Developers: Warner Bros. Montreal
Publishers: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Plot: Christmas Eve. Gotham whispers of a dark figure in the night’s sky, watching over them and fighting crime. However, the mob also hears of these tales and the dreaded Black Mask sends eight assassins to take care of the mythical Batman.
For me, this game is hauntingly perfect. It captures the mood of the early days of the Bat, beautifully recreates Batman’s first encounters with some of the classic villains from the comics and continues producing breath-taking visuals of both Gotham and Arkham. However, my love for Arkham Origins comes from my complete admiration for anything to do with Batman. Therefore, for this review, I shall strip away my fan-boy glee and attempt an unbiased review on the third Arkham game.
We meet Batman in his early years on the eve of Christmas. He has been a vigilante for a few years now, but is little more than a myth spoken by criminals in the night. The Black Mask, one of the most feared mob bosses in Gotham, breaks out of Blackgate and hires the eight deadliest assassins to kill the one man who stands in his way of taking back the streets from the Penguin: the Batman. Therefore, Batman tries to apprehend Roman Sionis, the Black Mask, while constantly having some of the deadliest killers in the world, getting in his way, including the determined Deathstroke and the physically imposing, Bane, a character who has been slightly adjusted from the previous two games, inspired by Tom Hardy’s more threatening interpretation of the character. As well as that, some other criminals are lurking in the dark corners of Gotham, ready to unleash hell upon their victims.
As Arkham Origins opens, most peoples worst fears are confirmed and there is a sense of ‘we’ve done this before, haven’t we?’ While Asylum and City were totally different games in their own right, Origins does feel like another few levels of Arkham City. We are given a large open world to play with and several side missions quickly open themselves, giving us a Gotham City that needs our help from every direction. All of this is very good, excellent in fact, but it is re-treading old ground, which has made some critics a little disheartened at the third instalment of one of the most exciting video game franchises around. However, I am in the camp that believes ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and also want to focus this review onto the points that Arkham Origins have changed from the last game, putting forward an argument that this game is a varied enough experience.
The big thing that has spilt fans down the middle is the new fighting system. In the other two games, if there was lighting above the head of an enemy, tap (Y) and you would counter. However, now you have to tap (Y) at the precise moment, or the counter will fall. It makes fighting a little bit harder and you have to concentrate more. Combos have been ruined, because your reflexes were just that little bit too slow. Personally, I think this keeps the game fresh and is actually an improvement. I must admit the combat in the Arkham games were getting a tad stale and while it still feels like the same old style, it has been switched up enough to keep gamers invested in the franchise. Many people have not stopped complaining about this new system though. I guess it is something most people need to grow into.
Then there is the new ‘crime scene’ formula. The games have tried to factor in Batman’s detective skills into the story before, but it always felt like the game was holding your hand too much. Here, it finally lets go and lets you become the detective. Crime scenes that are refreshingly without a major villain pop up on your map, where you have to scan the scene and collect evidence to figure out who killed the victim. You can rewind the crime (that rhymes!) to find new clues. It is an impressive new feature to the game. If I could offer an improvement, the climax of these moments could be tidied up, rather than Batman simply tracking down the killer and taking him out. A mini-boss fight could be a good way to round up these little missions.
When the main story is over, you find yourself completing the database. The database is Batman’s personal files on everything happening around Gotham. All of your side-missions, Riddler collectibles and crime scenes will be stored here, so it is easier to review what your next step is on your crime-fighting adventure. It is a nice idea, but I felt a little less impressed with this organised system. In Arkham City, everything was new and exciting, the unpredictable jumping from everywhere. While the database might grow on me, I prefer the ‘unknown’ factor of Arkham City. The side missions are a success though. A slight spoiler here, but Black Mask does get pushed off of the ‘top spot’ in the rogue category by the midway point of the game. The side mission where you take Sionis on is good, because it feels like the character still gets the appearance he deserves. In fact, every character here gets the spotlight they deserve.
Of course, the game does feel like it is missing something. The story feels a little hollow, like something is not quite right. And then the thing it is missing makes a triumphant return (you will know it when you see it), and from that point on, the game is so much better. I will be playing this game for some time yet.
Final Verdict: Arkham Origins continues the tradition of giving us the perfect Batman game. Updated combat, new villains and the simple thrill of becoming the Batman once again.