+A really good story
+Strong voice acting brings it to life
+Familiar free flowing combat is still satisfying
+Lots of side missions to keep you busy
+A strong multiplayer component
-Gotham City feels strangely lifeless
-Some of it is just a little too familiar. There's nothing here that builds upon what Arkham City established before it. This isn't necessarily "bad" but the experience feels far too similar
When Batman Arkham Asylum came out, it was a burst of fresh air and a relief. For the first time in a very long time the Batman license was put to good use. Arkham City then turned out to be a really good sequel in its own right with a fantastic story and a fantastic open world, building up on what Arkham Asylum established and managing to feel different just the same. Now we have Batman Arkham Origins. A prequel that is set in Gotham just two years after Wayne has dawned the cape and cowl. It's a good game in its own right, and is really only hindered by the fact that it does little (if anything) to set itself apart from the game that came before it. But then again... Arkham City is a hard act to follow.
The criminal Black Mask has put a 50 million dollar bounty on Batman's head. As such, assassins from all over are coming to Gotham to take that bounty on. In conjunction with that, the police aren't sure if Batman is helping to escalate crime or if he's actually stopping them. Origins actually has a really good story. It doesn't reach the heights of Arkham City, but it's good nonetheless, establishing the relationships that Batman has with some criminals and with some of the characters we've come to know and love. The production values are as top notch as you'd expect. The voice acting, despite a different cast of voice actors for Batman and The Joker, is quite good in its own right. The game also has a good graphical presentation, making for a good looking game. Although the one problem I have with it is that the game gives a pitiful excuse as to why there are no citizens wandering the city--a curfew. In a way it sort of drains Gotham of life and more or less just makes Gotham seem like a bigger Arkham City. There are side missions but none of them ever really involve saving citizens. Usually just going around beating up criminals.
Speaking of that, the free-flowing combat is exactly the same as you remember. This isn't such a bad thing. You'll be beating up thugs and have a chance to counter them just as you always have. You get weapons that help you in your beat downs, but aside from that this is the same familiar combat system you've always known. Which is fine and dandy, although this doesn't make boss fights exciting on any level. In the previous games some bosses there were very specific tasks that had to be done. The fight with characters like Mr. Freeze in Arkham City come to mind. But here it's mostly just like fighting another thug. The boss fights here just aren't that exciting to play.
Like in previous games you'll find lots of gadgets for Batman to use. However, just like the combat, there's not really anything new here. At some point a lot of ground just feels too familiar. The new studio behind Batman Arkham Origins seems to have gotten caught in the trap that many developers get caught in. Certainly you don't need to fix what isn't broken, but there are times when Batman Arkham Origins feels like it's lifting far too much from the previous game without laying down any new track. It's not really building on the foundation set before it, This isn't quite as bothersome in many regards, but it makes the game feel like baby steps from the previous game as opposed to great strides. Many of the side missions you'll come to expect such as the Riddler trophies or just running around the city to beat up thugs. But there are some pretty cool side missions that actually do add to the story and give you the sense of the relationship that Batman has with his adversaries. That's not to say there is nothing new. You can actually access the Batcave here. You can get some advice from Alfred and you can change your suit and go train. It's nice to have a bit of a hub area this time around.
What actually works out surprisingly well is the multiplayer. I never pictured the Arkham games as needing a multiplayer. And a lot of the times when there's a multiplayer component added to a game that was clearly not built up for one it's usually pretty poor (Tomb Raider comes to mind). Here it actually works. You play as either Batman and Robin or as thugs trying to take them down. It's actually really intense and quite fun. Batman and Robin employ various takedowns while thugs have guns at their disposal. It's surprisingly fun to play.
Arkham Origins exceeds on a technical level, having some really good looking character models and good looking environments. As mentioned it doesn't feel as alive as it could be, but it's not a bad looking game by any means. The soundtrack is one of the biggest rewards here. It's a really good one. About what you'd expect from an Arkham game. The only thing that keeps Arkham Origins down is that so much of it feels like a retread of familiar territory. There's nothing here that really tries to build on the foundation of what was already established in the game before it. Arkham City did a good job of building up on what was established in Asylum despite having a lot of familiar gameplay. It feels like the developers here were playing it safe. The good news is that Origins isn't a step back. It's just not a big step forward. It does have it where it counts, though. A strong story and a good narrative to accompany it. If you liked the previous Arkham games then Origins is worth your time.
on October 25, 2013
WB Montreal had a big task taking over the reigns from Rocksteady, the original studio behind Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. The result is that Arkham Origins feels like a tweaked and polished version of Arkham City, with new voices, new gadgets, a fresh open storyline, a new environment, and other bonuses like detective investigations. The same great combat system that made the first two games great is still there largely untouched, just with a combat grading system and training area to help build you up for the boss fights and really become Batman at his prime. I've read some mixed reviews on the game, but as a Batman fan and action-adventure game fan Arkham Origins gets my approval. I've put a summary of the different aspects of the game below in some more detail. I plan to keep this spoiler free as best I can.
