XI
you are not logged in
Review

Batman: Arkham Origins Review

A very dark night for the caped crusader.

Tonight is the longest night of Batman’s still short career, as the third entry in the Arkham series steps back in time to look at some of his earliest encounters with regular villains in Gotham. Developed by Warner Bros. Montreal, have they lived up to Rocksteady’s legacy?

The Arkham series of games has quite brilliantly cemented Batman as one of the best new game series of this generation. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Rocksteady set a new bar for superhero games with Arkham Asylum, and then only upped the ante two years later with Arkham City.

So when it was announced that Warner Bros. Montreal would be handling a new Arkham game, there was understandably some concern amongst the fans. However, on all counts, they’ve done a great job of taking all the elements of Rocksteady’s formula and wrapping a new story around them, with a few gameplay tweaks of their own.

Spread out across the two interconnected islands of Old and New Gotham, the familiar mechanics of gliding and zipping around between the buildings, before swooping down into combat or even off to a “Crime in Progress” side mission, have returned. There’s such a wide array of gameplay mechanics that have carried forward, it’s almost difficult to know what’s new and what isn’t.

The most obvious main addition comes with the new Case Files investigations, through the analysis and discovery of clues from a first person perspective. Each point of detail you discover is uploaded remotely to the Batcomputer, and a holographic reconstruction of events is put together piece by piece. From here, you might then need to scroll through the timeline to find a further clue which those involved left behind.

It’s certainly a nice new element, but the main flaw I find is that after every new clue is discovered, it’s not up to you to interpret what it was you’ve found and how it relates back to the others. Instead, Batman’s internal monologue simply tells you what it was that he’s found and then sends you off after the next clue. This is something that could do with further evolution and development.

arkhambig1

Elsewhere, the changes are much more subtle. The predator gameplay is just as appealing as before, striking from the shadows and ducts, through walls and swooping from gargoyles. Combat too is just as good as before, with the combo driven gameplay seeing you always striving to better yourself and reach the end of a brawl without taking a blow. There’s still such a sense of achievement when you win a flawless fight.

Over the course of the game, more kinds of enemy crop up to gradually add more complexity to the fray. One or two new opponents in combat, with the Martial Artists who are better able to block and counter your attacks as an example, and a few new gadgets which don’t diverge too much from those Batman has in the canonical future of Arkham City, but still make nice additions.

Early multiplayer impressions – note that this section does not contribute to the final score.

Unfortunately, my overriding experience with the multiplayer, added to the game courtesy of Splash Damage, was one of annoyance at connectivity issues. My PS3 crashed before I was able to join my first game, then again midway through my second, just as I was getting the hang of kicking butt as Batman!

It’s a shame, because the game is actually a bundle of fun. Bane’s thugs and Joker’s loonies face off on a handful of maps, trying to capture and control points in a fairly straight up Domination game mode. What keeps it interesting is the third team of Batman and Robin.

This pair swing around the level, much like in the predator gameplay of the single player game, opportunistically taking enemies down whilst trying to avoid detection. Often, the only warning a thug will get is the noise of a cloak, before he is dispatched in the blink of an eye. Their route to victory is to build the intimidation meter to the maximum, before the thugs are victorious.

Helping the thugs out are their own bursts of x-ray vision, letting them detect enemies and heroes. Deep into the game, they can also unlock Bane and Joker as playable characters, opening an entrance for these formidable characters into the game, both of which can easily go toe-to-toe with Batman and Robin.

It’s actually really good fun when it works, but between freezes, disconnections and the endless waiting in public lobbies for a full compliment of 8 players, it’s very much in need of patching.

Setting the title in the second year of Batman’s career has allowed them to provide a new take on the kinds of stories we’ve seen in the first two entries. This is a Batman with little to no support from his network of friends, one who has encountered very few major criminals, and certainly none of his major nemeses.

On this single Christmas Eve, Black Mask leads a jailbreak from Blackgate prison, calling down eight assassins to try and kill Batman in the process. However, even as you come across Deathstroke, Copperhead and all the others, it’s not just these villains arrayed against him. As Batman tries to hunt down Black Mask, other villains springing up to try and take advantage of the night of chaos.

Enigma (The Riddler) and Anarky set off to level their own forms of justice on the populace, with Enigma’s towers jamming access to the new fast travel system until you take them down. Penguin, Hatter and plenty others have their own city-spanning schemes in play. It’s a collection which will have you occupied with side-missions and collectables wherever you turn.

Although it’s a frantic night of action, hopping from one fight and twist to another, the real heart of the story can be found was in seeing some of the early appearances of other characters and their first meetings with Batman. It might tread some of the most familiar paths in Batman lore, with the death of his parents ever the sore spot, but there’s something special in witnessing these first encounters and blossoming relationships.

