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Batman: Arkham Origins Review

by Diogo Miguel November 12, 2013

It’s Christmas time and Batman got himself in trouble yet again. Seems that superheroes don’t have a day off as the Dark Knight faces off against yet more villains in Warner Bros Games Montreal’s prequel Batman: Arkham Origins.

Anyone who played the previous two Batman Arkham entries will no doubt find Origins very familiar. The high tech gadgets that made the series so popular are still there. The combat feels more or less the same as before.

Yet there are some modifications that make it worth the admission price to explore everything Origins has to offer. The merry group of assassins that is tracking down Batman for money and glory will often leave behind new gadgets for Batman – after he has beaten them unconscious and left them for the police to find.

One of the new toys that comes to mind is one that makes it possible to manipulate electric currents. This means that Batman can now beat up enemies more easily by activating this power. Fortunately there is a battery meter that is filled up as Batman fights the bad guys.

Most gadgets that fans of the series should be familiar with are unlocked from the start. Perhaps a wise decision given that it doesn’t feel as if it’s only possible to start exploring towards the end of the story. There is also the fact that a few areas only become accessible after obtaining some of the new gadgets.

Batman himself is a lot more energetic when it comes to combat. This younger Batman moves faster and is not even worried about threatening to break a few bones to get information out of criminals. A far cry from the wiser and older Batman in previous entries. It certainly makes for a surprisingly interesting look at the masked superhero.

Navigating some areas of Gotham City are a bit of a pain since Batman isn’t able to grapple to every
building. Fortunately, there are fast travel locations in each area, but it’s necessary to shut down a signal in each area to enable use of this and some other features.

There are the usual areas set inside certain locations that make it far more interesting to explore the world of Origins. It’s here where Batman gets to use his gadgets to get through the various obstacles in the way of completing the current objective. As usual, there are also upgrades to unlock, after levelling up, that improve various abilities.

On some rare occasions it may feel as if the instructions given are vague and as a result means spending some time figuring out what it’s required to get through a particular obstacle. Some ideas introduced, such as having to shut down a a signal disruptor for the gadget Batman uses to unlock doors, feel more of a hindrance than a proper challenge.

Outside of story focused missions there are the typical side activities to keep players amused along the way. These mainly consist of catching some of Gotham’s most wanted criminals – such as Penguin and the Mad Hatter. Catching each criminal on the most wanted list involves completing unusual objectives that make for an enjoyable experience.

Another aspect of the side missions are the superb case file reports. These consist of Batman investigating crime scenes and finding out who the murderer was. Initially, they are part of the main story but then become optional objectives. Imagine if this is what Batman gets up to on a regular day. It’s definitely worth going through each of them as it’s quite satisfying to investigate and solve each case.

There are also the typical collectibles like the ones that Enigma(Riddler?) has hidden all over the city. Although it doesn’t feel as essential to collect everything, it’s still nice to see that the option to do so is still there. The map and menu systems don’t make it particularly easy to figure out what is left to get. It’s more satisfying to do the side missions and see how their individual stories pan out.

The story itself is slow at first but starts to pick up once getting through the initial plot idea of hiring assassins to kill Batman. It’s best to leave some of the better plot twists a secret for anyone eager to experience Origins, but it gets far more sinister towards the end. However, it’s a shame that some of the fights with the assassins feel unnecessary. Most of these are nothing more than quick fights and only a few exceptions stand out.

It’s a shame as it makes for some rather dull boss fights where it’s only necessary to repeat the same moves until the boss is defeated. In contrast, the few exceptions make for some exciting fights that not only last longer but feel like a proper challenge – since it requires coming up with strategies to find any weaknesses..

Visually, Origins is on par with what was seen in the previous two entries. The snow storm keeping Gotham City on a lock-down makes for a fantastic excuse for all the criminals to come out and play with Batman. There’s also plenty of unusual sights when entering areas controlled by criminal master minds. Fans will also like the opportunity to explore some of Gotham’s iconic buildings like the police department.

It’s also possible to participate in the various challenge maps available. There are various options to choose from such as the many campaign maps where players can show their combat skills. Completing the story on Normal difficulty also unlocks a tougher New Game Plus mode(keep upgrades) – which then also unlocks another mode. If anything, Origins has plenty of content to keep players occupied for a long time.

Origins also comes with a multiplayer mode that lets players experience the life of a criminal(or superhero). It consists of matches where players take on the role of a superhero or a villain. Both Bane and Joker’s thugs are going up against each other – whilst Batman and Robin attempt to defeat them all. It’s quite difficult to know what is going on during a match. The chaos of having three powerful groups go up against each other doesn’t work entirely.

It’s definitely a challenge to complete the objectives(capture certain areas) whilst trying to avoid being defeated by the superheroes or the rival gang. It’s a good effort and there is some fun to get out of it – such as being able to control a rather overpowered Joker or Bane for a brief amount of time. There’s even content to unlock after levelling up upon playing through more matches. But unfortunately it doesn’t feel like it’s necessary to truly get into the multiplayer.

Fans will no doubt enjoy the various nods at Batman Arkham’s future story lines. But others will struggle to feel impressed after experiencing the previous two entries. Batman: Arkham Origins is not the Dark Knight on his best night, but still provides some entertaining moments.

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