The story takes place on Christmas Eve, with Black Mask putting out a $50 million bounty on Batman's head and 8 of the top assassins in Batman's rogue's gallery gunning for him. It's up to a younger Batman, in his 2nd year on the streets, to put an end to the night and take back control. This is Batman in his 2nd year, so he is still on bad terms with the police but does have Alfred to talk to for help and a full Batcave to train in. Having wrapped up the main campaign, I think it's overall a improvement on what we got from Arkham City in terms of game design. There were plenty of fun little twists and cameos that will make any Batman fan happy to see. I really liked that you had pretty much free reign to run around and tackle challenges as you please, and just stop what you're doing and tackle an ongoing crime if you wanted to. There's lots of side stuff to do for the Batman fans/completionists. One thing that is kind of jarring is that there's no one but criminals out on the streets, nor any traffic at all. It would have been great to see some life in the city, but they put in a plot device to explain that.
Does this game make you feel like you're Batman? Absolutely! The combat system is just fantastic - easy for a beginner to pick up and enjoy and deep enough for a enthusiast to dive into. It's what you know and love from the previous Batman games, just with some new enemy types like Brutes that take a beating and Ninja's that can counter your moves. It adds a bit of new to the standard free-flow combat, but really isn't that different from previous games - which I think is a good thing.
The big addition this time around are the detective-like investigations you can do to solve a crime CSI style. You get to pick up clues to recreate the events of a crime and put together where you need to head next/who to look for. Batman is supposed to be the world's greatest detective, so I think this part is a great addition.
The boss fights are a lot of fun, and add a great deal of variety and involve different strategies to bring them down. The Deathstroke fight definitely felt the toughest though, but the other ones were fun too because of how different they were. The new gadgets like the remote-claw are fun to use and you can get pretty inventive with what you can do with it.
The sound design is great, about on par with what we've seen in previous Arkham games. The new voice actor for the Joker does a great job, and the new Batman voice actor isn't bad at all even though it's not Kevin Conroy. Batman has got a different sound to him, but still feels very Batman. The game's graphics aren't exactly anything mind-blowing. To be honest it looks like the previous Arkham Games to me. Not necessarily a bad thing since the framerate stays smooth and you've got a pretty big world to travel around.
I recently got a chance to try out multi-player and I have to say it's a lot funner than I expected it to be. You get to either be Bane's thugs, Joker's thugs, or Batman and Robin. You get randomly selected to be the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder via a lottery system, but man is it fun to strike from the shadows while a war is going on. Even when you play as Bane's/Joker's thugs you can get the chance to play as the Joker or Bane and wreak havoc with their special abilities too. I had one crazy beat down match playing as Batman vs. Bane and lots of gunfire all over the place. There aren't many maps right now, but I'm hoping they'll add more soon enough. Multi-player has never been in a Arkham game before like this, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by it.
If you're a Batman fan, or a fan of the previous games looking to jump back into the Batman world - you can't go wrong with Arkham Origins. Even if you're just someone looking for a fun action game, I definitely recommend Arkham Origins. This game doesn't stray too far from the previous games, and I hope the next Arkham/Batman game really pushes for something new. But all in all, Arkham Origins is a solid game in it's own right.
on October 28, 2013
Batman Arkham Asylum was one of the first games I purchased after purchasing my PS3. What a fantastic game. The free-flowing full-force combat. The engrossing story. The amazing different gadgets. The fantastic level design. The puzzles, the challenges, the back-tracking for the Riddler trophies. The fantastic details and love for the Batman universe hiding in every nook and cranny. Above all, the game made you feel like you WERE Batman. Two years later, Batman Arkham: City gave us a sequel that gave more, was bigger and in many ways better by freeing Batman into a huge open section of the city of Gotham--and still managed to be a very integrate level design. So the expectations riding on Batman: Arkham Origins were high. How could this game deliver? It had an entirely different developer and what was important to many fans: it had huge changes in voice-acting. So how does this game do? Well it does a lot of copying and pasting. But when you're copying and pasting from games that are that amazing games how bad could it be?
It's not so much an origin story for Batman but more of "year two". In any way, it sets up Batman piror to having run into the Riddler, Joker and various other Batman villains. This could be handled well, but doesn't pan out as well as you might have expected. Example: while investigating a crime scene, Batman, having only heard of the Joker makes a quip about how the Joker operates and yet tells Alfred that he doesn't know anything about the Joker. It seems Warner Brothers had just totally fumbled how Batman met the Joker and found out about how the Joker operates and how extreme the Joker is compared to Black Mask, Penguin, etc. The assassin set up on Christmas eve sounds amazing but the way it plays out is kind of disappointing. I thought you'd set out looking for Black Mask (the guy who put the 50 million bounty on your head). Instead you start by looking for the Penguin (in search of info on the Black Mask), then you end up looking for the Joker, and Assassins just kind of find you at set points throughout the game.
Presentation (Graphics & Sound):
The graphics look good especially when out in the open city of Gotham (though occasionally there's huge frame-rate dips). The first impression of the game is that the graphics are softer and not as crisp as the Black Gate prison has boring corridors and the lighting gives Batman a funny soft glow that makes the graphics look sub-par by comparison to Arkham City. Once you get out into Gotham City and have the chance to explore you realize the graphics are as good as City or Asylum. The menus are uninspired compared to the first two Arkham games. The voice acting is overall spot on and everything fits into the Arkham Game universe. The music is good just like from the previous Arkham games and fits the overall Batman universe quite well. The sound effects get the job done and you feel like you're in an Arkham game.
