Batman is probably one of the most popular super heroes to date. A lot of that can be credited to Christopher Nolan’s realistic, yet still gritty, take on a Gotham that fits into modern culture. Rocksteady accomplished the same feat with Batman video games, with two major successes: Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham Origins. These games singled handily redefined the super-hero genre, and a lot of the time you’ll hear that another game – take Remember Me for example – plays exactly like a Batman game. Rocksteady worked wonders with the previous two games, and so the much anticipated third game was eagerly awaited to see what other magic Rocksteady could do. Wait…Rocksteady didn’t work on Batman: Arkham Origins and Warner Bros. Games did. Okay, that’s nothing to worry about, right…right?!
Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel set about five years before the first game, and takes place primarily on Christmas Eve in Gotham City. This is when Batman is just becoming the talk of the town, and many people still don’t believe in his existence. Origins doesn’t take too long to get started, and early in the game a $50 million dollar bounty is placed on your head by Black Mask. Some of the world’s deadliest assassin’s are in town and looking to collect. You’ll see familiar faces like Copperhead, Firefly, Deathstroke, and many more villains that all want Batman gone.
The plot is enjoyable. The previous two games plots weren’t anything remarkable, mostly riding on Batman’s popular coattails—or well, cape I guess, but they were still pleasant enough. Origins, as the name suggests, is about a younger and more hotheaded Batman finding his way. The game tries to give reason for Batman’s obsessive drive to defend Gotham from all the evil that lurks within it. It’s hard to say whether it succeeds, for the simple reason that everyone knows why Batman does what he does. It wasn’t shocking to discover his tragic past, and why he is a lone-wolf. It’s still an entertaining story that has some pretty dramatic moments, but the game isn’t really an origin story, minus a one or two flashback. It’s really just an excuse to set the game before the other two.
The story certainly will draw some Batman fans, but it is probably the gameplay that really hooks everyone. I’ll break down the gameplay elements for any newcomers, but for people that played the past games, it’s literally the exact same thing. There are almost no changes to speak of, and while I do count that as a negative, I can’t exactly blame the developers for their decision seeing how they are sticking with the tried and true saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The entire game follows the same formula of the past games, only adding a new feature here or there. For those that are new to the series, the game is broken into a series of parts. There is the free-roaming aspect where you traverse the gritty Gotham city, running on rooftops, gliding, and swinging with your Batclaw. There is a good amount of sneaking—as one would expect in a Batman game. A detective mode where you must piece together crimes, and the final part, which is actual combat.
Gotham is filled with all sorts of extras and goodies to discover which makes exploring the big city entertaining. A police call may report a crime in progress that you can swoop down seamlessly and kick some ass before taking off once more heading to your objective. One distinctive new feature added in Origins is a fast travel system that was greatly needed in the last game. Some may go from story mission to story mission, but it’s easily to get lost in the city and explore it for a couple hours. This also greatly adds to the replay value and extends the overall time you’ll spend playing the game.
There are a couple instances in the game where you need to piece together a crime scene. It is certainly interesting and I found myself enjoying the process of listening to Batman recreate what happened. As far as gameplay goes; however, it’s look at the red mark and hold down a button. I was hoping for a little more puzzler type scenario, but it does breakup the usual gameplay and it is interesting to watch the crime unfold.
There is almost nothing new about the sneaking aspect in this game. You can still swing from gargoyles or hide in vents to take out guards patrolling with guns. The A.I.’s intelligence is as low as it was in past games, swing away and they lose you all too quickly. There was never any real challenge in these parts, but it does promote creativity in your takedowns. Sure, I could swing down and take that guard out, but wouldn’t it be more fun to put an explosive charge on that breakable wall he’ll walk past? Basically, the game will be boring if you tackle each section the exact same way, so it’s up to you to get the most out of the game, by using vents, or different tools to take out the enemies.
The combat is still a blast to experience and it’s a good reminder why other games are so often compared to this series. At its core, you attack with one button, dodge with another, and counter with a third. The action is fast, powerful, and in your face to really get a rise out of you. There is nothing better when everything flows perfectly, you amass a high combo, and no one can touch you. On the opposite end, there is nothing worse when the camera jams in a corner and you are standing in place swinging at air when you expect Batman to swiftly jump to the next enemy. I always seem to have camera trouble with this game, and about 90% of the time if I died in a fight, it’s because the camera zoomed in so closely I couldn’t see anything. You can roll away to stand in a more open area and start the fight again, but that only works when the enemies don’t have guns to shoot you with. I had this same problem with the last game, and it isn’t the biggest issue. You can always deal with the camera once you grow use to it, and I did get better at controlling it so I could see. I understand it stays in close to make the action more intense, but I would really prefer for it to be zoomed out a little more so I could actually see.
You probably see the recurring theme throughout this review so far: this game doesn’t have that much new content in terms of gameplay. It feels exactly like the previous games, and even the progression system is the same. You earn experience based off how well you fight and then apply it to skill trees. As I stated before, it’s hard to blame the developers. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Change the gameplay and people would get mad at them for ruining what many considered a perfect system. Or, you don’t change anything (what they did) and then people get mad for nothing new happening. So, I understand why Origins is almost identical to Arhkam City, but, imagine if Arhkam City didn’t change that much from Arkham Asylum. There always has to be some form of progression, something new or people won’t buy the new game and remain with the old one.
