Batman: Arkham Origins is a game firmly set within the cannon established by the two previous games in the franchise. This may seem incredibly vague, but it’s one of the most telling statements I can make about The Dark Knight’s latest interactive adventure. It builds itself on the formula established by the previous games in the series, but new developer Warner Bros Games Montreal doesn’t take many chances here and the result is a fun but often uninspired game that flirts with some remarkable ideas, but never let’s them fully develop. Yes, this is a Batman game and it’ll fill your need for that but not much else.
Arkham origins serves as an origin story not to Batman himself, but to the events that took place in the two previous Arkham games. It’s two years into The Dark Knight’s crime fighting career and Black Mask has put a hit on his head, leading to eight of the world’s greatest assassins coming to Gotham in an attempt to bring in the bat and cash in on the contract. It’s a novel idea and refreshing to play a prequel without having to play through some aggravating level playing as Bruce Wayne trying to retell a well-known origin story, but these are ideas that the developer never seems to fully commit to throughout the game.
It’s clear from the moment you start playing Arkham Origins that the idea was to stick as close to previous developer Rocksteady’s formula as possible, even when it hurts the experience. In Arkham City, the game takes place in a portion of the city that has been walled off to house the city’s overflowing amount of dangerous criminals, so it made sense that the streets were empty besides your enemies but in Origins none of that has taken place and the game takes place in a complete and unaltered Gotham City yet the streets are still bare besides the criminals. How is this explained? People are just too scared of what’s going on outside to leave their houses. Oh, and it’s Christmas Eve too. It makes sense but it also feels like a cop-out, this is a city that’s still earning just who Batman is, I wanted the chance to interact with them and experience that.
The core gameplay of the two previous Arkham games remains intact and it’s still fun to sweep through the streets of Gotham and stalk your prey and for what it’s worth, this still makes you feel like THE Batman. You’ll start Origins with most of your gadgets from previous games already unlocked and through the course of the game you’ll unlock more and they’re not only too powerful to be fun, they defy convention. The two that come to mind most are Batman’s shock gauntlets, which send out a remarkably powerful attack and a remote control gadget that can tie up enemies from a distance. It’s great that these are unlocked near the end of the game because they make things almost too easy and as a result, not a lot of fun. Also, Batman doesn’t have these gadgets in the two games that take place later in the timeline, but if they’re this powerful – why would he ever get rid of them?!
The game is also filled with some rather bizarre design choices. Some of the greatest moments in this franchise revolve around gliding through the air as Batman and landing on buildings throughout Gotham City. For some reason, in Arkham Origins only certain buildings have ledges you can use to grapple on to and it’s just as frustrating as you’d expect when you get a rhythm going getting through Gotham and then you reach a building that looks like every other one but Batman just can’t grapple. The game’s main plot-points, those involving the assassin’s targeting Batman is often relegated to side missions and shuffled into the background. There’s a cool fast travel element to the game via the Bat-wing and some cool interactions in the Bat-cave but they feel nothing more than fluff add-ons more often than not.
Speaking of unnecessary add-ons, Arkham Origins defines that term with it’s new and completely unwarranted multi-player mode. Most similar to the spies VS Mercs mode of The Splinter Cell series, the mode puts two people in the shoes of Batman and Robin and everyone else as thugs in either The Joker or Bane’s gang. So, two people are going to get a fun experience and another six get an experience that is so different from the game it’s built on that it feels like it’s just tacked on and not well developed. You never use a gun – at all in this series but the online multiplayer uses them as a focal point and it’s a huge mess.
[rating: 2.5/5]Batman: Arkham Origins satisfies the need for another game staring the world’s most profitable superhero — and not much else. There isn’t the big jump in new features and tone like there was from Arkham Asylum to Arkham City – and Origins feels like it’s ok with that. The formula still works, and it’s still a lot of fun but don’t be surprised if you leave the game feeling uninspired and pining for something more.
Batman: Arkham Origins is developed by Warner Bros Montreal and Published by Warner Bros Games. This review is based on an Xbox 360 version of the game provided to Blast by the Publisher.