If you've played either Asylum or especially City you know what to expect from Origins. In fact, a large part of the map of Origins is almost literally a copy and paste from Arkham City. You upgrade your armor and weapons via XP from beating up thugs, discovering new areas, completing objectives, etc. You're graded how well you do in combat situations which seems to affect your XP. This game does not lack for things for you to do. You will be on your way to a story objective and get distracted by a crime in progress only to get distracted by a riddle only to get distracted by a symbol you have to scan only to then get distracted by a radio tower you need to unlock and then get distracted by one of Riddler's informants you need to interrogate. That's how Arkham City worked also but it feels more extenuated here--because the love and care that Rocksteady put into the previous games you felt like you were discovering everything for the first time. In Origins you sense the copy & paste--therefore everything feels like it is just there to serve the formula system. There are Riddler informants (just like City) and these data-packs (aka Riddler Trophies), there are towers to unlock (unlocking fast travel just like Far Cry 3), there are Riddler puzzles and even the Assassins are spaced out to fulfill the system's need for periodic boss battles. There's no doubt that these formulas were tons of fun in the first two games and are still fun here, but they've lost a bit of the magic. On top of that there are things that just don't work quite as well. The fast-grapple while flying doesn't lock onto some towers (even though there are more points to grapple from) and sometimes Batman doesn't go where you tell him and that feels frustrating, sometimes I found myself not being able to jump a simple wall or being blocked by an area where there was an invisible wall. The level design doesn't feel as good and the building layout also feels copy and pasted and the integrate level of detail clearly isn't as strong here.
Should you buy Batman Arkham Origins? That depends. If you haven't played Arkham Asylum or Arkham City then go pick those up instead as they're the superior Batman games in story, game design, sound and graphics. If you played those two games already and love Batman and are craving more Batman then by all means pick this game up. I think it's just important to realize it's a copy & paste from the previous games. But much like with the Assassins Creed or Uncharted games, when games are this good a copy & paste isn't a bad thing if you're craving more Batman action. Batman Origins will ultimately be a forgettable game because it fails to rise out from the shadows of Arkham Asylum or Arkham City.
on March 7, 2014
The technical issues of the game are very real and I had to restart a checkpoint a couple times due to me falling through snow, frozen enemies after defeating them (mainly the Riddler intimidation thugs) and unresponsive controls at times during heated battles. It is a glitchy game but nothing truly broken. Admittedly, I am being bias because of my love of all things Batman so I can and will overlook things that would probably frustrate others.
Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are 5/5 easily for me and my personal favorites of the last gen consoles (PS3/XBOX360). So this game being unpolished and a bit clunky at times really stands out when comparing it to previous installments. A game series should be better overall with each new one but this one isn't it is a major step back from the last two.
The Arkham world is not as exciting this time around and I struggled at times to pick up and play when coming back from work. The other Arkham games took 5 days to compete and I beat those games a couple times after that and even achieved platinum status...because it was that much fun!
Whereas Origins took me 3 weeks to beat not because of the length of the game but because I chose to play other games. The world does fill empty or hollow...it is hard to explain. It doesn't feel like an Arkham game even though it plays like it.
Ironically, the story is the real saving grace of Origins and I really liked it even more than Arkham City's. The characters didn't feel like cobbled up together just for the sake of it.
on October 27, 2013
Ever play a game that you felt like you had played it before? Well that is what we have here with Origins. It is very similar to Arkham City... in fact the city is almost identical. Well Gotham is only so big so it makes sense to be the same layout right? Not really. In Arkham City, the worst areas were walled off while the rest of the city was left as normal. So this is prior to all that craziness but still the same boundaries and layout. So in many ways its a rehash of the previous game as far as layout. However this time the environment just seemed to lack the same feel. Not sure if it is less detailed or if since I have already seen everything if it just felt less exciting. Either way something was missing. I did really like the way they did fast travel and how they used the Batcave which were much welcome new additions.
Combat was top notch as always. They stuck with the formula that has done so well and added a little to it. Boss fights are also much better this time around as you are not always fighting the huge brute the exact same way a dozen times.
Unlocks. Here is an area I think the game regressed. To get points and certain skills/unlocks you need to perform some very specific tasks just like the previous games... however this time you have to do it in a very specific order. It made things feel a little more 'planned' and less 'spontaneous' earning stuff by just playing the game. Instead it made me go look up what it wanted and try to get into a situation that I could knock out that challenge. I also felt some of the tasks required a little too of a 'perfect storm' to be able to complete. This meant that whole tree was held up until I could find a place to set up the conditions they wanted.
Story is great and I loved how they used characters that were not as well known or those that had not been in previous games/movies. Voice acting to me was great.
So I did not like the re-used environment and I did not like the unlock system. In my opinion it is the weakest of the 3 games but still really enjoyed it. If you liked the first 2 games and want more then this is it, its just not as great as it could have been.
on February 17, 2014
First, I don't think there are any real plot or game-play spoilers here. I do mention some of the characters who appear in the game, some of whom are semi-mysterious at first, so there's that.
Second, a brief background: I played both Arkham Asylum (AA) and Arkham City (AC) on Xbox. Arkahm Origins (AO) is my first PS3 Game. I can't say what differences (or problems) there might be between the PS3 and Xbox versions of the the games. I got the game about 2 - 3 weeks ago and have finished the main story and the second, harder play-through (called "New Game Plus" (NGP)), but not the final, insanely hard "I Am the Night" play-through. I've finished most of the achievements and big story lines.
