Batman: Arkham Origins (Xbox 360) Review
Posted by Stewart Lange on 11.07.2013
The critically-acclaimed Arkham franchise gets a prequel in Batman: Arkham Origins! But is it worth checking out? 411's Stewart Lange checks in with his full review!
Title: Batman- Arkham Origins
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Warner Bros. Montreal
Players: 1 solo; online multiplayer
I'm just going to get this out of the way. I love Batman and while I don't know as much about the whole series as some others, I know enough to really enjoy the story lines and themes throughout all of the games. If I get something wrong, then I apologise. I will also say this review is going to have unabashed SPOILERS throughout. If you haven't beaten the main game, then don't read on. By all means come back when you have, but I suggest not having me ruin it for you. Quite happy? Good.
Arkham Origins is set five years before the events of Arkham Asylum, but unlike Asylum and the revered Arkham City, Rocksteady have passed the developing cowl onto Warner Bros. Montreal. The engine of the game is largely unchanged so it's extremely easy to drop into the game. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily a good thing, but I'll get to that. In Origins, our hero is just new on the scene and viewed as a menace by the police, a ghost by the criminals and a particularly large thorn in the side of the games protagonist, Black Mask. Near the start of the game, we learn that Roman Sionis (Mask) has placed a $50 million bounty on the head of the Caped Crusader and eight of Gotham's deadliest assassins have gathered to attempt to claim the cash and plaudits as their own. These nefarious villains range from the instantly recognisable (Bane, Killer Croc, Deathstroke) to the less well known (Firefly, Electrocutioner) and it's a pretty good mix. Unfortunately, you don't get to tangle with all of them through the main story arc of the game, but those that don't have their own side missions to complete. So, not only do you have a city full of criminals, 8 deadly super villains and the police to deal with, but it's also Christmas Eve and Alfred is starting to get extremely grumpy that he might not get his turkey on time.
On first starting the game, you can tell very little has changed. The free flow combat feels pretty much exactly the same as we are used to, aside from a few hiccups that I'll put down to Arkham-rust instead of control issues. The gadgets aren't all there either, but a few additions are clearly precursors to some of the tools we had in the other games. As usual, you unlock other gizmos as you progress through the game, with the handiest being the Electrocutioners gloves that you can activate during combos and suddenly become even more badass than before. Also included is a new improved take on Detective Mode, however use of this feels forced and is very limited. As you start to explore the city, you'll feel very much at home as aside from a few differences, you're exploring the same Old Gotham as we had in Arkham City. It's a quite nice to see the city before they closed the doors and let the criminals run the place. The game is still split up between free roaming sections with mass encounters against groups of enemies, predator encounters within the usual gargoyle heavy arenas and boss battles, which range from being fun to frustrating. So, very little has changed.
Unfortunately, this is where the game has come under fire. The lack of changes have led to criticism against Warner Brothers for having no new ideas. While I can appreciate the fact that not an awful lot has changed from the Rocksteady titles, it's hardly fair to give a game half the score of a previous game of the year winner due to the fact it's too similar. The glitches and bugs within the game, though, I can't be so forgiving about. While I didn't experience anything truly game-breaking, I did almost give up on it due to some heavy glitches during the first battle with Bane. I noticed a few issues with the double-counter technique as well, with one of the villains not being animated properly. I seem to be one of the lucky ones, however. Frozen cutscenes, doors that won't ever open and even falling through the map have ruined the experience for many players and it would seem Warner Bros even knew that, as they almost immediately announced a large patch for the game which has now been released. The only main feature the game adds is a multiplayer mode, however I am yet to get fully involved in that side of things due to Battlefield 4 and GTA:Online.
For all of the bugs, there is an awful lot this game does well. I'm personally a fan of “if it ain't broke” for the most part, so the fact very little had changed is fine with me. If anything, I actually missed having the riddles posed in different areas of the map. It would have given more of a purpose to detective mode and drawn attention to some of the games many easter eggs. What stands out most to me is the story. For me, this is the best plot of any of the Arkham titles to date. While there are issues I have with certain parts of it, such as Joker being revealed as the real Black Mask being too early, Bane figuring out Batman's true identity not being a bigger deal and the fact that you fight him three times throughout the game, it truly is a fantastic piece of work both the Batman universe and within the canon of the Arkham series. The way it ties the story of the more minor characters to how you meet them in later games is fantastic, particularly Killer Croc and the Penguin. Also, I'd be amiss if I wasn't to mention the fantastic job that Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker do voicing Batman and the Joker respectively. Both had extremely big shoes to fill and they did an admirable job under pressure. At no point I felt upset that it wasn't Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill and as yet, I've not read anyone who has been.
If you've read through this review feeling like I didn't enjoy Arkham Origins, then sorry it comes across that way. I truly enjoyed my time with the game, but being brutally honest it feels like a really big DLC pack. If you have played the series so far, then you should have no reason to not play this game and even less reason to not enjoy it, but just don't expect to be blown away by it in the same way you were with Asylum and City. With AA we got the first truly fantastic Batman, maybe even comic book game, ever and with AC that was made bigger, better and more badass, so both of them blew us away. Origins was never going to be able to live up to the first two games, despite not being any worse than either of them, but maybe that's exactly the problem. Arkham Origins is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It's a fine addition to the Arkham series and fit to wear the mantle. It just doesn't make you feel the same way you felt as you played the first two and that makes it disappointing. After playing City, I immediately went back and played Asylum again, but after Origins, I think I'll be glad to give the Bat a chance to hang up his cape for a while.
Very few problems here. Gotham looks and feels as good as it can.
More of the same. I don't see that as a bad thing.
Some of the conversations between villains are phenomenal, as are the voice actors.
Don't think the multiplayer is going to prove enough to keep going back to this after story mode is done.
Being Batman was hardly not going to be fun, is it?