The manner in which Alfred disapproves of many of Bruce’s actions as Batman, and yet is always so willing and to help him in any way he can so that he doesn’t die, is one which builds over the course of the story line. Similarly, Captain Gordon’s role as an honest man within a clearly corrupt police department eager to claim the bounty on Batman’s head for themselves, and how Gordon initially sees Batman as a vigilante who needs to be brought in is another key story arc. And, of course, there’s the Joker’s grin, lighting up a room for the very first time.

arkhambig2

Throughout the game, I would have liked to see slightly more lenient checkpointing implemented. It’s not always so terrible, but with boss battles often lasting more than five minutes and your minor slip ups in combat leading to decent chunks of your health being knocked off, I was often sent right back to the beginning of the fight. More annoying was when I’d die in a brawl or predator mode and be needlessly spawned 30-60 seconds travel away, rather than a few feet from the fight once more.

Furthermore, at launch, the game is not without its technical issues. On several occasions, the PS3 version I played threw up issues which saw the frame rate plummet and never recover, requiring me to restart the game. It also froze during loading screens a few times, both in single player, and also as I noted in the multiplayer. These are known problems and a patch has been submitted to fix these issues which stem from the fast travel system, but it’s disappointing to see them in the initial release.

I What’s Good:

  • It’s Batman.
  • A very nice take on an origin story and the various characters that would involve.
  • A world brimming with side missions, collectables and more.
  • Lives up to Rocksteady’s games…

What’s Bad:

  • …but doesn’t go beyond them.
  • Crime Scenes could be developed into something more taxing for the player.
  • A handful of launch day bugs, yet to be patched.
  • Harsh and distant checkpoints.

Warner Bros. Montreal set out to create a Batman game worthy of Rocksteady’s legacy, and managed just that. There’s some great stuff to see here, but it doesn’t really push the franchise off in a new direction. For a new studio’s first attempt in the franchise, I think that’s really what it needed to be, so they can build their own legacy in the future.

Score: 8/10

The game’s creative director has since tweeted to say that there is a patch on the way to fix the frame rate issues and it should be available next week.

7 Comments
  1. Crazy_Del
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Great read. I am at around 20% of the story progression and it really is enjoyable fun! granted it’s the same feel but I love Batman xD
    Been playing Multiplayer more than campaign and it really does need to be sorted!
    I have created a meet for this Thursday Halloween and I hope it will go smoothly and for everyone to enjoy playing the Multiplayer experience!

    Comment posted on 28/10/2013 at 13:54.
  2. arrybags
    Member
    Since: Sep 2010

    I have played for a couple of hours and i am enjoying it, it has though, got me wondering what are Rocksteady developing?

    Justice League? Superman? An even bigger Batman? A rocksteady superhero game on next gen should be amazing!

    Comment posted on 28/10/2013 at 13:55.
  3. MadYetHatless
    Member
    Since: May 2013

    I still don’t know how to feel about this game. I’m around the 20% point as well and, I know I shouldn’t compare it to the other Arkham games, but compared to Arkham City it feels a little…lacking. It feels more linear and less open to me.
    I tried playing online multiple times, but of the six or so games I tried getting into, only one of them started. The others were me sat, waiting, for sometimes over 10 minutes for enough people to join a server. From what I played of it though, it seems fun.
    I don’t know whether this is a thing, or just happens on my PS3, but every time I save, enter a new area, or play for a really extended period of time, the framerate just drops out. Like, completely. I don’t think its a hardware issue though, as I’ve been playing GTAV at the same time, and that’s worked perfectly.

    Comment posted on 28/10/2013 at 14:06.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      These are the kinds of performance issues I was talking about in the review, with fast travel seemingly the primary culprit, but hopefully other triggers fixed as well in the upcoming patch. I think I might have managed to break the frame rate just by grappling hook boosting from one side of the city to the other!

      Comment posted on 29/10/2013 at 01:45.
  4. Bambo_19
    Member
    Since: Dec 2011

    Iv just completed the story mode and most side missions and I have to say I love it. The story is good and makes a lot of sense into how batman became to be who he is with alfred and Gordon and how he first meets all his enemies.

    However I completely agree that is doesnt build on Rocksteady’s game instead they just made another one.

    The MP has been unplayable for me so I havent even bothered. Just having fun roaming around with the Nightfall Costume getting the collectables.

    Comment posted on 28/10/2013 at 16:19.
  5. gaffers101
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Real shame it’s not coming to PS4. I really love the recent Batman games but I promised myself, no new games until PS4 release.

    Comment posted on 28/10/2013 at 19:07.
    • gaffers101
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      PS great review by the way.

      Comment posted on 28/10/2013 at 19:08.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Batman: Arkham Origins
  • Developer:Warner Bros. Games Montreal
  • Publisher:Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Platforms:PS3, X360, Wii U, PC
  • Release Date:25/10/13

Latest Comments

TSA Meets

  • None today