|System: Wii U, PS3*, PC, Xbox 360|
|Dev: WB Games Montreal|
|Pub: WB Games|
|Release: October 25, 2013|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Joshua Bruce
Batman: Arkham Origins has a lot to live up to. The Arkham franchise set the bar incredibly high with Batman: Arkham City, and making a prequel to the wildly successful series that can live up to the Arkham name is an expectation of fans, especially after Rocksteady stepped away from the series. Warner Bros. Montreal had some pretty big shoes to fill, but the team pulled it off nicely.
Though, to be fair, the company did have every advantage. The combat system of the previous Arkham games had already been sorted out, and most of the game mechanics were already in place. All the team there had to do was come up with a convincing storyline and build upon an already solid foundation. Gladly, they didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here, and almost everything you remember and love from previous Arkham games has made its way to Arkham Origins.
And you will need all of those tools at your disposal because Batman has a serious problem: He’s being hunted by assassins. A lot of assassins. Black Mask is the mastermind of a plot to erase the Bat from existence by placing a $50,000,000 bounty on his head for any assassin who has the sack to take him down. Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Copperhead, and others are given a chance to turn Batman into a pile of steaming guano for this nominal fee, which makes for a metric ton of boss fights for the fledgling superhero. This is easily one of the best parts of Batman: Arkham Origins, and the boss fights are varied and well paced. Batman can’t just wail on the supervillains until they’re beaten, either; each one has weaknesses that must be exploited to claim victory.
The mission structure of Origins will be familiar to any Arkham fan, and traversing the open world of Gotham gives you the freedom to do what you want. Feel like stopping random crimes? Just glide around until you spot some baddies that are up to something and take them down. Just want to kick some ass? Origins has you covered. Find the nearest group of criminals and hone your fighting skills to your heart’s content. But if you want to stick with the story, it is just as easy to stay on track by following the on-screen markers to your next objective. There aren’t any penalties for patrolling the streets of Gotham and completing tasks at your own pace unless you’re on a timed mission. The cityscape is littered with Data Packs from Enigma to collect; VR missions are available, and, of course, you can just go on a crime-fighting spree–whatever floats your boat.
But playing as Batman isn’t so much about what you do; it’s about how you do it. Gadgets play as big a role in Origins as they have in the previous Arkham games. Many points in the game will require you to make effective use of your gadgets to advance, such as using a remote-control batarang or explosive gel to clear a dilapidated wall. Gadgets even come into play in combat where you can quick-fire batarangs at enemies to stun them or pull enemies toward you with the batclaw. Gliding and zipping around Gotham with your toys is as gratifying as ever, and traversing the environment can be almost as fun as combat. However, there were a couple of instances where I couldn’t move through certain areas as efficiently as I thought Batman should be able to, getting hung up on buildings or not being able to ascend with my batclaw to a point that should not have been a problem.
Fast traveling with the Batwing can alleviate these issues, but first you have to unlock each area of the map by bringing a telecommunications tower back online that has been shut down by Enigma. You can choose to do this as you progress through the game or go tower hunting immediately, but I found that completing these side missions as I progressed didn’t hamper my ability to travel very much at all. Although, any time I could use the fast-travel ability to skip crossing the ridiculously long bridge that linked the two sides of the map, I did. That annoyance has to be endured several times in the early stages of the game, and I was happy to skip it later on.
Visually, Batman: Arkham Origins shines. It is easily the best-looking Batman game to date--from the stunningly bleak Gotham City, ambient weather effects, and excellent character models to the choreographed fight sequences and amazingly detailed cutscenes. Occasionally, I would experience clipping issues during the transition between gameplay and cutscenes, and more later on, particularly in cutscenes. These would typically be accompanied by a sound distortion that was wholly annoying when it happened, but thankfully, it did not happen that often. But when the cutscenes worked properly they were gorgeous, especially the ones that featured Batman flying through the skies of Gotham in the Batwing. The fight animations are extremely well presented (as they have been in all Arkham games), and there will be no shortage of you feeling like a badass as you take down the hordes of thugs that continually try to put a damper on your night.