Batman: Arkham Origins (Xbox 360) Review
Greg Johnson / Nov 19th, 2013 No Comments
Batman: Arkham Origins, developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal and published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment serves as third to the Batman: Arkham series, but acts as a prequel in its story. With worry amongst fans of the series due to such changes as Roger Craig Smith voicing Batman and Troy Baker as The Joker (previously voiced by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill) Batman: Arkham Origins had the challenge of not only getting players excited about new voice talent, but also a new plotline, gameplay mechanics overhaul and multiplayer mode.
Batman is not the famed crusader Gotham knows and loves, there is no Bat-Signal and The Joker is a fledging super-villain, who has yet to really draw the caped crusader’s attention. This is the set-up for Batman: Arkham Origins, a game oddly enough about the origins of many of Batman’s infamous rogue gallery, as well as Batman himself. A criminal head named “Black Mask” (or Roman Sionis) has apparently put out a hit on Batman and gotten a variable grab-bag of the most notorious killers of Gotham to go after the dark defender. What plays out is a show-down against the various well-known (and more obscure) villains as Batman attempts to keep Gotham safe while also winning over the police force who ultimately see him as just another threat. The story is tightly put together and really holds up for both fans of Batman as well as newcomers to “the world’s greatest detective”. Fan-favorites such as The Joker rear their heads to go toe-to-toe with Batman in a serious of dangerous battles and challenges as well as lesser known super-criminals such as The Firefly, a nasty pyromaniac who holds his own even when villains such as Bane, Deathstroke and The Penguin all seek Batman’s demise. Another great point regarding Batman: Arkham Origins is that all of the villains may not even be faced by just playing the main story out, some are entirely optional such as Enigma (The Riddler’s former alias) who again returns to provide puzzles for Batman to solve. This adds a great level of depth for the player who can more easily slip into the cape and cowl as the feel of actually being Batman is more accessible via the main story, optional villains on the loose and just the occasional ATM robbery to break up.
Easy to learn, but hard to master best sums up the gameplay features of Batman: Arkham Origins. A wide variety of bad-gadgets and bat-attacks will help Batman put the bat-beating down on his bat-foes, minus the text-bubbles of the Adam West days. The combo attack system mixed with the directional control of the analog stick allows very solid combat mechanics in which a player could easily win most fights by simply pressing attack (and parry when prompted), but the addition of special enemies wielding a variety of weapons adds a fair amount of spice to the game. The only downside is that setting down Batman: Arkham Origins for an extended period may prove for a rude awakening upon returning to the game and realizing the controls seem foreign, partly due to the variety of moves and gadgets in Batman’s arsenal. Combat and gadgetry aside, the new detective mode for crime scenes (which allows the player to collect evidence and watch a simulated version of the crime as it was committed) adds a lot of fun and makes the crime scene moments of the game actually quite a lot of fun to play. Sneaking portions also move smoothly, and even if not entirely experienced in the stealth genre (or a fan of it) Batman: Arkham Origins does a great job of mixing stealth with action. The interface proves itself more help than hurt, and is split up well to boot (which helps considering how much there is to do within Gotham City) making Batman Arkham Origins a very smooth ride for the caped crusader as he soars above Gotham City.
Gotham City has never looked brighter, despite being overall an incredibly dreary city to begin with. Textures are smooth and the fully fleshed out city is any Batman fan’s wet-dream. While an older Gotham (aka Blackgate is still the main prison) it still provides a wonderful digitalized verison of the Bat’s stomping ground. The only major complaint to be found on the graphics end of Batman: Arkham Origins is in detective vision, as often times determining levels (aka what floor a bad guy is on) can be a bit problematic, and while switching detective vision on and off proves no real obstacle, it is enough of an annoyance that it deserves mention. As far as sound, not much to say regarding the overall sounds, everything fits perfectly. The music is great for when the player finds themselves soaring over the city as it provides an ominous backdrop to the radio chatter of Gotham’s criminal underbelly. Then faster music scores provide a nice addition to the adrenaline filled fights of the game. What really needs to be brought up is the voice acting of Batman: Arkham Origins, which without a doubt, didn’t disappoint. Should the player be afraid of the loss of the Conroy/Hamill duo, fear not, for their replacements prove to be great ones. While ultimately it comes off as their impressions of their formers, their acting skills shine through none-the-less and the other cast (all the way from Alfred Pennyworth to Killer Croc) definitely help support this amazing group of talented voice actors.
Finally the player has mastered Gotham, they’ve solved Enigma’s tricky challenges and bested The Joker while foiling another big “punch-line”, and thus the player seeks a real challenge, in other players. Batman: Arkham Origins knows its combat system, and that shines through in this gang versus gang versus dynamic duo set up. Long story short, Bane and The Joker (along with their respective gang members) are up to know good and participating in turf war after turf war, meanwhile Batman & Robin attempt to subdue the two gangs enough to scare both off for good. Players take control of the dynamic duo as well as the various gang members (with a chance during the match to become the big bosses Bane & The Joker themselves) and must go head to head with the other two teams in the match. The level of balance throughout in the game’s multiplayer is just about perfect as all teams have their varying sets of abilities and have ways of easily dominating and being dominated by the other members. This leaves only one fatal flaw of multiplayer, getting a game started. Games require that all slots be filled, two for the dynamic duo, and three per each gang, anything less and the game will not start. There is no sort of “punishment” system in place for players who enter and leave a lobby, which can provide a lot of frustration for the non-peak gameplay hours of the day. While understandable to need a full set of teams (as one team getting shafted by having less players would be considerably less fun) it often leads to long wait periods just to start up a game. This coupled with a seeming inability to easily team up with friends (as what team the player is on is entirely randomized) almost makes it pointless to try to party up as the player rarely finds themselves fighting alongside friends.
Batman: Arkham Origins delivers. Despite all the worry and wonder, let it be known that this is a great game. The plot and gameplay combine to make a fun and rich experience that allow the player to continue the Arkham series and feel the thrill of being the caped crusader. New villains add a wonderful rogue’s gallery to the series and allow for new and exciting moments with varied fights that will definitely keep the player on their toes. A couple graphical errors aside and some major frustration to potentially be found in multiplayer, Batman: Arkham Origins is a must buy for any fan of Batman, or the series in general. If new to the series or even Batman (if that’s even possible) this is a great place to start and does its job of being a perfect origin set-up. Now dawn the cape and cowl, keep your eyes watchful, and remember, crime never sleeps.
tags: batman , batman arkham origins , review , warner brothers , xbox 360