Game Review: ‘Batman – Arkham Origins’

No major story spoilers feature in this review.

When Rocksteady put out their debut title – 2009’s Arkham Asylum – they’d well and truly made their mark in a very competitive industry. After another successful visit to Gotham the team have handed the reigns over to Warner Brothers Montreal.

The results? Hmmmmmm.

Whilst Arkham City was very much a step forward for the series, featuring new fighting mechanics, gadgets, a sandbox environment, more side-quests, this entry is a step sideways. The core features of the game are determinately unchanged, with a distinct feeling of déjà vu for returning players. This hit hardest when you find yourself in areas of the map that are unashamedly copy pasted from the previous game. The fighting animations and unlockable move list remain the same with only a small number of new gadgets and navigation methods. This feels less like beginning a new chapter and more like finishing the last one.

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Of the new gadgets the only stand out is the remote claw, which allows the player to tether together two objects. As well as becoming a more versatile line launcher it can be used to knock two enemies together, hoist them off the ground of send a fire extinguisher or explosive barrel into them. Of the gadgets unlocked thus far we have a concussion bomb and a hacking device, the functions of which were both performed by the electroshock launcher in the previous game, making them less effective. There’s also a strange breaking of continuity in that Batman has the grapnel accelerator available from the get go, even though he was testing the prototype in Arkham City.

Arkham Origins 5

Whilst the map and core gameplay mechanics are left disappointedly unchanged (even those areas of the map which are new smack of repetition) the features of the game that work are really good. The story is solid, with the concept of eight assassins gunning for Batman being the gateway to a larger and more complex story. Bringing in side-quests involving characters such as Anarky may not mean much to the wider public but Batmaniacs are happy to see these lenner known figures represented. Some villains who played only bit parts previously have the chance to shine. After the dull encounter with Killer Croc in the original game it’s good to finally butt heads with him, and the Wonderland sequence with the Mad Hatter is a fantastic example of the imagination the series was known for.

An update of the detective mode is also welcome, based around crime scenes that require the player to identify all the clues. It’s far from challenging, but the crime scene investigations are well implemented and a big step up from the follow-the-dots mechanic in Asylum. The hightlight of the game remains the boss fights, with Deathstroke delivering a great bout without gimmicks and quicktime events.

Arkham Origins

One thing that sets this entry into the series apart from the first two is the lack of polish. A game isn’t going to feel as fresh or original by the time they reach the second sequel, but it really feels as though this was rushed to meet a deadline. Twice during the first play did the game need to be reset, once when a gadget vanished leaving Batman unresponsive and again when an enemy got stuck in a wall. Whilst every game has its bugs these were noticeably frequent, with sound drop outs the most annoying. Some animations are noticeably missing, such as when Batman operates elevator buttons seemingly through telekinesis.

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The players who will enjoy this game the most are the ones who have not yet played this series. Approaching it new and original is the best way to avoid comparisons to the superior previous games in the series. Those looking for the game to top Arkham City are likely to feel disappointed. It’s certainly not a bad game, but the series has peaked.