I was wary as soon as I fired up up the game. On the start screen the graphics have a weird white outline around the images. It's just a small outline but it was noticeable right away and was something definitely not in the first two games. (For perspective, it's been probably close to a year since I played AC, but the outline still jumped out at me immediately.) It turned out that this applied to game play too, not just the start screen. The first two games looked smoother, cleaner, and a bit darker. I'm not 100%, but I think it's the difference between the PS3 and Xbox versions. From watching videos on YouTube, it doesn't look like Xbox has this problem. Regardless, it's not a deal-breaker, just noticeable compared to the first two, and it made me worry about the quality of the game right off the bat (buh-dump-bump!).
Since I played AO very recently, I assume some of the glitches people have noted have been addressed. I definitely didn't have any of the bigger problems like some reviewers did. However, I would still say the game is glitchy compared to AA and AC. It also seems to get glitchier as you progress: NGP was noticeably more glitchy than the regular story line game. There were a number of times I had to reload from the last checkpoint. When B-man got stuck between a scaffold and the wall in the Church, for example. Or when he broke up a gang fight and couldn't interrogate the last man standing (in the "Bird" story line) -- all he could do was listen as the man lay on the ground going on and on about how it "takes a lot of courage to admit defeat". Or when a thug would get knocked out but remain standing, which happened quite a few times. For the most part, though, it wasn't too bad. It actually worked out in my favor once: after a bungled fight with just three or four guys, it gave me the final Gotham Protector achievement -- the one where you have to have a 50x combo, use 15 different combinations/gadgets, and not get hit once.
Unlike some of the other reviewers, I didn't mind so much that they re-used and expanded the city from AC. The city was so trashed in AC that it's kind of neat to see it in AO before whatever apocalypse came along and tore it up. I do agree that there was quite a bit of "island hopping" (as one reviewer put it) from one section of the city to the other. The fast-travel option was a so-so way to address this issue, better than nothing, and at least it played into the story line somewhat. Even so, I could have done with a lot less running back and forth. Sometimes it's like you're Batman the Bicycle Courier. I think it's indicative of what some others mentioned, namely that the game as a whole feels rushed, like they used what had already been laid down, tweaked it a little, and dumped a bunch more stuff into it, rather than think out and plan something really new and exciting. One reviewer mentioned how dead the city was, how there were no citizens around, and that was absolutely true. In that sense it's AC all over again. The game addresses the missing citizens indirectly by continually broadcasting GCPD messages about mandatory curfew and staying inside your homes, but that felt thin. In AC it made sense there'd be no citizens because it was essentially a giant prison. Again, I think it's indicative of the lack of effort in making a really new product. It was a corner that they cut. It would be awesome to put citizens in the game. It could really change up the city dynamic and add a lot of possibilities for new interactions, crimes, etc., especially considering how prevalent crimes-in-progress are within AO. As it stands now, all they amount to are turf scuffles, cops under fire, and the occasional ATM break-in.
The Story Lines & Characters:
Overall I don't have much to say about the different character threads. Some of them I liked a lot, like the interactions between Jim Gordon and Batman. Seeing a young Barbara Gordon was welcome but very brief. And the changes both Batman and Alfred undergo through the course of the game were fairly dramatic and, I thought, effective. But the biggest treat was getting to see the Joker in a lot more depth, and not just in relation to Batman. Again, I feel like they tried to pour too much into a single game and diluted it, the result being a plethora of more or less superficial story lines rather than fewer but more developed story lines.
I understand why some people felt the voice-acting wasn't great, but I thought it was just fine. I can't imagine trying to fill Kevin Conroy's and Mark Hamill's shoes. It would be like trying to replace Bryan Cranston in the final 1/3 of Breaking Bad. But the voices of both Batman and the Joker were pretty good replacements, with the requisite gravitas, intensity, and sense of humor. Some of the characters get really great dialogue. All the voice acting was pretty good, I thought.
~ The minor things: The controls in AO are essentially the same as in AC (and the same between Xbox and PS3). As many complex combinations as there are, that's a good thing. Muscle-memory helps get you up to speed quickly. I do feel like Batman is a bit of a bumble, though -- and I felt that way about the first two games as well. It seems like he fumbles more often than you can chalk up to user error. He crouches and blunders out in front of armed thugs. He fires his bat-claw at the empty air 10 feet to the side of the thug you're trying to disarm. He can't decide whether to jump up onto a railing or do monkey-rolls in front of it while being shot in the back. The controls just seem a bit clunky to me.
~ The major thing: The absolute, hands-down worst design flaw has to be the achievement tracks. There are three or four tracks with 15 achievements each, and each track corresponds to some facet of what B-man does: solve crimes (World's Greatest Detective), fight criminals (Gotham Protector), etc. The track for Predator Challenges (called Worst Nightmare) is absolute crap. They're all crap in that for the most part you have to complete the achievements IN ORDER. So even though you might do something that should unlock an achievement (e.g., perform a particular kind of takedown in a predator room or a certain maneuver in combat), it doesn't matter -- you could do it a hundred times and it WILL NOT COUNT unless that's the achievement you're currently trying to unlock. Worst Nightmare is absolutely ridiculous. You have no indication how important it is to do them ASAP and to do them in order. You can miss them if you run out of predator rooms. The only option is to try again on the next play-through (NGP or I Am the Night). The predator rooms do NOT re-spawn like they did in AC; they remain empty once you've cleared them.
