a high point for the multiplayer as it adds a sense of fear as you are constantly weary of the skies, wondering if Batman will swoop down on you at any moment. Overall though, the multiplayer is something that is fun for a short amount of time but quickly gets old as you realize that it doesn’t have much to offer to keep you playing it. For those of you Wii U Batman players hoping to get your hands on this multiplayer mode, sadly Rocksteady did not include it in the Wii U version.
The graphics in Arkham Origins are a minor upgrade from previous games. Environmental textures are crisp and the bright Chrstmas lights decorated around Arkham are quite beautiful. The most amazing visual scenes are ones that include The Joker, as his surroundings are generally filled with bright greens and purples that show true progress on Rocksteady’s part. While it is surely not up to part with games like Beyond Two Souls, it is graphically where it should be at this point in gaming. Occassionally though the character models are slightly askew. Mouth movements don’t always match up to speech and some characters, mainly Alfred, need some adjustments to appear more lifelike.
As always in any typical Batman movie or game, there will be points when some epic music plays to get you in the action. This happened in both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and it happens in Origins as well, just not very often. The soundtrack doesn’t go above and beyond like you would expect from a Batman title, but it does what it needs to. It’s nothing special, but it’s there.
Voice acting in Arkham Origins is very well done. Roger Craig Smith voices Batman in a more realistic voice and not as gruff and gritty as has been a popular choice for Batman as of late such as Christian Bale’s abnormal tone for Batman in Dark Knight. Troy Baker also voices The Joker in a phenomenal fashion, evoking Joker’s creepy, maniacal ways that will any Joker fan will love. It surely is a vast difference from Joel and Booker, and while some thought he would not be able to pull it off, he definitely proved everyone wrong.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins is more or less the same as previous games, except not as polished. It features a story that is very similar to Arkham Asylum in that a large portion of it revolves around a jail outbreak, as Asylum focused on the takeover of the Asylum by its inmates. The combat techniques are the same, except not as fluid and with frustrating targeting problems. Arkham Origins is a game where if you have some extra money to spend and are wanting to get your hands on some more Batman action, go ahead and pick up a copy. Otherwise, you would be better off playing Arkham City. While Batman: Arkham Origins is surely a fun experience overall with a lot of content and a large world to explore, its problems make it no match for previous games.