The prequel to Rocksteady's ace series, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, arrives to an overwhelming amount of expectations. So it's really no surprise that Arkham Origins doesn't quite live up to them all. WB Games has everything needed you think would add up to a great success for this franchise. All of Gotham is now open to explore, the enemy roster has never been deeper, and the animations and combat flow with such a graceful ease that it will be hard to go back to any other combat system ever again. However, something feels off. The exploration of the city doesn't feel as fluid, the story comes across as lacking compared to the previous games, and the worst of it, Arkham Origins is plagued with glitches. There is a lot of good to experience here, just know that you could always be replaying Arkham City, and probably having a better time in doing so.
+ Combat feels better than ever.
+ The Animations are spot on.
+ Enemy roster is fantastic.
+ Voice acting (even though missing fan favorites) is solid.
- Free roaming across the city feels clumsy.
- Story feels less important than it actually is.
- Sometimes suffers from game breaking glitches.
Five years before Batman had his troubles with the inmates of Arkham Asylum, when he was only a couple years into donning the cowl and terrorizing the streets of Gotham, he had one very bad Christmas Eve. A night full of assassins trying to kill him, new enemies popping up all over Gotham, and one terrible nuisance that plagues him with riddles and challenges all over the damn city. This brings us to Batman: Arkham Origins.
Now that Rocksteady has stepped away from this franchise, this left WB Games with big shoes to fill. Big, Bruce Wayne sized (which I can only imagine he wears a size 11 or more) shoes. After months of anticipation and hype, Arkham Origins is what they have achieved. A prequel to the Arkham series where a slightly younger, and lesser known Batman has one night to stop Black Mask and his hired assassins from causing mayhem in Gotham City.
The game throws you right in, and doesn't act like you haven't played an Arkham game before, and let's be honest, why on earth wouldn't you have? The combat is essentially the same, though due to its sped up nature, it took me a little to get used to it right off of playing Arkham City. I actually had some difficulties with the game’s first boss fight in the shape of Killer Croc charging at me a few times. Once I got over that, however, I was feeling right at home. I was stunning, blocking, jumping over, and bat-gadgetting enemies like the well-seasoned Batman vet that I am. The animations during combat have never looked better, and the sound is again spot on when giving your enemies a beat down.
It was once the city opened up for me that I noticed the first issues I had with the game. I was having a harder time than I ever did in Arkham City of getting Batman going where I wanted him to go, and doing precisely what I wanted. The city, though bigger, never ended up feeling nearly as fluid as I had hoped for, but I got much more use to it once I knew where everything was later on.
I also started noticing little glitches with the game while roaming the city of Gotham. I stumbled upon a group of thugs and was all the more happy to deal with them, but the last guy was stuck clipping through a car, and I could never finish the fight with them. During other times Batman would sometimes fall through the environment and I would have to start up the game again.
By far the most annoying incident was the amount of times the game froze during my playthrough. I stopped counting once it reached double digits. The true horror story of all of this however, is that the last time it froze, I turned the game back on only to find my only save file to be corrupt. That’s right. My 94% through the story? Gone. My around 55% overall completion with every other damn thing in the game there is? Vanished. As a completionist I don't have to explain to you the pain and suffering I went through, but I thank you for your sympathy.
The real Greek Tragedy of this though, is that I was enjoying the game more as it went on. The story, being lackluster and feeling rushed, was getting good and had me excited to see the end of this terrible Christmas Eve. When you add so many enemies to your story, it is hard to give them all justice in one game, and some only get one single mission to their name, but it was always cool seeing a new villain pop up. I also finally got over not having Kevin Conroy voicing Batman anymore, and gave some props to the voice actor that was (Roger Craig Smith). Troy Baker does such an amazing job at copying Mark Hamill's Joker, I didn't even really miss the real thing.
For the amount of anger I have for this title for not letting me even finish it, it does have a lot of good. All of your favorite gadgets are back and even some new ones to mix it up are here, and they all feel great and like they belong. Whether you’re using them to rid yourself of an immediate enemy threat, or solving one of Riddler's data pack challenges, they all feel useful and unique. The fast travel with the Bat Wing is a nice touch, and checking out the Batcave is pretty sweet. They also let you access the challenge maps from the training ground in the cave, which I thought was a nice touch. I did wonder why he had a jet before he was done building the Batmobile though...
The coolest edition to the series is the games crime scenes. Some of them are part of the main story, while others act as side missions to occupy Batman's life with. Even though you don't really have any options in them, and are just kind of along for the ride, finding the clues and seeing the crime play out right before your eyes looks and feels awesome, and seems to be a very Batman thing to do. He isn't the world’s greatest detective for nothing, and this mode proves it.
Side missions and things to do come in plenty, as expected. There are a series of Dark Knight challenges to complete throughout your playthrough in Gotham, a most wanted list of villains that all have their own missions to track them down and deal with, and, of course, all of the Riddler collectibles your dark knight heart’s desire.
The game also looks great, and the character models are no different. Seeing a younger Gordon, an emotional Alfred, and a walking Barbara made it feel like they were doing a good job at shaping this world we have seen Batman in for years. You might ask yourself why Batman decided to put underwear on his suit later on in this series, though. Maybe he got more comfortable with his masculinity five years down the road and decided "screw it". The enemies, though not all are dealt with the way the hype for them made it seem they would be, looked awesome, felt great to fight and were fantastically voice acted.
I did find it confusing as to what they are referring to in titling this game Arkham Origins. It doesn't take place in Arkham, and is not an origin story by any means. The only thing I could think of, was that they are talking about the Joker's origin, as that is the only character we really get to see a back story of in any way.
Another thing that feels somewhat "out of sorts" in this entry is the games addition of a multiplayer mode. More and more we have seen games that have been primarily known for its single player experience get, in most cases, a sloppy online mode thrown in. The main mode they give here is, at least, a unique one. It's a 3vs3vs2. You get a group of three Bane gang members, three Joker thugs, and then two players take control of Batman and Robin. As the thugs, the game turns into a third person shooter along the likes of a lesser polished Gears of War. As Batman and Robin, it's your job to work together to take down these thugs with all of the techniques, and gadgets you are familiar with from the single player.
On paper this seems like a pretty good way to launch a multiplayer mode, however, by the third or fourth match, I felt that I have seen all there was to see from it, and found myself getting bored. There are nice elements to try and keep you interested. You get to customize your Bane thug and Joker thug, and can purchase new gear and perks similar to the way Mass Effect 3's was handled. All of this was still not enough to keep me interested, or to keep me from stealing cars and planes in very popular online mode of another game. Maybe if they kept their focus on the single player, we could have avoided a reason to have a post release patch to solve this game breaking bugs...Maybe not.
There is a lot to do, and a lot of fun to be had in Arkham Origins. It's a shame I couldn't quite shake that feeling of it not seeming all there. Like its soul was hollowed out and maybe Rocksteady took off with it. I don't know when I will recover from my corrupt save file wounds and actually go back to this game, or if I ever will.
What I do know is that I had some fun, but feel that this title takes a back seat to the games other installments, especially Arkham City being one of my favorite games in recent memory. Maybe I'm just too bitter because of the game breaking glitch I had cursed upon me to enjoy this game to its full potential...nah, that can't be it.