I can't stress enough how important it is to take these into account from the minute you start playing, or at least the Worst Nightmare ones, since predator rooms are so sparse in AO. It's worth googlig for more information before you get too far into the game.
The Other Worst Parts of the Game:
(1) What really got to me, and what drastically lowered my opinion of the game, was how manipulative it is. Some of the more egregious examples:
~ You're racing to defuse bombs in one of the story lines, but the fast-travel icons are grayed out, meaning you have to physically glide from one location to another. I understand why they'd do that for game-play, but it's a cheat. What -- Batman's in an all-fire hurry but he inexplicably decides to forego the Batwing and hang-glide there instead? Why not just stop for a haircut on the way?
~ When he's inside the Gotham Royal Hotel, he can't jump out any of the numerous open windows and glide down. A ferocious wind blows him back from the window instead. Seriously? This guy divebombs out of his Batwing FROM ABOVE THE CLOUDS. He can glide higher than those windows when he's out and about in the city. But no, you have to run aaaaaall the way back down, through hallways and elevators and stairs and parking garages, to get back out of the building. The blowing wind thing also happens when you're gliding into places they don't want you to go. I understand using that for game area boundaries, but it happens when you try to glide over a building they want to force you to go around instead of over (e.g., Gotham Light & Power).
~ There are a number of buildings, ledges, outcroppings, etc., at all elevations that you can't grapple onto. Some are "too high", even though you can grapple onto even higher buildings in other parts of the city. Sometimes you can't grapple because that forces you down the path you're supposed to take. Other times there doesn't seem to be any reason for it, you just can't. Keep in mind I'm talking only about places where you can see things you SHOULD be able to grapple onto.
~ There's a cut-scene where Batman uses his explosive gel to draw a big circle on the floor and blow a hole in it, taking himself and the character he's fighting down to the basement below. Hello? Why can he suddenly do that? How can I do that too? Because it would be REALLY HANDY.
(2) Related to the manipulation, but also kind of it's own thing: when you play NGP you DO NOT get all your gadgets at the start. You have to re-earn them at the same points in the story. You still have all your special moves unless they require gadgets.
(3) Some elements of combat seemed a bit ridiculous:
~ Snipers. They can NOT miss. They can shoot you time and time again while you're flying and dodging. (That's just stupid. It's not how sniper rifles work.) They can also see through walls. Try this: let them spot you, then break their line of sight and use detective vision to watch them while you move around. They will track you everywhere you go even though they can't see you. This has been true for all three Batman games and it's time to fix it.
~ Mob combat. When you're fighting bosses (i.e., actual D.C. characters), you also have to fight a bazillion thugs at the same time. To an extent, and with certain bosses, this makes sense. But here's Bane and Shiva talking about honor and trial by combat, and then they turn around and mob you with underlings rather than face you one-on-one. I'd much rather see single combat (where it's appropriate) and fight more clever, resourceful enemies. Again, I think they cut a huge corner here and decided to pile on the combatants rather than make the encounters more unique. The worst case of this, and a good example of the repetitiveness (see below), is when you have to clear one predator room THREE TIMES IN A ROW (in NGP) to finally beat the boss. Very ugh-worthy.
~ Repetition. Going hand-in-hand with "island hopping" and mob combat, the fights get reeeeally tedious. There are at least four separate story threads that require you to go from area to area and beat down particular thugs (exactly like finding The Riddler's informants in AC). None of the threads are really any different from the others. And that's not counting all the regular combat you go through in the rest of the game -- predator challenges, making your way through buildings, fighting bosses, etc. So when you multiply all that by two or even three times playing through the entire story, it gets really, REALLY old.
I know I've been fairly negative, but AO is for the most part an okay game. If you liked the first two Arkham games, you'll find a lot of the same here, just maybe too much of the same. I did have a real problem with some aspects of game play, particularly how it manipulates you, how ridgid the challenges are, and how a lot of the game is repetitive combat. But most of the game's problems seem to be the result of putting it out ASAP rather than taking the time to make it compelling, organic, and original. After three Batman games, it's time to mix it up and not be so conservative. No more Riddler stuff, no more Bane, no more Joker, no more city-as-prison, no more winter weather. They did a fair job proving they can take what went before and re-package it, so now it's time to do something fresh and different.
on October 27, 2013
I was beyond psyched for this game to come out, ever since the initial announcement. Yet, over time I became slightly more and more worried about the production value and more so the value-add to the Batman Arkham series after seeing a few of the game demos and trailers, but had a glimmer of hope that with such epic previous games in this serious this one wouldn't disappoint and would blow my mind just like the others.
Batman Arkham Asylum & Arkham City were epic games that re-defined a franchise and were completely capable of standing on their own in the franchise as excellent breakthrough games in this genre. However, Arkham Origins feels like a bad carbon copy of the previous two games (between the voice acting, story, graphics, level design and basically lazy game creation). This game brings very few new inspirations to the Batman Arkham franchise. The gadgets feel very stale, the free-flow combat feels recycled with no new moves or animations, the voice acting is mediocre at best (Kevin Conroy, the previous voice of Batman, is not one that can easily be replaced... and in this game is not).
