The toughest part about writing a review of a Batman game has nothing to do with the game itself. Instead, it’s all about how you end up with the right amount of quotations from the movies. Too many would imply you’re padding your review, too few would mean you know nothing about pop culture’s greatest superhero.
Having said that, I think I’ve met the minimum requirement for what serves as an introduction, and with the next sentence, I’d have met the necessary number of quotes from Nolan’s trilogy too. And here… we… go.
Like Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, the events of Arkham Origins take place over the period of one night. And much like the other two games, there’s one nefarious foe orchestrating events. While Asylum had the Joker and City had Dr. Hugo Strange responsible for their happenings, Origins has the Black Mask who thought it was a good idea to put out a 50 million dollar bounty for Batman, which results in the world’s deadliest assassin’s thronging to Gotham City. Along with corrupt cops and two-bit criminals to boot, all with their eyes on the caped crusader. That too on Christmas Eve.
Compared to the earlier games, the plot is a lot more grounded. There aren’t any moments that fall out of the logic of the Batman universe as was the case before. Those who have played them would know what I’m referring to. What we have here is a narrative that serves as a solid origins tale to the Arkham series, its villains, grim feel et al. So if you were expecting the video game equivalent of Batman Begins, look elsewhere. As it stands the story is perhaps the strongest point of Origins.
Aside from this, there have been a few tweaks to the gameplay. First up, new gadgets. These include a pair of electric gloves that charges as you beat down thugs by the dozen and a detonator that lets you stun hoards of enemies with ease. Also, a remote claw that lets you pull two targets together, useful for stunning goons or simply launching a high tensile wire to let you cross chasms. Did we mention that sleuthing around a crime scene has a sci-fi feel to it what with letting you recreate its events with ease? It’s deftly done and presented better than the earlier games.
And this isn’t all. The combat system we know and love is a lot more faster and responsive. Makes sense considering that you’re playing a younger Bruce Wayne. Though it essentially boils down to tapping the same two buttons through and through, the sheer number of enemies thrown at you along with the variety (two new types this time around, the martial artist and the armoured enforcer) make up for it. Whether you’re landing your first punch or your 100th, it always feels satisfying. Ditto with the boss fights with each one more memorable than the last.
Much like Arkham City, there’s a sprawling world to explore. Gotham City by night looks enchanting. One might complain about the lack of people on the streets, but with curfew and storm warnings about, it makes sense. Even with most of the citizens indoors, there’s a lot to be done. From solving the Riddler’s devious puzzles to putting the Madhatter behind bars, or simply responding to calls for help from the Gotham City Police, you’ll find yourself exploring every nook and cranny, defeating villainy at every turn. Simply put, there’s more than enough to keep you busy.
Taking a leaf out of FarCry 3, you can’t fast travel everywhere. Rather you have to hack communication towers. There’s one in every district. Hack it and you can fast travel there. However this is made redundant by the fact that traversal across Gotham is ridiculously easy and a lot of fun.
At this point it might seem that Arkham Origins is the perfect knight. But it it isn’t flawless. For one, while it looks jaw droppingly gorgeous (even on the PS3), it isn’t bug-free. In my playthrough I had to reboot once because Batman couldn’t throw punches and neither could my enemies. Still better than some of the other incidents reported across the web, but shocking all the same.
On the technical side of things, a word of caution though; if you could choose between playing it on console or PC, do choose the latter. In spite looking fantastic on the PS3, there were scenes where the frame rate felt so poor that it made Powerpoint seem like Quake 3 at 300fps. Yes, that bad. Given how well it performs on midrange machines, you’re best served playing it on the PC.
Clocking in around 10 hours of gameplay time, side missions notwithstanding, is Batman: Arkham Origins worth the asking price? I’d have to say yes. Sure, it doesn’t bear the Rocksteady logo and it has its fair share of technical issues but that doesn’t make it less worthy of your time. It might not be the superhero game you want, or the superhero game you expected, but it’s entertaining enough to bookend the Arkham trilogy in a manner befitting its predecessors.