The Batman: Arkham games stand as one of the defining series of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation. Sitting alongside Assassin’s Creed, MotorStorm and Mass Effect as experiences born from the increased capabilities of new hardware, Batman: Arkham brought DC Comic’s do-gooder to life in a way that no other videogame had managed. It redefined the superhero videogame. The series birthed an exploration and a combat system that dozens of titles have since tried to replicate. Yet few have managed to do so with such finesse as Rocksteady Studios. Sadly, Batman: Arkham Origins is one such title.
Batman: Arkham Origins is Not Batman’s Origin
10 years ago we received this third outing. However, this title was created by a different team at a different studio and with a different voice cast. The title of the videogame is actually a ruse: this isn’t Batman’s ‘origins’ at all. You’re not playing the videogame equivalent of Batman: Year One or Batman Begins. Batman is already Batman. However, Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel to the previous Batman: Arkham videogames. It takes place at a time when the Dark Knight’s heroism was still a myth. Where the police don’t always appreciate you vigilantism and the bad guys don’t know just how much of a threat you are going to become.
Given the precedent set by the two previous Batman: Arkham videogames many will know what to expect here. The core experience is a linear single-player adventure. However, Batman: Arkham Origins gives the sensation of freedom by offering a more open structure. For the most part, you can move about however you wish. Players are given a number of tools with which to move, interact or fight, and the infamous Detective Vision returns to offer clues and help you scout around for those all-important collectables.
The combat is just as enjoyable as in previous outings from the series with the player able to switch from beatdown to counter attack swiftly and elegantly. It feels slightly more demanding than in Batman: Arkham Asylum or Batman: Arkham City. Almost as though the necessary delay between last attack and counter inputs is a moment longer than it had previously been. However, this is an adjustment most players will take in their stride.
The Cape Does Not Maketh the Man
With the same formula present in Batman: Arkham Origins as has been in the series thus far you could quite easily assume that the experience is of the same remarkably high standard throughout. Sadly this isn’t the case. Batman: Arkham Origins falters on terms of structure. A bigger world doesn’t necessarily make for a better game. Batman: Arkham Origins falls into this trap on more than one occasion. Batman: Arkham Asylum was masterful in its use of limited terrain to invoke a sense of freedom. However, as Batman: Arkham Origins offers far more genuine openness it loosens the screws on the player’s activities a little too much. The guide ropes that pull the player through the campaign fall slack every now and then, and the player is often headed off by an engagement or challenge that feels out of place.
Batman: Arkham Origins features a number of revisions of its core campaign that become available upon completion and also the return of the familiar Challenge mode. A brand new addition arrives with Batman: Arkham Origins, as the team at Warner Bros. Montreal bring multiplayer to the series for the first time. It’s an interesting addition which, though unnecessary, probably extended the life of the game for many. The key match type sees two rival gangs competing for turf while being hunted by a smaller – but more capable – hero team. The heroes win by filling a meter related to their takedown frequency (which reduces when killed). The rival gangs can win by claiming the capture points and then finishing off their enemies. It’s a welcome respite from the single-player action for sure, though wouldn’t sit comfortably as reason to buy the game alone.
Batman Sure is Purrty
Easily one of the best looking videogames of the generation, Batman: Arkham Origins has the impressive technical clout of a series at its peak. The characters models are simply fantastic both at a distance and when zoomed in close. The animation is superb throughout. Bar the unfortunate clipping of Batman’s cape you’d be hard pressed to find a moment when the suspension-of-disbelief is broken by the visual design. So too is the calibre of the voice acting. The new cast sit in their established roles well and every actor – from protagonist to hired goon – presents a face that fits well into the cohesive universe. Batman: Arkham Origins doesn’t falter in terms of presentation. At the end of the generation, it promoted the ideal that the series has legs, despite the irritations in its campaign design.
The third title in a highly regarded series, Batman: Arkham Origins isn’t as respectable as its predecessors. However, both previous titles set the bar very high. Batman: Arkham Origins is still an enjoyable action game despite not quite measuring up. It’s a messy and frustrating adaptation of a very entertaining template. The open world that pads hours of gameplay without offering anything new. So if you’re the kind of gamer that can take the rough with the smooth Batman: Arkham Origins is still an easy recommendation. However, if your gaming tastes are rich and you only play the cream of what the industry has to offer, you’ll surely be better off returning to the previous Batman: Arkham titles.