For a city, such as Gotham which is supposed to be a lively massive sprawling city, I'm blown away by the blatant re-use of everything Arkham City and very few new additions that are just spread out across large bridges or "city walls". Moving from one area/neighborhood of the map to another feels like a trek between distant islands (and this is not a good thing.... a lesson that should have been learned from any game designer thru Nintendo's island hopping adventure, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker). Also, where are all the citizen of Gotham? I've been gliding across this city for a few hours and yet to see a single resident of this "vibrant" city except for thugs, villains, corrupt police, and the signature characters of the franchise. I'm not as interested in stopping a turf war between thugs as I am pulling off some epic batman stunt to protect actual Gotham-ites.
Not to mention the technical issues: frequent frame rate slow-down, audio choppiness, game stuttering, and out-of-sync audio. The producers should have held out longer on this game for defect resolution & more so, the overall game content. This game feels almost similar to the re-hashing and re-packaging of formally great titles such as Assassin's Creed (specifically the AC2 series - Brotherhood & Revelations).
Probably the most innovative feature I've seen in this game so far is the new crime scene reconstruction feature which brings to light Batman's impressive detective prowess. Being able to create a visualization of the crime makes for a great add to the franchise and to Batman's impressive arsenal. Outside of that, the most effort I've seen in this game is the re-designed artistic approach to the menu's and HUD... which probably could have been left out.
As a huge fan of this series, I was quite disappointed in this release (if you couldn't tell already). I still have yet to try the multi-player... but if the solo campaign is any indication of what awaits in the multi-player campaign. I think I may be better of just skipping it. Nonetheless, it still has the great batman action that has come to redefine a franchise and the video game industry. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. Games Montréal took Rocksteady's great triumph and basically managed to release a new $60 DLC for Arkham City that gives a bit of backstory (and not even an origin story) for this great series. Ironically, its typically the sequels that disappoint but in this case, they managed to change the status quo and flop with the third installment.
VERDICT: Batman is great, WB Games Montréal is not. Better luck next time WB Games Montréal, but in the meantime... its time to return this series to its proper owner. If I could give this game 2 1/2 stars I would, but out of respect for the amazing work performed by developer Rocksteady in the past, I'll have to round up to a 3 out of 5 stars.
on October 31, 2013
Beware reviews that appeared early after this was released. While it's true that you can pop the disk into your gaming system of choice and be aware of the differences (or more aptly, the similarities) between this installment and the previous two games, Arkham Origins has many secrets to reveal over many, many hours of gameplay. This is a long night for Batman and there's far more to do that just play through the main story. Yes, the mechanics are almost identical to the previous two games and yes, it uses a large portion of the map from Arkham City (thank goodness).
I'll be honest: for the first few days I played this game, I was convinced that it was a lesser cousin of the previous two chapters. The story didn't have a sense of urgency and many elements felt like reheated leftovers from a really good meal...not bad, but not as good as when it was fresh.
But as I've continued to play the game (it's been a week now and I'm still finding loads and loads to do in Gotham City) I've become continually more and more immersed in this game. For one, I appreciate that Gotham is bigger than it's ever been. Climb a high tower and look around. Find a distant building or neon sign, then jump off and go there. A big environment goes a long way to making you feel like you're actually prowling the streets of Gotham. Furthermore, the Christmas aesthetic is incredible and instantly iconic. It's very reminiscent of Batman Returns, but much truer to the Batman comic and animated universe with the mixture of Gothic, Industrial, and Art Deco influences everywhere. It's hard to define and places like this don't exist outside of a comic book, but in this game you get to live in this beautiful, dark city.
But most importantly, where I feel Arkham Origins excels is finding the motivations for both Batman and the Joker. If you only care about gameplay then it won't matter to you. However, if you love Batman (and I mean outside of Nolan's recent trilogy), you'll appreciate the lengths the game goes to in an effort to get inside Batman's head as well as the psyche of Joker. Without divulging spoilers, the game offers you an opportunity to take a walk inside the minds of both of those men and see what makes them tick.
It plays on the fact that they are two sides of the same coin. What makes Joker any more crazy than Batman? They're both unreasonably driven by their own codes at the expense of all around them. These two men are connected forever, two opposite forces, neither of whom will ever stop. It has echoes of the stories of Frank Miller and Alan Moore, but I believe the game presents it in a cinematic style that we've never seen before. Certainly no movie has ever succeeded in getting inside the heads of these two characters the way this game does. It borders on mythology. You could teach this in college courses. Arkham Origins really understands what makes these characters tick. So while the actual mechanics of the game stick to a tried and true formula, this game goes deeper into the Batman mythos than any property outside of a comic that I've ever experienced. There have been several times that I've found myself playing with a huge smile on my face. Seeing some of these images brought to life makes me incredibly happy.
There are other reasons to love the game: the boss fights are unique and memorable. You can't get by simply using the attack button. Most of them feel epic, as they should. The voice work is fantastic as well. The new Crime Scene Investigations remind you that Batman is, in fact, the World's Greatest Detective, and when you're solving crimes, that feels true. Lastly, there are many criminals loose in Gotham and putting them all away is going to take a lot longer than the 8 hours that the main storyline requires to complete. Black Mask has drugs all over the city. Penguin has guns everywhere too. The Riddler's challenges are sure to test your imagination. On top of that, Anarky and his followers are out to subvert the corrupt Gotham goverment, much like Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Are they wrong, or justified? It's up to you.
