Review: Batman Arkham: Origins

When it was announced that a new team would be making the next game in the Batman Arkham series it was met with a lot of raised eyebrows from dedicated fans. After all with two highly successful titles already released and winning multiple awards, it is a hard track to stay on. Taken from the reigns of Rocksteady Studios it was down to Warner Bros. Games Montreal to deliver another hit title in the Arkham series. Now this could go one of three ways really. It could turn out to be a rabid bat that needs a trip to the vets, or they could play it safe and more or less make it a carbon copy of the first two, or it could be the next killer hit in the series. Join me as I tale a stroll through Gotham on a snowy Christmas Eve and see what lies in store.

The events in Batman Arkham: Origins takes place five years before Batman: Arkham Asylum on an eerie and frosty Christmas Eve. This is a time when Batman himself is still a feared and mysterious figure by the civilians and authorities of Gotham. This gives the overall story a much darker feel as the Dark Knight is portrayed as a troubled soul himself, still trying to come to terms with his sad and eventful childhood. The main plot of the story tells of the villain Black Mask inviting eight assassins to get rid of the dark hero. As if that’s not enough he also has the heavy force of Gotham City Police trying to bring him down too. The story does great to stay strong from start to finish having that eureka moment about half way in, sorry don’t want to say anything else so to not spoil the story.

The team have certainly paid great fan service using their creative freedom introducing various characters from the Batman world. I really can’t fault the teams’ technique and execution of how each character fits into the games story. It is great to see Batman come over Enigma for the very first time as well as the master villain himself the Joker. It’s also a nice twist to see some foes that have become adversaries in the other games, take on the Dark Knight. The cut scenes in the game are just outstanding as always with some great scenes merged in with the boss battles that have a very natural feel when you hit them. The voiceovers are also once again perfected with Batman and Joker stealing the show. As mentioned before Batman comes across as a much darker and somewhat troubled soul compared to the first two games, which is continually portrayed in his voice. Joker on the other hand really does sound like the psychopath and criminally insane character he is, I really can’t congratulate the guys enough. It’s also great to see that the same dedication has also though into all the characters though leaving a very fulfilling experience overall.

The city of Gotham itself is fairly large with some returning locations from Batman Arkham City as well as fresh locations. In fact the city is that big they give you an option to use the Batwing fast travel service. The only slightly down point in the city is that it is bare of any actual civilians leaving a slightly empty lonely feeling. Instead there are goons scattered throughout just waiting to get them a piece of the Dark Knight, as well as random acts of crime you can choose to intervene or not. These though just usually involve beating up goons. Even though the city is not as lively as I would have hoped it’s still great to travel around using either your cape and Bat Claw or the Batwing. It’s also nice to see areas that were once derelict in Arkham City brought back to life.

As with the previous two titles there is still a lot to do when you want to stray from the path of the main story. From the Bat Cave you can access a training mode which presents you with a plethora of challenges focussing on various combat techniques and more. Each of these challenges opens up as you play through the main story mode. Out in the city of Gotham there are plenty of collectables to pursue as Enigma makes a return, or should that be a first appearance. Remember this is before Batman knew most of the villains he knows so well in the first two games. Other character specific challenges include but not limited to Anarchy, Penguin, The Mad Hatter and Black Mask. There are others but I will let you find them out.

The combat in the Batman Arkham series is fantastic and some of the best I have experienced in the action genre. Thankfully this success has carried over to Origins with the combat flowing smoother than ever. If you have played either of the first two titles then it is pretty much business as usual, however the team have added a few new and welcomed enemy types. The advantage of this is that you will have to be a bit more strategic in some confrontations. Boss battles are as great as ever with some real memorable and tough ones early on with Deathstroke being one of the hardest, then you have the business as usual ones. You will start off with a good array of combat weapons as well but there are some new gadgets to the series to be found in the story mode. Take the shockingly good fun electric gloves for example, great for when you want to deliver that shock wave uppercut, also ideal when fighting Bane or his Hench Men.

For those that might be new to the series you will gain XP for almost everything you do in Batman Arkham Origins, although this will mostly come from combat and completing certain tasks. This XP is used to upgrade your skills and weapons in very effective and well planed skill trees. This has been one of the most successful features of the Arkham series and it’s great to see that the new team have been able to keep the same success in this game too, as well as put their own stamp on things. Gaining the XP and purchasing the upgrades is enjoyable on its own and one you might want to complete before the big showdown, making you a real force to be reckoned with.

While Warner Bros. Games Montreal may not have brought the same unique impact the first two games did, there is one new thing to the series they did bring. This lies in the form of a multiplayer mode for up to eight players. Yes that’s right Bat fans for the first time we have multiplayer in the Batman Arkham series. It feels a bit strange in your first couple of matches but after a few you start to get the hang of things. You are split into two gangs, the Bane gang and the Joker Gang and then there is also Batman and Robin. It feels like a mix between Team Deathmatch and Capture Points. The team selection is completely random as is the two players that become Batman and Robin which change after every game. There is only the one game mode and only four maps which feel quite confined but hopefully this will increase over time and maybe we will see some additional game modes. The match finding seems a bit off since it seems to take forever to get one going which is a bit of a downer. Its also best played with eight friends where you can all work together.

The Good Things

  • If you loved the first two games in the Arkham series then you will love this one.
  • Great single player experience as always.
  • Great combat and plenty to do outside the main story, with a plethora of side missions and collectables.

And The Bad

  • Game does appear rather buggy with it crashing at certain points multiple times although the 10+ hours I have played it only crashed a handful of times. It did also crash on start up a couple of times for me.
  • Pretty much the same as the other two games, nothing revolutionary here.
  • Multiplayer is a great idea that could have been executed a bit better.

My Verdict…

    Batman Arkham Origins may not bring anything new like its two predecessors did, but it is still a great game none the less. What it does have is a strong story and great execution of the introduction of various characters from the universe as well as tweaks to the combat which are welcomed. With a new development team this project could have went pear shaped but it didn’t, ok so there are some pretty bad bugs in the game with crashes etc but it’s still worth persevering. In fact Warner Bros. Games Montreal has done a stellar job in keeping what made the other two games a hit intact. They have imprinted their own take on the Batman universe while giving great fan service to die hard fans. If you were looking for something as game defining as the last two games then this isn’t it but what this is, is another great title that doesn’t venture too far from the original formula.

Another stellar hit in the Batman Arkham series.

About no1phil

PR Manager & Editor for XLC Gaming Network. I have been gaming since the ZX Spectrum days growing up through many generations of consoles. A bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to gaming genres. When I'm not either being shot at, dancing, scoring for the other team or racing I am trying to become a guitar God with Rocksmith 2014.