The Batman: Arkham games have single-handedly proven that there can be such a thing as a good superhero video-game, and with Rocksteady’s first two entries both earning extreme critical acclaim, new developer Warner Bros. Montreal had quite the shoes to fill.
While the results for Arkham Origins can be a little mixed, for the most part this is a fantastic game that plays and feels just like its predecessors and tells a story that is easily worth the price of admission alone. It’s not perfect, but any Batman fan will definitely want to pick it up.
The game picks up during Batman’s second year as the costumed vigilante, thankfully skipping over his actual origin story, which we all know has been done to death, and instead jumping right into the action. While Batman doens’t exactly fight any differently from the veteran we see in the previous games, it’s his rookie attitude that really captures his inexperienced nature.
This is a Batman who is focused more on the squashing of criminals than the protection of his city. He’s more aggressive, violent, and just all around angry than we’ve seen him before, and while it takes some time getting used to, this new version of the character is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
Up to this point in Batman’s career, his greatest challenge has been some meager drug lords and their thugs, but when Black Mask, head of one of the largest crime syndicates in the city, sends eight highly trained assassins after Batman, our favorite cowled hero finds himself faced with a challenge that might prove too much for him.
While the premise is simple, and isn’t quite as exciting as the set-ups of the previous games, the delivery here is absolutely stellar, with twists and turns that keep you guessing all the way until the very end. The writers really need to be applauded for giving life to the story here, and any Batman fan is going to want to experience it first-hand.
It’s great fun seeing a more inexperienced Batman react to characters like Bane, Killer Croc, and even the Joker for the first time, and it’s made all the better by the fantastic production values that give it that extra bit of cinematic depth that’s always so important in a game this big.
The voice-acting especially deserves to be applauded, as Roger Craig Davis, who replaces Kevin Conroy as Batman this time around, delivers a more vulnerable Batman who still hasn’t decided who, or what, he wants the Batman to be to the people of Gotham. And while Mark Hamill will always be my favorite Joker, Troy Baker gives the Clown Prince a life of his own that is equal parts terrifying and delightful.
Unsurprisingly, not all of the eight assassins are given equal amounts of attention, and a couple are confined to the side-missions, but they’re all given their own unique tricks and styles to make each confrontation different than the last. While the franchise has always struggled with creating strong boss battles, this is where Arkham Origins shines brightest.
Unlike the first game, where each boss was a brainless beatdown, each major showdown in Arkham Origins plays out like a violent brawl where the outcome is totally up in the air. The duels all rely on precise timing and quick-thinking and play out like a cinematic game of tug-a-rope between two equally powerful foes that could end in success or failure for either one in the blink of an eye.
The boss battles were so perfectly orchestrated and put together that I could not wait to see what would come next, and with only a few exceptions, each boss fight presents a challenging brawl that tests all your skills and delivers many of the game’s best moments, such as your confrontations with both Deathstroke and Bane, which have to be seen to be believed.
I had a lot of fun with Batman: Arkham Origins, but it isn’t perfect. While Warner Bros. Montreal did a great job with the game, Arkham Origins lacks the level of detail and care that went into the two previous entries. Gotham City is oddly lifeless, and while exploring all the nooks and crannies is enjoyable, there’s not much to look at in terms of unique visuals.
There are still hundreds of collectibles to discover, hidden by an early Riddler who calls himself Enigma, but searching them out isn’t nearly as fun as it was in Arkham City and the puzzles require little ingenuity. And while the previous games were full of fun references and easter eggs, Arkham Origins isn’t, leaving the city feeling sadly hollow.
While there’s a lot to do outside of the main story, only the famous challenge rooms really present anything unique. The side-missions are fun distractions, but require little thought or effort, and the collectibles just aren’t as satisfying to hunt down as they should be. However, it’s the multiplayer mode that’s really disappointing, and is so boringly generic that I barely even touched it.
Despite all that, I’m still having a lot of fun exploring Gotham City even after I’ve finished the main story. Flying around the huge map is really fun, and taking down groups of thugs in the challenging combat rooms will never get old. However, I can’t help but wish there was more meat to it all to add more life to it after the credits roll.
Perhaps Arkham Origin’s greatest flaw, however, is how familiar it feels. While Arkham City felt like an entirely different experience compared to Arkham Asylum, Arkham Origins does little to differentiate itself from either of these games, opting instead to copy and paste what fans loved and adding on a new coat of paint.
While this does mean that the game plays just like you’d expect it to, it starts to feel formulaic and somewhat repetitive around the midway point. Warner Bros. Montreal is obviously a very capable developer, but I would’ve loved to see them do something extra to make their game really stand on its own instead of just sticking with what’s already been established.
With all that said, Arkham Origins is still an extremely enjoyable game that fans are sure to have fun with. It’s a little too familiar, but it tells the best story out of the three Arkham games and delivers more than its fair share of jaw-dropping moments that will delight everyone who gets to see them.
The game could’ve used some extra fine-tuning, as there are a number of glaring graphical glitches and framerate issues, but for the most part Arkham Origins is a worthy addition to the franchise and is sure to please any fan who is looking for another action-packed Batman adventure.
This might not be the best Batman game we’ve had, but it does just enough right to earn its place alongside the other games in the series. If anyone is even remotely interested in this game, then I strongly recommend you give it a try. If you let it, Arkham Origins really will surprise you.
Story: 9/10 – Arkham Origin’s story is the best part of the game, and delivers more than its fair share of shocking plot twists and memorable moments. It rarely gets distracted, and if you let it unfold, I can guarantee that you will be more than pleased when the credits roll.
Gameplay: 8.5/10 – Batman’s freeflow combat system still hasn’t lost its charm and is still a blast to play around with, even if it does get a little bogged down in itself from time to time. While there are a few jarring gameplay glitches, the game still runs and feels great and continually keeps things interesting.
Presentation: 7.5/10 – Arkham Origins has an awesome amount of production value to it, and the menu system looks fantastic, but without that all-important layer of depth we’re used too the game still feels a little lifeless in terms of its presentation.
Graphics: 8.5/10 – The graphics haven’t improved all that much since Arkham City, but seeing Gotham City covered in snow is great to look, and while the facial animations occasionally look a little stiff, the superb cinematics more than makes up for the few shortcomings.
Replay Value: 8/10 – There’s a lot to do and see after you finish the main campaign, and you’ll surely spend more than a couple hours exploring Gotham, but after awhile things start to feel overly repetitive and generic, which the boring multiplayer mode does little to remedy.