Is the game perfect? No, but few are. There are plenty of missed opportunities, and you can't help but wish that the developers had spent more time perfecting certain elements. Does the game stick to safe waters? Yes, it does. I'm actually glad that it does, as I've come to love this world and am happy to live within it.
But this game LOVES Batman, and it's the closest you will get to being the Caped Crusader in a video game. It understands him and it understands the line he walks between sanity and madness. This game may stand on the shoulders of giants to reach such heights, but at least it aims high. If you love Batman, you'll love Arkham Origins.
on November 30, 2013
Batman: Arkham Origins proudly tries to stand on the shoulders of giants, but ultimately falls short of its predecessors. Origins is the third installment of the highly praised Arkham series; a series that has shown Batman, at long last, finding success in the video game world. Rocksteady did a wonderful job making him a force to be reckoned with, as well as show his smarter, more investigate side of him. Also, up until now they did a great job of spreading out the many villains Batman has over the last few games.
Arkham Origins, unfortunately, feels like a simple copy and paste of the other games. It leans heavily on borrowed elements that made Arkham Asylum and City great. It’s sad to see since the Arkham series is arguably, not only the best of Batman video games, but maybe the best superhero licensed video games we have had. Origins simply rides the coattails of its predecessors in a cheap cash grab from WB Games.
Origins is a prequel to the series, taking place before Arkham Asylum. However, you really wouldn’t know that as it never seems like an origin story to anything beyond the first meetings between the characters. Bruce Wayne has been Batman for two years now, so the “origin” story isn’t much of an origin there either, making it apparent they’re just selling it on the Arkham name.
With Rocksteady off on another project, Origins is in the hands of Warner Bros. Games Montreal, and Splash Damage who cover the multiplayer. WB Montreal did a simple carbon copy, adding little and changing almost nothing from the previous games. People like myself that are big believers in “don’t fix what isn’t broken” can understand and get behind that, but it would have been nice for them to take some risks and do more to stand out from the previous two titles.
It’s Christmas Eve. Black Mask has escaped from Blackgate prison and put a bounty out on Batman’s head. Eight villains hoping to meet Batman for the first time are vying for the ultimate prize, $50 million. Over the course of one night heavy-hitters like Bane, Deathstroke, and Deadshot are all looking to make their claim to fame. But with a bounty of $50 million, it’s bound to bring out the bottom of the barrel-types too like Firefly, Electrocutioner and Copperhead. It’s campy, but just solid enough to work. But, as I mentioned earlier, Origins relies on old tricks, and it isn’t long before the assassins take a backseat in favor of the grinning, green-haired clown, and the story comes crashing down.
This game makes light of Batman meeting the Joker for the first time, yet has him become a pivotal role in the game’s story. The Joker was the big baddy in both of the last two games and didn’t need to be in Origins at all, but was shoehorned into the narrative to play it safe. Under the guise of Black Mask things felt fresh, and it should’ve been left that way. The Joker is obviously Batman’s greatest rival, but he has been at the center of two games already. Let another villain have his day to shine as Batman’s rival.
With Origins being so much like the other games, it also brings with it the Predator-type gameplay of Batman; stalking bad guys from atop gargoyles and trying to take them out as silently as possible. This is what Asylum did so well, making gamers believe that Batman could actually have a good video game. Unfortunately in Origins, these predator situations are few and far between, especially with the combat becoming so much more prominent.
Batman: Arkham City, building on Asylum’s foundation, just about perfected hand to hand combat in video games so much so that afterwards many games took a shot at copying it. So it stands to reason that Origins followed suit as well, probably better so than most other games that have tried it. It’s just that WB Montreal not only followed suit, but sent it into overkill. Combat still flows very well, but it happens far too often, and lasts for far too long. The fighting in this game is simply relentless.
Each combat scenario takes forever to take down every opponent. It completely pulls you out of the game seeing Batman hit a guy so hard that he clearly breaks his jaw, yet the guy keeps getting up five times over. Now imagine that with three to five enemies at a time, and sometimes more. At one point in the game Batman gets shock gloves to use while in combat, that supposedly makes these situations easier and faster. Honestly though, I saw no difference what-so-ever outside of the shock gloves allowing me to attack some weapon baddies straight on.
Asylum and City had everyone head-over-heels for the combat, but Origins shouldn’t have made it the de facto element for Batman interacting with enemies. Batman is more brain than brawn, and this is the reason he would stalk bad guys from the shadows. Of course there is the excuse that Batman is new to this and more of a hot head, but that is just ridiculous.
Origins is open world much like City was, even to the point that many of the land marks from that game show up here. It is kind of interesting seeing these places while not being in a prison-city, but more interesting and very odd, is how Gotham City is basically a prison-city. With the game taking place on the night of Christmas Eve, it was actually really cool seeing decorations on buildings and Christmas lights up in the windows. It added a nice touch to the environment that makes it feel real. Never before has an open world game done something like this.
Of course that realism is ripped away almost instantly when the only people on the streets are thugs standing around or walking patrols, just waiting for Batman to show up. There are also cops doing exactly the same thing, even though Captain Gordon (not Commissioner yet) keeps mentioning how busy they have been that night. So basically, Gotham City runs exactly like it does in later years when a large part of the city is turned into a prison. It’s no wonder Hugo Strange had no problems talking government officials into creating Arkham City.
