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This is the third game in the Batman Arkham series and it shows. On the one hand, the game feels more assured, the graphics are improved and the odd annoying glitch has been ironed out. On the other hand, it's far less innovative and imaginative. The plot might have changed, but the basic structure, missions and even the setting are more or less identical to Arkham City.
Despite being the third game, Origins is actually a prequel to the previous outings and is set early on in Bruce Wayne's Batman career. As such, many of the villains he comes across, he is encountering for the first time. He's going to need all his skills, as criminal overlord Black Mask has hired eight deadly assassin's to kill The Bat.
As with the previous games, Origins' strongest suit is that it makes good use of the Batman licence and combines it with a decent plot. The game exudes atmosphere and Gotham City feels like a very real (and very dangerous) place. If you're not particularly a Batman fan, you can just enjoy the game and gradually learn more about the various characters from their profiles. If you're a massive Batman fan, then you will be thrilled to see your favourite characters brought to life and the game goes out of its way to include a lot of geeky references that will delight fans.
The plot hangs together well. It feels like a comic book storyline being played out on your PS3. The plot is interesting enough, even if it's only really there to give some structure to the game. It's slightly disappointing that there's no real innovation behind the underlying missions and in terms of content (go to this place, find/fight this person) there's nothing new, but I still found it interesting enough. The fact that it's a prequel does produce a few plot holes and inconsistencies and it doesn't always tie in with events in the current DC Universe. However, unless you're a serious continuity pedant, this probably won't concern you too much.
Graphically, Origins is an improvement over Arkham City. Many of the improvements are quite small, but they are noticeable. Fans of Arkham City will instantly recognise their surroundings (it takes place in the same setting, just several years earlier) which makes it easier for seasoned players to navigate their way around, without being too intimidating for newcomers. At the same time Origins feels more epic, bigger in scope and far grander than previous environments. The setting is an integral part of the game and the dark, brooding graphics add to the sense that something is deeply wrong within the rotten city of Gotham.
Character graphics are superb with some of Batman's biggest enemies being brilliantly realised. From the very early fight with Killer Croc, the graphics would not look out of place in the pages of the comic book. Characters look suitably grotesque and deadly, without every becoming an over-stylised caricature. I'm a big Batman fan, so have read many comics featuring these various villains and was impressed by the way that they have been brought to life within the game.
Although many of the frustrations of earlier games have now been ironed out, there is still the odd graphical glitch and usual camera angle issues that mar all modern 3D games. However these are not so frequent or intrusive as to be more than a minor irritant.
The sound on the game is equally strong. It's a shame that Mark Hamill no longer provides the voice for the Joker, and the Penguin's faux cockney voice still grates, but elsewhere the vocal work is performed to a high standard, with dialogue perfectly matching the look of the on-screen characters. Two particular bonuses are that Batman's voice (which annoyed me in the previous two games) is better - more aggressive and gravelly; and there is a greater opportunity for Alfred to bring his droll sense of humour to the game. Other ambient sound is identical to Arkham City and, like many other aspects of the game, lacks the same sense of originality
Anyone who has played the previous Batman titles will immediately feel at home with the controls, since they have not changed. Newcomers will also feel comfortable, as they are pretty intuitive and the early levels act as a tutorial, talking you through the core moves and combat techniques. Crucially, the controls feel natural and responsive. Within just a few minutes, you will have full control over Batman and be leaping across rooftops or taking down bad guys with scarcely a thought to which buttons you are pressing.
Arkham Origins has some massive long-term appeal. I would estimate Story Mode will take you around 20-30 hours to complete, but even once you've done that, there are always new things to explore and side missions to complete before you get a 100% completion, and I'd say there's at least another 10 hours to that. There's also some downloadable content available for certain versions of the game and online multiplayer action (which I've not tried) as well as several different difficulty levels for the main narrative.
What really lets it down, though, is that it's a very safe title and offers virtually no new ideas. Arkham City was a significant development over the already excellent Arkham Asylum but Arkham Origins feels like it's treading water. The sole innovation (analysing a crime scene to reconstruct events) actually annoyed rather than impressed me, and I felt that it slowed the overall pace down. Arkham Origins actually feels more like an expansion pack, rather than a new game in its own right. It's clear the developers have been told that the franchise has hit on a winning formula and they are not allowed to tinker with it.