For the most part, the bosses are an improvement. Some I enjoyed because they were different enough to feel like I was doing something else than when I was just beating down regular baddies. Firefly is the best example of this, as the fight inhabits a totally different play style than the rest of the game. It’s a good break, and it was refreshing. Other fights, like Copperhead, don’t feel any different than fighting regular enemies, and was easily forgettable. The biggest faux pas about the bosses in this game, and something I absolutely hate, is when a game tries to make a boss more challenging by throwing regular enemies at you during the fight.
Fighting Bane was the biggest annoyance, roll away, attack. Uh-oh this time I have to roll away and attack, but with three extra random thugs in the ring as well. Oh no, now I have to roll away and attack but with five thugs this time! Talk about a challenge. Even worse, you fight him multiple times using the same strategy, something else I hate. Luckily, the last time you fight Bane it is completely different . The fight is really nerve racking and incredibly intense. It was actually my favorite boss fight in the game, I just had to sift through a couple boring rounds with him first.
What also dragged down this game for me a little bit were the bugs I encountered. Sometimes they weren’t big, like getting stuck in an object for a second or two before breaking free. There was some frame-rate issues when move too quickly in the city, as if the game couldn’t keep up with me. One time I arrived at my destination before any of the bad guys could load, and stood there waiting for several seconds until they all appeared for me to fight. Other times, I had to exit the game and reload it. This happened when Batman got a new device, I was stuck with him ogling it for eternity, nothing I did progressed the game until I gave up and quit.
The bugs were generally more of an annoyance than actually game breaking. Once, I somehow slipped through a vent in the wall, which lost me the element of surprise, but not that big of a deal. A more annoying bug happened during the fighting. There is a move that allows you to throw Batarangs on every unconscious enemy on the ground to knock them all out instantly. There was more than one fight where whenever I tried to perform this particular move, every enemy would immediately get back up off the ground. Even if I knocked them onto the ground only a second before, they would instantly teleport back up—teleport being a key word because they did not go through the motions of standing back up. One second they were on the ground, and a quarter of a second later, they were on their feet. It rendered my move useless, and I leveled my Batman for that specific move. You can see why that would piss me off.
What made me actually rage-quit once was a strange checkpoint bug. I know it was a bug because it made no sense otherwise, which really means, I hope it was a bug and not the developers making horrible checkpoints. After clearing a guarded area in Gotham City, you go through a door to enter into the next level, and the game saves. I navigated my way through the level, found some baddies, fought them and died. I started back outside in Gotham. I should’ve started inside the door I entered through, that was the break in the checkpoint. I groaned but dealt with it. I got back to where I left off, won the fight this time, preceded onward through a very slow section, got to the next fight, won it, the game saved again. Another fight broke out, I lost this one, and I had to start back outside! That was more than twenty minutes of gameplay I just lost and a lot of it was navigating through boring tunnels. I should’ve started right before the fight or at the very least inside the door. Yes, I know some of you are thinking, “well, don’t die then” but that doesn’t make it right. I don’t want fly through Gotham city to reach the same door I’ve already entered multiple times or navigate the same tunnels over and over again. There was clearly a break in action where the game saved, and should have imposed a checkpoint at that location.
Onto the glorious multiplayer mode that was tacked on, because every game now needs a multiplayer in fear no one will want to buy the game. First, let me start by saying it took thirty minutes for me to even enter into one game. A lobby needs to be filled before the game can start, and finding eight people to stay long enough in one lobby takes a while. Starting the match with six people would suffice, and then more can be added within the first minute or so. That alone would greatly reduce the time waiting for a match to begin. Then there are the constant times I lost the host and was kicked from a game, or migrated to a new lobby only to lose my connection to that as well. As it stands now, this is one of the worst match making experiences I have encountered.
Once I got into the match, it was mediocre at best. The only game mode that is available currently is Invisible Predator Online. It’s a three versus three match between Joker’s Gang and Bane’s Gang. It’s a third-person cover based shooter, with awkward controls and cumbersome characters. It’s average at best, but it won’t keep your attention. Two lucky players get to play as Batman and Robin. This is far more entertaining and it’s what everyone is hoping to be as they enter into a match. The one time I played as Robin was far more fun than playing as a goon on the ground. Swooping down on unsuspecting enemies was a blast, and I felt I really did strike some fear into the other players. The multiplayer is definitely not the reason to get this title, which is fine because I doubt anyone really planned on purchasing Origins for the multiplayer. With its bad average gameplay; only playing as Batman or Robin will warrant you dealing with the frustrating match making it currently has.
Batman: Arhkam Origins was a tough game to review. It doesn’t really do anything new and the amount of bugs – or other annoyances – definitely weighed the game down for me. I am big on games progressing, at least in some way, and not reselling the same game with a different title. With that said, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this title. Even if Origins is pretty much exactly the same as Arkham City, it was still fun to play, and that’s the important part. You play games for fun, and if the game is entertaining, then I consider it a success. That doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the faults it has, and I certainly won’t forget the times the game seriously pissed me off because of technical issues. But I had fun playing it, and you probably will too, so it’s worth playing.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Batman: Arhkam Origins developed by Warner Bros. Games and distributed by Warner Bors. Interactive Entertainment.
- The Combat System is Still Fun
- There are lots of Things to Do
- No Real Progression
- Some Technical Issues