Batman: Arkham Origins is an action-adventure game developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal. It was published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii U and released worldwide on October 25, 2013. It is the third game in the Arkham series, but is a prequel to the first two and was developed by a different studio.
I just recently finished the first two games in the series and had a hell of a lot of fun playing them, so I was excited to see how a new creative team would handle the next game in the series. Though I must admit I was skeptical because of how masterfully done Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were.
The title Arkham Origins is not a joke by any means, as it actually is the Origin story of Batman and his entrance into the crime-fighting life in Gotham City. It is set about five years prior to the first game in the series, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Bruce Wayne is still wet behind the ears and is learning the ropes of what it takes to become the Dark Knight and often quarrels with his trusty butler, Alfred. At the beginning of the story he has not met Commissioner Gordon or his daughter, and has never even heard to the Joker. But it doesn’t take long for Batman to get tangled up in one giant mess of a battle between the local police department and the crazed supervillains that populate Gotham City. The premise of the story is that Black Mask has put a bounty on Batman and this brings eight supervillain assassins to Gotham City to kill him. After a few run-ins with these assassins, you find out that there is a whole lot more going on than what you had originally thought. So naturally, being Batman, you have to get to the bottom of it by stopping every crime and solving every mystery that gets in your way.
If you have played either of the previous Arkham games, then you won’t be surprised by anything this story has to offer. That being said, it was still a great superhero origin story. I found it fascinating to get to meet Commissioner Gordon for the first time, to hear officers and enemies alike talking about the “bat man” that may or may not be fake, and to see Batman’s reaction to learning about the Joker and then finally running into him for the first time. For those of you who have not played the series yet, this is a great starting point since it is the origin story.
The graphics in Arkham Origins were not exactly the same as the previous two games but were just as good. There were little changes in the graphics that are hard to explain but easy to tell if you play it. Part of this can be explained by the fact that it was developed by a different studio, even though they used the same assets. Other than the general graphics differences, there were significant changes made to the character design of Bruce Wayne, Batman’s suit, and the Joker. This might go unnoticed to someone who has not played the previous games recently, but having just played the entire trilogy, I noticed right away. Bruce’s is most likely the result of him being younger. The bat suit is different probably because it is still a prototype. The Joker looks extremely different, though I am not sure why they decided to change his appearance so much. None of these new character models were bad by any means, but they were different.
Other changes worth noting are some of the voice actors. The original Batman and Joker voice actors are gone, but they were able to find worthy replacements. I really liked Roger Craig Smith as Batman and Troy Baker as the Joker. They were able to really pull it off spectacularly even though the previous actors left big shoes to fill.
Gotham City in this game is just about the same size as the open world in Arkham City. It may be a little bigger because the city is split up into two halves, but there’s no way to really tell. Needless to say, it is a huge map with lots of famous Batman landmarks to see, but this comes at a price. Just like in Arkham City, Arkham Origins on the PS3 had many screen tearing and texture issues for me. Early on they were not a problem, but about halfway through the game they really started to break the experience. Sometimes it would take five to ten seconds to load up screens around me. Sometimes the game would just completely freeze until things had time to load around me. When you get to the end of a console life cycle, you expect these sorts of issues to be almost nonexistent; for Arkham Origins this was not the case at all.
Arkham Origins is identical to the previous games for the most part when it comes to gameplay mechanics. I am literally copying and pasting this from my Arkham City review. It is a third person open world action-adventure video game. Combat is accomplished using one button to attack, one button to counter, and a few buttons to use gadgets. Batman has a few gadgets to begin the game but ends up with several that are very helpful in different situations. This combat system sounds quite simple when in fact it can be very deep if you want it to be. A lot of it revolves around trying to keep combos going on large groups of enemies by stringing together a series of attacks and counters. It is easy to learn the basics of combat and can be quite fun most of the time. Arkham Origins improved the combo battle system in my opinion. Fights felt much more fluid which made them more fun.
One of my biggest problems with Origins is that they changed the button mapping for the gadgets. Again, this wouldn’t be a problem for those of you who haven’t played the previous two games in a few years. But for me it was a huge problem because I have spent the last week with one set of button mapping and then they changed it all.
A cool addition they made to Arkham Origins is the new crime scene investigation ability. In the previous games you could only scan a crime scene to find some evidence left behind. Now when you scan a crime scene, you are able to really analyze the situation by turning back time to kind of see what actually happened. You aren’t actually turning back time, but you are essentially seeing what happened. It is an awesome mechanic and made examining crime scenes way more fun.
Arkham Origins also sees the return of side missions. They can be done at any time and are all related to a different supervillain in the Batman universe. It is really fun to explore these side missions because Batman has never met many of these villains yet, so you get to see the first time. These side missions add another reason for you to explore the city to its fullest.
The Verdict: 8.5 out of 10
Batman: Arkham Origins is another great addition to the Arkham series. It is not a perfect game by any means as it has many technical issues, especially on the PS3 where I played it. Texture issues aside, the fact that it has an awesome storyline and gives you so many cool moments because it is an origin story really helps this game succeed. And on top of that the combat system really seemed improved and much more fluid than its predecessors. I had my doubts about whether or not a new studio could handle this already great franchise. All of those doubts were quickly shed away whenever I found myself lost in gameplay for several hours at a time. If you haven’t played this series yet, you could easily start with Origins and play it chronologically. But if you want to play it in order of improving gameplay mechanics, start from the first game and move forward. Either way, this is definitely a game you don’t want to miss.