Not surprisingly, Origins packed in multiplayer, but what is surprising is that it isn’t that bad. It’s pretty standard control points-style gameplay. There is a Joker team and a Bane team, each with three players and each team is trying to control three different points of the map for points. They are trying to kill each other to do so, but there is a third team that consists of Batman and Robin played by two other players. As the Joker and Bane teams run around trying to kill one another, they must also be on the lookout for Bats and Robin lurking in the shadows, looking to silently take out both teams.
It seems very chaotic, but it works out pretty well. Each team has their own unique set of gadgets to help them take out the other two teams. Batman and Robin even get gadgets that are uniquely independent from one another. You can also customize your characters for both Joker and Bane’s team and buy items with credits you earn in-game. Batman and Robin can both be changed too, but just from a list of different costumes we have already seen them in before, which, admittedly, is still cool. These modes aren’t special by any means, and will most likely be forgotten in the near future. It’s just refreshing to see a slightly different spin on a classic match mode, and one that’s actually fun to play.
Batman: Arkham Origins has a decent story, but nowhere as fresh and original as Asylum’s or as large as City’s. The plot involving all these villains hunting Batman on the same night is flimsy, but it works. However, it’s quickly broken apart and some of the assassins are merely reduced to side missions you can take out at your leisure. Origins copies almost everything from its predecessors. WB Games Montreal had a chance to make some real changes here, do their own thing and maybe show they could do right by Batman. Instead they played it safe, which in the gaming world is never excusable. Arkham Origins is not only the weakest of the trilogy; it manages to kill any interest in another Batman game in the foreseeable future.
on November 14, 2014
Aside from the infuriating freezing and restarting my console, graphical errors, corrupt saves, infinite falling, and many more glitches that Warner Bros simply chose not to address, I will be critiquing the actual merit of the game. They released patches, but none of them work. I will also try to write this without spoilers.
I'll start with the things that impressed me. The opening cinematic did a wonderful job of establishing the tone, a few relationships, and events that were imperative to the player. The new enemy archetypes are a welcoming breathe of fresh air. I loved the new gadget; the one you get first, I believe. ...That's about all the redeeming qualities I could grant Origins, so let's take a look at everything that went wrong.
This game is terrible. Here's why. The narrative is so forced, it's painful. There's nothing worse than a character explicitly stating what they're thinking. There's honestly a five minute monologue explaining the character's relationship to Batman, all of it rendered excessive. Using the same assets as Rocksteady, WB somehow managed to make it feel awful. WB felt the need to change the sound effects; so instead of punches, fighting sounds like two boxes slapping together. There is an obvious difference in assets; thugs look better than important characters like Alfred. There is no consistency; something destroyed while in a dungeon won't be when you're in the world map. The differences in maps was just a non-issue to WB apparently; there is definitely some suspension of disbelief when Arkham Asylum was twice as big on the inside as it was outside, but it was still within that realm of feasibility. Origins didn't even try, as one map in particular is (and I'm not trying to exaggerate) a good ten times as big on the inside opposed to out, judging by how long it takes Batman to run its length. Again, I know why it can't be to scale, but Rocksteady at least put in effort to make it conceivable. There are some other glaring improper scale issues, but let's move on. There are times in the game where you are struggling to get to a location while you wonder to yourself, "Couldn't I just use that Batwing?" I know the developers had to realise this, but instead of adding some dialog explaining why not or putting some effort into it, they just ignored it, so now we're left to this stupid chore. Something that drove me nuts and sucked all the magic and fun out of gliding across the city was that some buildings can't be glided over. They actually prohibit you, as in stop Batman and turn him around. There are also sections that you can't shortcut in between because it's out of bounds. So instead of enjoying the awesome glided mechanics, taking in the city, scanning for bad guys, and in general being the Dark Knight, you have to be ever so cognizant and preoccupied with avoided any of these invisible barriers that just straight up ruin the momentum of any fun you might be having. WB somehow screwed up the grapnel boost. This egregious oversight makes me realize and even more grateful with how much Rocksteady cared about their product. There are times in Origins where you want to grapnel at something, but the game is hell-bent on targeting something adjacent to your direction, lower than you, or in some cases BEHIND you. Oh my god, and the levels are so ARBITRARY. There is absolutely no reason to take your time and check out all the work that was put into the environment. Nope, corridor A leads to area B. That's it. It's to the point where they should have just left that stuff out and let me get to some gameplay. Another sin they decided to commit was taking the puzzle aspect out of the Riddler collectibles. I don't know if they couldn't think of puzzles, were too lazy, or what, but the fiasco just became another obligatory collectibles time-waster with no challenge. They also padded this abortion any pathetic way they could find, none of them original. In fact, they sucked the fun out of Riddler. It's actually impressive when you think about all this. The game is almost failure as an art form.
Here's a quote straight from the game, Batman: "DNA evidence indicates the car was traveling at a high rate of speed." Let that sink in. This is a perfect example of the entire development process behind this game. In conclusion, don't buy this game because of it's horrendous story, laughable character development, lack of quality music, monotonous level design, and arbitrary, lifeless questing. Than don't buy WB products because they don't even try to fix their bugs and don't give a hoot about you as a customer.