Platform: PC, Xbox360, PS3, Wii U
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Action, Puzzle,Sandbox
Players: Single Player, Online multiplayer
Written by Whistler 5th November 2013
Warning, spoilers ahead.
Trick or treat, trick or treat?
Honestly this actually to some degree sums up how I feel right now, upon completing the Dark Knight’s latest video game iteration, Batman: Arkham Origins I have been left with a very conflicted opinion on it. Published by Warner Bros. Entertainment and handed over from Rocksteady Studios to Warner Bros. Games Montréal, previously known for their work on Batman: Arkham City's Wii U cousin, the Armoured Edition.
It does lead me to wonder what, (if anything) happened between Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros. that led to them giving their precious AAA title game and franchise over to a group of developers whose track record has effectively been porting one game and not developing anything of their own.
The latest tale sees our caped crusader facing off against eight of the worlds most infamous and skilled assassins: Bane, Deadshot, Deathstroke, Copperhead, Firefly, Electrocutioner, Killer Croc and Shiva, all out for the $50 million dollar prize money placed on his head by Mafia crime lord Black Mask no less, and it's only his second year on the job, blimey.
If you hadn't guessed from the title, Arkham Origins places us roughly five years before the events of the Arkham series began with Arkham Asylum and presents us with Bruce Wayne (sorry spoiler warning) in his early days. Thanks to this Origins gives a very fresh take on the vigilante, with Batman as a younger, more aggressive and hot blooded character; which is a nice change from our veteran hero from Arkham City.
What always kind of bugged me was where our hero during the Arkham games has has already mastered the night and knows all the bells and whistles, so there wasn't a lot (if any) character development and seeing as we all know batman inside and out by this point; Batman was a fairly two dimensional (and bad ass) character with little change throughout.
In fairness I’ll concede that it's the villains we mainly want to see, but Origins allows us to experience that much needed character development, the ‘heroes road to glory’ so to speak; straight out the box Batman is completely different to his older self, and the developers done an amazing job portraying that with every little detail, from his animations, his speech (though Kevin Conroy shall be missed), even his armour and of course his facial expression of which you’ll notice he seems a lot more angry than usual.
Needless to say, Arkham Origins is a prequel done right in that most if not all the characters feel true to their future selves and there's no awkward revamps breaking the continuity like many devs have a habbit of misteping.
However even with characters and the set up being well done, the gameplay is a little stale to say the least.
Since Warner Bros. Games Montréal had familiarized themselves with the gameplay and modified Unreal Engine from porting Arkham City to the Wii U, they decided it would be best to leave the combat fairly untouched as they seen it good as is.
That sadly was not the case, while in Arkham Asylum it didn't matter so much as enemies weren't limited to smaller numbers (whether due to limitations of current hardware at the time or intentional) so the combat was well suited; when they made the jump to Arkham City which was a giant leap in size, the combat became very clunky as it didn't match up enough to equate for the increased size in enemies Batman could face even after being tweaked which led to horrible messy fights; I did shrug these off mind you as it was still fun.
Arkham Origins from what I can tell, hasn't done much to fix this and it in fact feels worse in cases; the controls overall are a hideous piece of garbage. Often in combat especially after the midway point of the game, I would find controls becoming increasingly unresponsive and loose; one moment I would be laying into one thug then suddenly Batman decided to check the radio on his decrypter (must've placed a bet on the horses that night), others I would be punching away then jumping back to use some of those gadgets and feeling rather silly as the thugs proceeded to kick my teeth in since buttons weren't doing what they were destined to do.
I had even tested this with my keyboard and two different official PC controllers thinking it was my controller, but nope, more and more, each time I would have to repeat a fight since batman would start ballet dancing instead of laying down some justice.
Now considering that Origins has only been out since the 25th, I do understand that likely this will be patched up and such, but the game so far (at least for PC) is buggy as hell. Now we're not talking Vampire Masquerade buggy but I have experienced quiet a lot glitches, freezes and so forth;
my computer easily runs modern games today on highest settings and Arkham Origins does run smoothly for the most part but I would have several occasions where:
1. The only way to fix fast travel was to restart the game,
2. Climbable objects would suddenly not be interactable,
3. Frozen character models forcing me to restart checkpoints, (nothing would register/they became ghosts),
4. Switches not reacting till I left the room and came back in,
5. Batman pulling out stuff when he shouldn't,
6. Controls not responding and Batman just sitting there being special.
As mentioned I will submit that in all likeliness this will be patched up and the complaint becomes a mute point, at the same time I don't think letting AAA title game developers off the hook with this stuff is acceptable either.
