Reviewed for the X-Box 360 version of the game.
When people talk about comic book superheroes, one name that’s always brought up is Batman – and that’s for good reason. Batman is easily one of the most interesting superheroes that not only challenges what the definition of “superhero” is but what narratives can be told through the comic book media. The word comic book is synonymous with Batman and…”cough”…that son of Krypton. So who wouldn’t want to be the Batman? It’s a question the Arkham series is built around because lets face it, would you give up a chance on being Batman? WB Games Montreal give players the next best thing with BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS, allowing players, like in previous Arkham games, a chance to simulate what it’s like to be Batman through an experience of a well told story.
The narrative that this third installment in the series is centered around is quite simple, a bounty is placed on Batman/Bruce Wayne’s head for $50 million dollars by Black Mask. It’s something that provides a logical reason to why Batman will be interacting with so many villains. It’s a premise that gives the eight (or so) hour experience real traction and left me wanting more, not only for the story, but the production value and attention to visual detail which helps pull off making it an experience worth your time. Something also worthy of mention is that Troy Baker (who replaces Mark Hamill as the voice actor to Joker) does a very good job at filling his shoes. Roger Craig Smith’s Batman is good but Kevin Conroy is a tough act to follow.
The thing that is misleading about the name “ARKHAM ORIGINS” is the fact that it’s not an origins story, and well, it doesn’t take place in Arkham. It seems like a simple marketing trick to give rise to interest that this game is both a continuation of its two very successful predecessors and that it’s a prequel.
While BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM and CITY were both developed by Rocksteady Studios, the series’ departure from that studios is felt in ORIGINS. Gotham feels empty compared to ORIGINS’ predecessors. The only things that lurk around the snow engulfed city are thugs and it makes Gotham feel lifeless and two dimensional. I would have liked to have seen more dynamic elements placed in Gotham to make traversing it feel unique and organic. Traveling Gotham is also another drawback. Fast travel is an option in ORIGINS and is something players will find themselves doing which, while efficient, only highlights that fact that rather than swing your way through the streets of Gotham as Batman players will rather take the Batwing. Not knocking the Batwing though, I’d travel that way any day.
The gameplay is more or less the same that players of the franchise have come to know with enhancements and regression in some facets. Like the ASSASSIN’S CREED series, Batman focuses on attacking groups of thugs and countering their moves with various combos. Countering is as sensitive as its ever been in the series which adds a higher degree of difficulty which is good. But the addition of shock gauntlets removes that difficulty, especially on higher class enemies, making enemies much easier to handle than in previous games. Stealth situations are a bit more advantageous for the Bats this time around because of certain gadgets at his disposal. This makes for less of a challenge, and more an opportunity for creative problem solving.
ORIGINS’ boss battles are the peaks of its gameplay for sure. They highlight how dynamic boss battles can be in a story when they’re done right. Bane and Deathstroke fights are key highlights that will have players feeling not only the danger but what it’s truly like to go up against these high-class villains.
The multiplayer in ORIGINS is simply something that will be passed up due to it being more of an afterthought than a genuine attempt of placing the ARKHAM series in the multiplayer arena. Players either fight as gang members of Joker’s faction or Bane’s while the remaining players play as Batman and Robin. It’s an interesting concept and entertaining at first, but something that’s easily forgettable due to the fact that it’s so generic. There’s no creativity in terms of rewards for upgrades that will keep players attached to this experience. With more work it could be something that could significantly add to the ARKHAM experience, but as of now it’s just a basic multiplayer experience that lacks inspiration.
Even considering it’s short length, BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS is an experience worth having, especially for any fan of the ARKHAM series. First-time players will have no problem entering this third entry since it stands on its own very well. The story thrives on its superb premise and capitalizes on the classic Batman tension involving what lengths he’ll go to not to take a life.While at times ORIGINS feels like cash cow feeding off what previous games did right, it was still fun enough to warrant a play through especially if you are a fan of the franchise.
Final Score: 8 out of 10