Batman: Arkham Origins Xbox 360 Review
Everybody that reads the site happens to know that was a fun game that happened to be a little disappointing due to the limitation that the developers used to make the game. So, has the full console version of the game fared any better in this prequel game in the Batman: Arkham universe? Between a newly-rendered version of Gotham, a plot that is definitely not a rehash, but which has some familiar elements, and a game play system that mostly sticks to what works, this game feels like an Arkham game. But is Batman: Arkham Origins something that anybody should be willing to play, or is it just for hardcore Bat-fans that want to step behind the cowl one more time? Seeing as Warner Games decided to go solo, with Splash Damage only doing development for the online portion of the game, the game feels a little bit like something that could have used a little more polish.
The story is basically this – Bruce Wayne has been acting as Batman for about a year, and has been in Gotham for two. Thus, rumors are spreading about this vigilante that keeps taking down criminals for the police, muddying up the business of many a crime lord. It’s Christmas Eve, and Batman is about to unwrap something that is anything but a gift. Black Mask (real name: Roman Sionis), apparently incensed with the fact that, in spite of his numerous bribes and payoffs, Police Commissioner Loeb still allows Black Mask’s men to be put in prison. He invades Blackgate with the kidnapped Loeb in tow. Batman goes to intervene, but after failing to save Loeb from an execution meant for Julian Day (AKA the Calendar Man), he is forced to take on Killer Croc. Following the fight, Batman analyzes a data card collected at the prison and learns that along with Croc, Black Mask has hired seven other assassins – Deathstroke (AKA Slade Wilson), Deadshot (AKA Floyd Lawton), Firefly (AKA Garfield Lynns), Bane, (Lady) Shiva, Copperhead, and Shockmaster – to kill Batman, with the prize of $50,000,000 on the line. Batman must seek out a way to stop every last assassin, and to end Black Mask’s newly discovered evil streak. Along the way, Batman encounters other villains, including Enigma (yes, it’s who you think it is), Anarky, and The Penguin (AKA Oswald Cobblepot). Of course, it isn’t an Arkham game without the Clown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker, and he’s the one that really muddies up the waters. Let’s just say that, similar to Arkham Asylum, the story is really about how Bane and The Joker interact, and how Batman tries to stop him. There’s the disturbing mention during the story that The Joker actually falls in love with Batman (something that was mentioned in DC’s Death of the Family story line in more recent Batman comics), but it feels fitting.
As far as the game play system goes, as per the other two games, you once again have the Free Flow Combat System. The controls are familiar, the combinations are pretty much the same, and the method with which Batman dispatches his foes is largely similar. Navigation is also fairly familiar, with using the cape to glide around Gotham being the main form of travel. The grapnel gun – and the grapnel accelerator that you receive almost instantly – are used to their fullest here, and further acquisition of gadgets allows you to explore even more. The way that you navigate, both during Predator encounters (still the same as before) and during regular periods of traveling around, is good. An addition to this that has good intentions is the Fast Travel system, which, similar to the system in the Assassin’s Creed games, allows you to skip going long distances from point to point within Gotham. It really only makes sense when one travels from the Batcave to other parts of the map, but it is still useful in that sense. One major difference from the previous games is how the leveling system works, but it still allows you to get better abilities both in regular combat and when you sneak around and take down a bunch of enemies. The gadgets are somewhat limited in nature, but some of them are new and different enough to be interesting.
The side missions are also interesting. Some of the assassins are actually side missions instead of enemies in the main story, and therefore are involved in a different aspect of the game. There are also other individuals involved in the game that are from Batman’s Rogues Gallery. They are nice reminders that Batman is so good at what he does that he can handle a gigantic number of criminals and keep going (no matter what Knightfall might lead you to believe). One interesting side note is that Anarky tagged buildings with the recognizable logo, allowing an individual to learn about Gotham landmarks in respect to how Anarky views them. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Arkham game without Edward Nigma sending you on a gigantic series of fetch quests so that you can eventually stop him, so you wind up going after a data collection network that he runs, as well as attacking his data drop sites. The puzzles are a little easier compared to those of previous games, though this might be due to experience with the previous games and how they are designed. There are also regular crime scene investigations called Case Files, where Batman uses his detective skills and his technology to seamlessly solve a crime and track down the perpetrator.
One of the best parts of the game is the aesthetic aspect. Batman’s outfit looks truly like it is a Batman that is just figuring out the look of his outfit, the Bat Plane seems a little bit like it’s designed as something that was not originally designed for Batman’s use, and the Batcave harks back to the Batcave in the Tim Burton films. The city is not its delapidated sprawl that you see in Arkham City, but it is a tired town that’s been around for a while. The music suits the game as well, with music that sounds very similar to Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (another Batman story set around Christmas). The voice acting is actually spot on, and although Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are missed as The Joker and Batman, their replacements do a good job of sounding like younger versions of the great adversaries (I hesitate to call them nemeses, since many an argument has been made that Superman is actually Batman’s nemesis). The character models are practically flawless and memorable, even with the generic character models. Alfred is a particularly good addition to the game, offering wisdom and advice, should you wish to interact with him.
The newest addition to the game, which is a good idea on paper, is the addition of a multiplayer mode. It is a variation on the Invisible Predator challenges in the previous games. The idea is that Bane and The Joker are competing for turf, and are having their gang members kill each other for control. In the midst of this, Batman and Robin (who apparently isn’t actually in the main plot nor does he exist, but you can’t have a one-man team in multiplayer, right?) are taking out criminals in the hope of scaring off both gangs. Batman and Robin win by performing takedowns without getting taken out. The gang members win by killing off the other gang, taking out the heroes, and gaining control of specific points on the map. There are four maps, and all of them are fairly extensive.
Of course, the game is not without flaws. It freezes intermittently, either due to overuse of the fast travel system, or simply due to processing errors which make the game incapable of doing anything but holding the entire system in a frozen state. This includes performing certain actions when pre-set action triggers are already happening. Unlike the other two games, the combat system here seems to lack a little polish. A crowd-subduing device when used normally only affects one person when used in quick-fire. Counters are much more difficult to perform, even when one reacts perfectly to the timing of the combat. Enemies with weapons are practically invincible at times, and even when attempting to disarm them, it might come at the cost of taking a beating. Luckily, the navigation controls don’t suffer from this slightly clumsy timing and direction issue. Much of the game outside of the story feels like it’s just a rehash of the previous games, no matter how fun it is to go through them. The Multiplayer mode is nothing but tedium after a few play-throughs, and is nothing like an enjoyable time, both since match-making can take an eternity, and because the level of players in a game can range from complete beginner to somebody who sacrificed the last week doing nothing but multiplayer mode.
Overall, Arkham Origins is a game worth getting for those that were already considering it. I would not actively drive people away from the game, but as much as I found that I could enjoy it, I would not endorse it for anybody that does not already love the previous installments and wishes to play the game for the sake of playing the whole of the series.