Batman: Arkham Origins Review

1/23/2014 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments


I know this game came out a few months ago already, but it was excellent and I'm not aware of it getting much press compared to its predecessors.  It was definitely iterative of the games we've already seen, but it was definitely an improvement and engrossing to play, despite the use of a few crutches.

First, the story is the best of the Arkham games so far.  It serves as more of an origins story for Arkham itself, but does cover time during the early parts of the caped crusader's career.  It includes some younger versions of various villains such as "Enigma" who obviously is pre "Riddler" moniker and a young Jim Gordon.

My biggest gripe with the story is probably the fact that for the third time, the Joker is the main antagonist and puppet master for all the events going on.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Joker character.  He was voiced by Troy Baker instead of the usual Mark Hammill, and Baker totally killed it and even sing a twisted "love song" to Batman during the end credits, but the fact that they are unable to make a Batman game without resorting to making it about Batman vs Joker was also disappointing.
 Having said that, it was also one of the best Batman/Joker stories I've seen, serving as an origins to their relationship.  They both get into each others heads and under each others skin immediately, especially in light of good Joker comics like The Killing Joke, Jason Todd's story arch from A Death in the Family to Hush and Under the Hood, or The Dark Knight Returns.  The story in this game serves as a great spiritual prologue to just about any classic encounter with the Joker that has been told over the years, including the other Arkham Games, of course.

The story plays our very much like a movie, and it is even worthwhile to watch the cutcenes only playthroughs uploaded to YouTube.  There are some great character moments between and nobody is forgotten.  They even find ways to fit in some sage advice from Alfred.  I wouldn't mind seeing this story turned into an animated DC feature.  Also, I could swear Batman/Bruce Wayne is modeled after Ben Affleck (with some added beef).  It would make sense.  Help pave the way for the new Batman in 2016.
Gameplay is also excellent.  It is iterative of the other games and does get a little repetitive, but I feel it is perfected from it's predecessors.  I played all three on the PC and this one is the first one I used a gamepad for instead of a mouse/keyboard, so that might have made a difference (it is very much controller optimized), but the combat flow is much smoother and less monotonous than the other games.

The gadgets are all basically the same as the other games (with some minor additions/tweaks), but once again, they are all perfected.  Their use is more practical, more frequent, and easier, so I found myself extensively incorporating them into my gameplay.

It also has some of the better designed boss battles I've ever seen.  I thoroughly enjoyed battling Deathstroke and Firefly was great also.  Great designs, decent AI, and smart mechanics.  I didn't feel like I had to find a way to break the AI to get a cheap win.  I couldn't find a way to replay the boss battles in the simulator, though.  That would be a big loss unless I just missed them and didn't look hard enough.
The city map is well laid out and they added drop points to make it easier to move long distances.  Much of it feels like it could be just a massive DLC for Arkham City, but it is also very vastly improved from the dynamics of that game.   The graphics are improved and it plays way smoother.

I actually collected all the Enigma (Riddler) trophies this time.  I didn't care to accomplish that in the others, but the small missions are way more compelling entertaining in this version.

The game over all successfully accomplishes putting you inside the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight.  From the gadget use to the brutal combat and and stealth takedowns, to the draining story of Batman fighting a good chunk of his rogues gallery over a 24 hour period.
I would definitely recommend the game.  If you've played the other two and enjoyed them , then this is definitely good.  They aren't necessary, but if you want to play them, play them before you play this one.  Chronological order would be a very jarring way to play the series due all the polish of Origins being lost for the second 2/3rd of that journey.

Multiplayer is meh.  It's ok in concept, but there weren't enough people playing to make it worthwhile to wait 20 minutes for a server to fill.

With news coming recently that they plan to continue the story with additional DLC this year, I highly recommend getting this game if you haven't already.  It has perfected and polished most of the details and lets be honest, there's very little I like doing in my spare time other than suiting up and beating up thugs in Gotham City.

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