2013 is the year of the prequel. With Gears of War: Judgment making waves on our side of the spectrum, and God of War: Ascension punching gods in the face…’over there’, Batman: Arkham Origins was the only one to be met with some form of distain. The reason being that the Arkham series is so beloved and so well-made, that when it was announced that London based Rocksteady wouldn’t be making this, but rather WB Games, people thought it may not be quite up to scratch. Let me quell those fears right now, the game is identical to Arkham City, in the gameplay sense. On a personal level, I believe that Arkham City is near enough the perfect game, so I should automatically love this right? It’s not without its faults, but read on and find out why I think the game is well worth your precious time.
Let’s jump right in. As the name suggests, this is something of an origin story for the caped crusader. The majority of the street thugs and even future bat-friend, police commissioner Jim Gordon don’t even believe the bat is real. This adds a nice little bit of extra ‘oomph’ to the title as you genuinely feel great popping up in front of some wannabe mobsters and confirming their suspicions. This iteration does not falter in that regard. The fact that you are supposed to be Batman starting out makes him feel more vulnerable, and is therefore a tad more interesting. Although it’s an origin story, you seem to be starting out a couple years into the bat-career, Bruce Wayne is not yet, the Dark Knight. He’s more a billionaire who learned karate and made a fancy suit. This story is definitely a coming of age for the Batman, and I will say that the story and scriptwriting is the area that this game truly beats the other Arkhams.
The story kicks off with a riot at Blackgate Prison, the prison has been overrun and the warden taken hostage. What an apt time for the Batman to swoop in and ply his trade. After some punchy encounters, you quickly become face to face with the scaly monster known as Killer Croc. It becomes known to Batman that Black Mask has put a $50,0000 bounty on his head, and hired 8 assassins to do the job. The night quickly becomes a race to round up these assassins before they can kill the bat so that Bruce can make it home in time for Christmas morning. I did feel a little cheated with the assassins as you take one of them out before it’s even known to you, Killer Croc being that very one. As well as some of the others being demoted to mere side missions. Hell, even Black Mask himself who was billed as the game’s main antagonist is just a side mission. The big man to defeat is once again, The Joker. I’m unsure as to whether or not the big-wigs out there believe that there can be a Batman game without The Joker. But I will say that it is done much better this time around. The Joker’s psyche as he first meets Batman is particularly engaging. It’s almost as if he falls in love with the dark knight. Many people were distraught at the loss of Mark Hamill’s amazing rendition of the killer clown. Let me break this down, Troy Baker is better. He gives a spine chillingly sadistic portrayal of the character, and I can’t wait to hear him have a go at it again when he inevitably gets the role in other mediums. Another great addition to the story was the adoption of a more serious Alfred. One that would care for and shout at Bruce, and truly guide him whether it’s telling him what he doesn’t want to here, or preparing a well-cooked turkey roast for the emotionally scarred 20-something. It is much akin to Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth from the Chris Nolan films. I can go on and on about each character and how well-done I think they are. I will just say that story and character development have not been done as well as this yet.
In terms of gameplay, I have nothing too noteworthy to say. It is Arkham City all over again. The perfect freeflow combat makes a comeback. The gadgets are identical, apart from ice grenades being replaced by glue grenades. In layman’s terms, they have received Arkham City, wiped the content clean, and added their own story. It’s nothing more than a glorified expansion. However, it’s still jam-packed full of hours of fun and wandering. It will take you a very long time to fully experience everything the game has to offer, and it does not feel like a chore whatsoever. Much like Arkham City, you’ll be gliding and grapnel boosting between rooftops looking for Riddler Trophies which are now dubbed ‘extortion data’. The Riddler isn’t even The Riddler at this point in time, he’s simply known as ‘Enigma’. The only new aspect of the game is quick travelling, which caused more problems than it solved. Every time I used the option, I was quickly greeted with my Xbox completely freezing and having to restart. Luckily I wasn’t one of the many that lost all of their game data due to this fact.
There are a lot of boss battles, these are unfortunately oversaturated with quicktime events. The same quicktime events. Over and over again. It becomes quite boring quite frankly. After doing the same block/punch combo to Deathstroke for the eighth time, I found myself just wanting the experience to be over. The only boss fight that was even slightly unique was against Firefly, who uses a jetpack and a flamethrower. But even then, the quicktime events came thick and fast. This is one area that the game severely needs improved, and truly hinders the fun experience you get when battling your everyday street thug.
There’s also not a great deal to say about the environments. Rehashed straight from Arkham City, complete with snowy backdrops and not one civilian. Made all the more boring by having to traipse across the same bridge over and over again. I mean, it looks nice. But it’s the exact same thing we’ve always had. Would be nice to have a couple new areas to explore.
Multiplayer has been thrown into this one. It does have an interesting format. Three vs. three vs. two. The teams being Bane thugs, Joker thugs, and Batman & Robin. Batman & Robin work the exact same way they do in the campaign, glide, rappel, hide, and take down the thugs to raise your intimidation meter. Dying lowers your meter, max it out to get the win for the caped crusader and the boy wonder. The thugs work slightly differently, you have a number of lives. When you get to zero, if you all die, it’s game over. Kill Batman or Robin to earn yourselves more reinforcements. IT’s a third-person cover based shooter. An extremely dumbed down version of the Gears of War Unreal Engine. You can expect poor movement and running into a lot of walls. You can also earn yourselves the right to play as Bane or the Joker. Joker has a gun that kills in one hit, but Bane…man. Bane is an absolute monster, smash and grab like the Hulk, even wielding a rocket launcher that he pulls from his back pocket. In short, it’s really quite poor. If it had the fluidity of other well-made shooters, they’d really be on to something great here.
To sum up, Bat fans can be sure that they’d have a good time. If you liked Arkham City, you will like this, even if you end up feeling a little underwhelmed. If you don’t mind paying big for what could really just be considered Arkham City DLC, I would recommend picking it up. However, for an experience tantamount to the Dark Knight’s travels in Arkham City, I’d wait on Rocksteady to make the 3rd in the Arkham stories for the next generation (hopefully).
It’s good, but it’s not quite the god damned Batman we’re used to.