(Just to confirm I noticed a lot of console gamers, mainly the Xbox360 with the same issues on forms and fb pages).
While Gotham city has been well put together the majority of the environmental design feels,
bland for lack of a better term.
Yeah night time is Batman's thing (duh), but once again dealing with a plethora of greys with rusty or brick backgrounds even with the snow, just feels a tad over used at this point in the Arkham series, it's a step up from Arkham City but I found myself very bored with travelling across the Gotham fairly early on into playing;
there were dream/hallucination sequences that were a welcome sight but still.
Back when Origins was announced to be in Gotham City I was eagerly looking forward to how they would have Batman interacting with civilians and not just criminals, I imagined certain streets would likely be off bounds where you would see large masses of people out doing last minute shopping for Christmas, and you would occasionally get to help so me poor sods in the alleyways, however apparently due to a 'snow storm' warning (imagine me making the quotation marks for full effect), all civilians have vacated the streets and all criminals have begun celebrating and quiet literally fill almost every gap in between buildings (mainly loitering to be honest). This just felt so lame to me, it effectively made going about the city feel exactly like Arkham City, and at least then there was a reason everything looked bloody miserable; it's meant to be Christmas eve but it rarely felt like it, and overall Gotham City felt pretty lifeless and cardboard like.
All that being said, Arkham Origins is by no means a bad game, it just feels like it fell short of expectations (and I kept mines fairly average after Arkham City). Graphically Origins is a sight to behold, batman looks amazing, texturing and modelling has been done to the point that you almost feel like you can feel the masked hero's suit and that cape; finally his cape doesn't feel like a badly wired prop and instead moves and looks rather realistically (this might be due to turning the Nvidia Physix settings up to max mind you).
Among the assassins already mentioned, Batman will also meet many of the staple villains of the Dark Knight's universe including,
the destined to be Police Commisioner (Captain) James Gordon, The Penguin, Mad Hatter, Anarky, Engima (Riddler), Barbara (Batwoman/Oracle) and of course the mad prince of crime himself, The Joker (shocker I know). Each of these characters have been well pull together, I found myself really impressed with how 'real' Penguin's face looked, or how well grounded James Gordon is.
While I praise the story of this game as there was a lot more depth to it than previously, however I couldn't help but feel cheated when I realized how underplayed the majority of the assassins are. Early in the game we are shown that a world of pain
is coming our way but certain assassins are jokes, you capture Croc in like the first 10 -
The big twist of the game was brilliant but at the same time irritating, while I loved how they done Joker's origins and how you see Batman's effect on him, how he was so well calculated and how he even fools everyone to thinking he's Black Mask for a large chunk of the game (I personally think Joker's portrayal has been amazing in this title).
But at the same time I really hate that once again, Joker is the centre of attention, the big bad guy, the main villain. After two of the previous titles have already had Joker as the main villain I would've like to see someone else take the stage, especially since I figured it was Black Mask or Death Stroke who would in this title, but it just feels so overdone now to have Joker play such a large part. Personally I feel if they ended Joker's section with that he's clearly seduced Harley onto his side and maybe a quick oh “Joker's escaped” mentioning in the end would've been great and allow the other villain's more screen time.
Arkham Origins does do a better job of not swamping the player with mini objectives and side missions, but at the same time I feel more more could've went into making the Gotham's most wanted more prominent.
I really enjoyed Anarky's missions but it felt so anti climatic how you just catch him and that's that, as well as Black Mask's missions are just purely find the canisters, Black Mask was played as such a big character in this title but he became such a lesser character than most villains, even smaller side villains got more screen time than him.
Origins is by no means the god send the trailer's made out, I do feel completely at ease with Warner Bros. Games Montréal taking the reigns on this one and look forward to the next game.
Arkham Origins fell short at a couple of the same hurdles as did Arkham City before it, but it did pass others with flying colours and even managed a fairly solid 11 hours for the main story and 5 – 6 for extras (that weren’t boring mostly) and the completionists out there.
Hopefully with a patch or two and some proper expansion DLCs (not skins and challenge missions),
Arkham Origins will make up for some of it's short comings and bring me back for a couple more play throughs.
Nice smooth and solid Graphics,
Dat Batman cape,
Well portrayed characters,
Plenty to do.
Very buggy after launch,
Not much customization.
Final verdict ,
Batman Arkham Origins saves the night with a 7/10.