Despite this, it's still a decent game that will give you hours of gameplay. It's a shame that it feels more like Arkham City 2.5, rather than a genuine leap forward for the franchise, but sadly, that's what we have to expect from software companies these days. Let's hope that the developers of the next Batman game are given a little bit more freedom to play around with the formula and bring in some innovations. Otherwise the series is going to start feeling seriously stale.
Available new from around £15.
© Copyright SWSt 2014
I had heard that this was the worse game of the Batman trilogy yet actually I have found it to be the most exciting and the most playable. Recently released I was expecting another frankly disappointing outing much like Arkham City, but the developers have played a real doosy here.
The game is tighter, the graphics are smoother, the rendering smoother, and the neon kiddiesh look of the last game has been replaced with a more serious grown up gothic and grim look. I preferred this.
The gameplay is the same, beat up mobs of thugs, except there are more boss battles here and with more believable characters, not the killer croc or other freakshows, but more human like - In this game Black mask pays 8 different assassins to try and kill Batman, one by one they are try to have a go and so you are guaranteed 8 boss battles, I especially like the the Bane and Longshot battles, but some are harder than others.
I was a little disappointed that the great batman soundtrack of the second game has been replaced with a less inspiring soundtrack, its all a bit unremarkable really.
I liked the smoother battle sequences and some great new additions have been added to the inventory and the batbelt, but the battles are more seamless, so its not just all the great gadgets that get your blood-pressure up.
The best thing I thought was the inclusion of a more detailed cinematic detective mode, rather then just phasing in and out of special visual aids, you know go into a full interactive mode of deconstructing the crime and eliminating the possibilities, its all a bit like Minority report, and the cinematic sequences that you piece together are great looking and thrilling, my only complaint is that there was not enough of these sequences in the game.
All your favourite Batman characters are all here, the Penguin, the Joker , Bane, and some others not so well known like Black Mask and the other assassins.
Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to Rocksteady's two classic Batman games, but is slightly misleading in that it not only skips over the origins of Arkham Asylum, but doesn't even pass the merest mention of the establishment.
Arkham Origins tells a story set in the 2nd year of Batman's war on crime. The timeline seems to be a few months after the events of The Long Halloween only with a Batman who has not yet developed a friendship with Captain Gordon. Distrustful of this vigilante Gordon heads up a task force to hunt The Batman down. It is in this setting that a sinister Gangster nicknamed The Black Mask has put a 50 million dollar bounty on Batman's head and various Assassins have flooded Gotham city. So begins the age of the Super villain, and what starts out as a fairly small scale story soon escalates through a series of expertly revealed plot twists. While the first few hours were admittedly a little dull I soon found myself dragged into a tightly woven story that ended up being the best Arkham verse story yet.
Alas, while new developers Warner have managed to nail the story elements of Arkham City the rest of the game ends up feeling a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong it's still a great game it just doesn't really push the boat out in the same way that Arkham City did a few years ago. The game world is significantly larger; featuring all of Gotham City to run around in, yet there is somehow less to do. There are now no people in the city other than the random thugs you beat up (how come there were more innocents to save in the prison than in the city???) and the architecture of Gotham City feels very cut and paste. Worse yet; in a shocking Joel Schumacher turn of events, Gotham City has become a far more bright and lively place. Predator missions; while still fun, no longer feel as intense because you can't understand why none of the gunmen see Batman swinging around the now well illuminated rafters a few feet above their heads.
Other problems include a terrible camera that interferes with combat sections, and a few tedious boss battles that are really nothing more than glorified quick time events.
Still it would be very easy to get overly caught up on the negatives. The truth is that Arkham Origins is still a very good game. The fluid combat engine is as fun as ever and the predator missions were never going to be boring. There are plenty of fun side quests and an amazing story to navigate through. It was a little tedious at times, and some of the gadgets you encounter don't make much sense, but this is never a less than fun game. The characterization of the villains is spot on, including a new Bane who dominates the story for most of the game, and the younger more aggressive Batman was an interesting way to avoid comparisons to Kevin Conroy.
One thing the game did that I particularly liked was to use Batman's detective vision in order to do some actual detective work. At certain points in the story bodies will be found and you will have to examine the crime scene. After locating and scanning all of the relevant evidence then Batman will be able to playback a holographic recreation of the crime to aid in its solution.
Nevertheless it's a game that cannot escape from the shadows of its predecessors. At its best it does what Rocksteady's games did well, and at its worst it knocks its reputation down a peg. I can never forget the negatives, but I still don't find myself focusing on them.