More of same but somehow less for our caped vigilante
I love Batman. That much is obvious from some of my previous postings on Voice, and the fact I’ve purchased the collectors editions of the last two batman games, and box sets of all the films. In my mind he is simply the best ‘superhero’ as he doesn’t rely on unrealistic powers, just money, intellect and resolve. While over the years the Batman franchise has been somewhat sullied (I’m looking at you, Joel Schumacher) one area in which the Dark Knight has excelled is in gaming.
Rocksteady were in charge of the previous Arkham games, Asylum and City, both met with critical acclaim. However, with Origins, Warner Brothers decided to bring game development in house, produced by Warner Bros. Games Montréal.
The plot, for those who haven’t been fanatically following every little leak and announcement, brings us to the early roots of Batman’s tenure. 2 years in as Batman and he has made several enemies. One such enemy, the criminal mastermind Black Mask, has put a $50 million bounty on the cape crusader. 9 assassins have been given one night, the night before Christmas, to kill the Batman.
The mentality of this game was certainly ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, which is something I’m quite happy with given the incredible enjoyment garnered from Arkham City. With that in mind, Arkham Origins is as you would expect. The gameplay is familiar to anybody who has played either of the games before. The combat is still fluid, and you can still pull of gymnastically impressive feats of violence, incorporating all your gadgets into the flow. The previous game introduced some new enemy types, but you could still just button mash, whereas now enemies are now able to counter your attacks, and counter-counter, which forces you to pay more attention to your environment.
However, WB Montreal have made an addition to your arsenal which threatens to undermine this new level of difficulty; electric gloves. Once charged (through combat) you can punch through any defence, and all the enemies who required different tactics simply crumple. They feel like cheating, but I still used them whenever I got the chance. This may be in part due to the fact that, when playing on hard, the game will just throw continued swarms of enemies at you.
Was guaranteed success assumed?
This sadly isn’t the only detracting point though. The whole game feels a lot less refined, a lot more complacent and, dare I say lazy. It is built on solid foundations, but hasn’t really built further. It has taken all the best bits of the last game, and just spun a loose story around them. I felt lost at times due to the expansive map, which had me constantly dipping in and out of the main menu map. Navigating around Gotham has been made easier by using the Batwing to hop from one part to another, which is a godsend in some ways, given the infuriating fact that a lot of the buildings don’t seem to be able to be grappled onto. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for this, which just makes in inconvenience. All of this would be forgiven however if it just played properly – the game seems to freeze every two hours, becoming completely unresponsive and requiring me to restart the console. For a game that’s meant to be AAA release, and released on a console so late in its life cycle, to have such an disruptive bug just feels lazy.
While Arkham City had me near on playing solidly for 60 hours over 2 weeks, I finished this game on hard difficulty over a weekend, and I feel less incentivised to go back and get all the other collectables. It lacked depth, with boss battles really being reduced to repeatedly hitting them. While I think the coverage of early relations between Batman and main protagonists was covered well, it didn’t go deep enough, or engage players.
As it stands, I would still recommend this game to everyone, as it does a good job of mimicking the last game. If you haven’t played the series, I would suggest playing origins first, then Aslyum, and finish on City, as that gives you chronology, and a progressively better playing experience.