With a new studio and a new voice cast replacing those involved in the two iconic previous Arkham games, Batman Arkham Origins had an uphill struggle from day one. Being a huge fan of Batman and the previous Arkham games, I so very desperately want to love Batman Arkham Origins, but the game insisted on making it as hard as possible.
Rather than series creators Rocksteady taking on the Bat for the third time, Batman Arkham Origins was placed in the hands of Warner Bros. Games Montreal. Such a big change already had me concerned over the quality of the title and with the announcement that neither Batman icons Mark Hamill or Kevin Conroy would be voicing Batman and Joker, as well as news that Paul Dini wouldn’t be involved in the scripting, I went from concern to panic.
Batman has had a history of pretty awful video game adaptations and I personally felt that the Arkham series has done a wonderful job of turning that around – with thanks in no small part to the guiding hand of Rocksteady and the involvement of key players in the Batman franchise. With none of these key players involved in Batman Arkham Origins, it was apparent that there were bound to be some teething problems.
Batman Arkham Origins is, as the title suggests, a prequel set 5 years before the events of Batman Arkham Asylum and puts players in control of a supposedly less-refined Batman. What I primarily found with Batman Arkham Origins is that quite a lot has stayed exactly the same – in fact Batman has even picked up a few additional tricks that he clearly forgets about further down the line.
The superb free-flow combat is present of course and allows Batman to deal out punishing justice to crowds of street thugs and super villains. The combat controls still work great and firing off quick-gadgets (with the exception of the explosive gel, which I can never seem to trigger when I want) is done with great ease. Some of the boss fights are a little on the dull side and, for a fresh-faced Bats, don’t seem like too much of a challenge.
Players begin with a fairly fully-equipped Batman with all the bells and whistles but will also unlock new gadgets as you progress through the story. One of these gadgets are the shock-gloves which Batman nicks from Electrocutioner which I thought was a pretty nice reward incentive for battling the baddies. It also made me wonder why they didn’t do this for the other assassin encounters – having Batman earn a new gadget to customise each time he defeats an enemy. You do earn certain skills for completing certain side-quests, so why not apply a similar, if not better, reward for the big guys?
Speaking of the big guys, the villain line-up for Batman Arkham Origins isn’t exactly stellar. Rather than showcasing the origins of some of the more iconic villains, characters such as Firefly and Copperhead make an appearance. With the exception of The Riddler, under the guide of Enigma, none of the more prominent Bat-villains were even hinted at during the game. I was also fairly puzzled by Bane’s huge obsession with Batman as the Shiva side-quest quickly dampened my theory that there was a League Of Shadows history connection there.
Much like Arkham City, Batman Arkham Origins takes place in an open-world environment littered with side quests, including Riddler Trophies which are now Enigma Datapacks. Whilst a few of the side quests, such as the Anarky section, felt like well-thought out pieces, others felt very rinse and repeat. Disappointly, the crime scene investigations were one of the quests that had the potential to be so much more. It’s a great new addition to the series but they got incredibly repetitive – having the player investigate a crime scene, track down the culprit, and then beat them down to complete the quest.
The previous Arkham games have all featured incredible stand-out segments, and Arkham Origins is no exception. Whilst it’s a fairly brief moment in the game, the sequence after Batman and Joker go head-to-head for the first time is easily one of my favourite moments in the entire Batman universe. I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s a fantastic piece of narrative and is put together spectacularly in a combination of cutscenes and player interaction.
As I mentioned in my introduction, Batman Arkham Origins is a game I want to love, but it makes me so damn hard to. This is mainly due to how horrifically buggy the game is. Fast-travel causes huge amount of lag upon arrival, side-quest triggers don’t activate or break, massive clipping issues – the list goes on. Batman Arkham Origins is a great narrative but is let down by poor quality assurance which really hinders the overall enjoyment of the experience. With a wide-variety of costumed characters to meet and beat, challenges and collectibles, there’s still plenty of variety to the title and if they fix the problems, could keep players coming back for more.
Batman Arkham Origins is available now for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.