GAME NAME: Batman: Arkham Origins
DEVELOPER(S): WB Montreal
PLATFORM(S): PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U
GENRE(S): Action adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): 25 October 2013
It’s no surprise the Stevivor offices were all abuzz last week with the launch of Batman: Arkham Origins. After all, Leo’s got a tattoo of the caped crusader that takes up one entire side of his body. Long story short, we’re hardcore fans. Because of that, we’re the hardest Batman fans to impress. Thankfully, WB Montreal has created a game that lives up to the legacy forged by Rocksteady’s previous two Arkham games.
Much like WB Montreal is a brash up-and-comer, so too is the Batman of Arkham Origins. Headstrong and largely unchallenged, Batman has a lot to learn before he becomes the hero we’ve seen in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Bruce Wayne is rough around the edges, and WB Montreal takes advantage of this to present a dark origin story that for once doesn’t revolve around that one fateful evening in the Wayne family’s life. You can only see Thomas and Martha get gunned down so many times, eh?
Oh, and if you can bear to be patient, just sit on the game’s title screen for a bit. Who knew that a Batman theme plus Christmas music equals amazing?
Black Mask is (kind of) the main protagonist in Arkham Origins, and catches the attention of eight assassins – though we use that term loosely – who he’ll pay handsomely for the Bat’s head. Enter a cast of Batman villains large and small, with big-hitters Bane, Firefly and a reimagined Copperhead basically taking centre stage. As it’s a prequel, Joker’s death isn’t so much a thing, so he’s of course running around Gotham City causing as much havoc as humanly possible.
Oddly, some of the assassins who are gunning after Batman aren’t part of the game’s main storyline, meaning you’ll have to delve into side-missions to get the full account of the evening’s events. As someone who lives and breathes Batman, I had no problem hunting down my hunters, but you’d really expect the focal point of the game… well, to be the focal point of the game. Other criminals round out a list of Gotham’s Most Wanted, and the optional nature of those quests makes perfect sense. Batman’ll get around to them when he’s done taking the mark off his head, yo.
Gotham itself is simply huge in scale, and Batman’s tools and tricks from the open-world Arkham City carry over into Origins. Even better, fast-travel becomes a valuable tool for when you get sick of grappling about. It doesn’t come for free, though; you’ll have to unscramble communications towers much like you synchronise viewpoints in the Assassin’s Creed series to be able to use the fast-travel Batplane. The Bat’s also got some new (old?) toys up his sleeve for use in combat, including a concussive detonator, electronics disruptor, a glue bomb and shock gloves (which you may or not not have seen in Batman: Arkham City on Wii U, a game that WB Montreal was also responsible for).
New enemies mean that you’ll really have to rely on your gadgets and switch up your fighting style to stay alive, which is great. It also captures the young Batman’s brutality and lack of fitness, which works very well with the game’s narrative. The only problem with combat is that WB Montreal tends to get lazy near the latter half of the game and sets you up against waves and waves of enemies in a single encounter. It gets a bit tedious.
Detective mode gets an upgrade this time around as well with Case File mode. In it, you’re supposed to take a more active role in solving strange crimes. Truthfully, it all falls flat; you’re basically clicking on the obvious, and Batman feels the need to narrate everything ad nauseam. It’s far too drawn out and quickly becomes super-duper boring, unfortunately.
Multiplayer is a shoe-horned feature set in a very single-player game. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. Personally, I’d rather play as Batman or Robin every single time, rather than a token thug. The same can be said for Joker and Bane, who occasionally make appearances themselves. It’s an unnecessary add-on to a game that’s already amazing as it is. I predict it’ll die in a month’s time, tops.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins is a must-have for Batman fans. It’s true to the character and best of all lets you operate in a time in Batman’s life where he’s not the smartest, buffest bad-ass there is. Every hero needs testing to rise to their true potential, and WB Montreal has not only let that happen for gamers who want to step into Batman’s shoes, but for their own studio in real life. If Rocksteady has backed away from the Batman: Arkham franchise for some reason, I’ve no problem with WB Montreal completely taking up the mantle. That said, let’s have a continuation of Batman: Arkham City’s storyline in the next Arkham title, please and thanks.