Developers: Warner Brother’s Games Montreal (Single Player), Splash Damage (Multiplayer)
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: October 25th, 2013
Available on: Nintendo Wii U, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewer’s note: I played this game on the Xbox 360. There may be differences between versions.
The Arkham series is often seen as the best games Batman has been in, and for good reason. The elements of exploration, stories, combat system, and stealth gameplay all work perfect for Batman. Arkham Origins marks the first time developer Rocksteady is stepping down from the developer role, but the good news is that the series keeps right on going along with this great prequel.
Batman: Arkham Origins takes place about two years after Batman starts his whole shtick. There’s still a lot of rumors, misinformation, and mystery about the guy. The police don’t care for him and want to bring him down just as much as the criminals do. In steps Black Mask, hiring eight assassins and offering a 50 million bounty on Batman’s head. While that may sound kind of simple, don’t worry. There’s more to the plot then meets the eye, especially once The Joker gets involved. While I’m a little disappointed that Joker steals the show away from Black Mask, I can’t deny that he’s still the most fun villain Batman has to offer. Arkham Origins is the first time he meets Batman and it’s just as interesting as you would hope. The eight assassins vary from well known villains like Bane and Deathstroke to the more obscure Copperhead and Firefly. The game also manages to avoid the problem Arkham City had and doesn’t feel like they’re trying to stuff as many Batman villains into the game as possible until it hits a bursting point. It keeps the focus on Black Mask and Joker like it needs to while still showcasing the very worst Batman needs to go up against.
The gameplay is still about what you’d expect from the Arkham series. The free-flow combat is largely the same here, with a few minor tweeks. There’s a few new enemy types here, such as the martial artists which require you to tap the counter button twice for their attacks, or the venom infused enemies that require you to rip their venom packs off before you can harm them. It’s still pretty similar to the past few games though, almost playing like a rhythm game. You need to time your attacks so that you use them as soon as the last one hits for maximum efficiency. You also need to be on the watch for counter icons so that you can successfully block and counter enemy attacks. You can also play counters a little risky and save them for the moment before they hit Batman, which increases the damage they do. New to Arkham Origins is the shock gloves. Once acquired you’ll be constantly charging a meter while in combat. Fill it all the way up and you can use the shock gloves, which give all your attacks an electric kick. I will admit that the one thing that bothered me about the gloves was how hilariously easy they made the game. The use of them let you hurt enemies with armor or venom without having to use special beatdown attacks or ripping off their venom packs first. It almost felt like an instant win button. The predator segments, while still in the game, have been toned down and appear far less often. It’s a shame about that, since they were some of the best parts of the past games.
If one thing has been drastically improved since Arkham City though it’s boss fights. While Arkham City had one good boss fight stuffed between a ton of crummy ones, Arkham Origins is pretty much the opposite. Besides the opening battle with Killer Croc (which features poor camera angles and wonky use of controls) every boss battle in Arkham Origins is absolutely brilliantly done. My favorite came from Deathstroke, which featured a flurry of melee combat as him and Batman traded blows. You constantly had to be on edge as you needed to correctly use Batman’s tools and counter attack Deathstroke and then follow up with your own attacks. The fight was great and so perfectly done. Other boss fights stand out for one exciting reason or another. Copperhead poisons Batman, causing him to have to to pick her out of a crowd of hallucinations. Firefly uses his jetpack to keep distance so you need creative use of your glue grenades and batarangs to bring him down. Deadshot hunts you in a large open area, requiring you sneak around and use stealth attacks on him. Each boss fight brings something unique to the table and it’s a vast improvement over the past two Arkham games.
Exploration is still a big part of the game, though it’s a little toned down from the last two. You’ll still be getting a variety of gadgets overtime that let you explore more and more of the environment as you go along. One of the few new tools in the game is Deathstroke’s grappling gun. It allows you to set a wire between two fixed points, one that you can grapple onto and use for climbing. The shock gloves I mentioned before can also be used to power up electrical devices. Outside of that though there’s no real new tools for Batman to use, and exploration really feels like it’s playing a backseat in this game. One thing that has been improved on is the detective scenes. Now you have to actually explore the scene, find specific details about it, and then scrub the events back and forth until you can figure out what gives away the killer. It feels a little like CSI: Batman at times, but that’s not a bad thing and it’s a fun way to break up the game a little. Like Arkham City, Arkham Origins has some side quests hidden about the world dealing with some smaller threats like Mad Hatter and Anarky. They’re fun distractions, though not really much more than that.
Once you finish the single player then you can head into Arkham Origin’s other huge addition: multiplayer. All matches are 3v3v2, with 6 of the players acting as Bane or Joker’s thugs while the other two play as Batman and Robin. The thugs play like a third person shooter, with the ability to aim, take cover, and use special abilities. Their goal is to wear down the other team’s tickets, something that can be done by either killing them or capturing points in the environment. They can also get some extra tickets by killing Batman or Robin. If they do good enough they can get a chance to play as either Bane or Joker, each of whom have their own special abilities. Batman and Robin, on the other hand, play just like the main game. Their goal is to keep picking off the other teams before they complete their objectives. Every time they subdue a thug they add points to the intimidation meter, and if that fills up Batman and Robin win. If they get killed the meter loses points. It’s all a very interesting premise held back by one issue: when I tried to play it no one was playing. It may have been the Xbox 360 crowd moved on or the game may have just not been popular, but whatever the case the multiplayer didn’t have enough active members to start up a game when I tried to.
Batman: Akrham Origins is another good entry into the Arkham series. While it may not hit quite as many high points as City or Asylum did, it still has the great game play and story that has been consistent with the past few games. It’s a shame to see the stealth and exploration be put off to the side, but it’s made up for with the interesting detective scenes and some brilliant boss fights. I’d say that Arkham Origins is well worth getting for fans of the series.