Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
Developer: Warner Brothers Interactive
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
It seems that it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is Batman doesn’t get a break, even on a night where you think the criminals of Gotham City would be preparing to give each other a present. However, it seems that no matter what a hero’s job is never done with the entire criminal underworld of Gotham City out to cause mischief. Christmas Eve has never seemed so dreary and clearly in Gotham City Christmas is not a pleasant affair (unless you are a criminal after weapons), and as we see no people rushing around to collect last minute presents, and no children ensuring Santa knows what they want for Christmas, it seems that it has to be a long night for Batman to clean the streets particularly when another enemy wants him gone.
Batman would probably love to have the night off and relax, but if he doesn’t go out and help, people are probably in big trouble, as is the case when criminal mastermind Black Mask, who pretty much runs Gotham City, breaks into Blackgate Prison with the goal to take out Police Commissioner Gillian Lobe.
As Batman races to save the life of the police commissioner he unravels an even deeper problem lurking about on this one night. As it turns out Black Mask has put a bounty on Batman’s head, and has called in eight assassins to do the job, for the extent of Christmas Eve night Batman must be on edge constantly avoiding danger while also seeking it out to avoid others getting hurt.
I was right into this premise, it was exciting and it shows Batman as a not so strong character. Instead of dealing fear as Batman does, he is the one in fear and is in constant danger. It is a shame, however, that this premise while really good is really short lived. Quickly my thoughts were removed from this premise as Batman is forced to deal with many iconic villains that litter the plot line. Classic enemies such as Penguin, the Riddler and many other enemies fill the plotline with issues you have to resolve, the story never really focuses until about halfway through the main game when we see a familiar sinister smile creep over our screens and suddenly captivating us to more intently follow the story, as this instantly becomes Joker’s story. Arkham Origins is a complete return to before the Dark Knight was the being the thing that bestowed terror into his prey. Arkham Origins is a story that literally takes Batman back to when he was just starting out, as we deal with a not as good and not as resourceful Batman. This was also the perfect opportunity to start to understand the relationship between Batman and the Joker, as we see the early moments where these two characters come face to face and it is nice to see.
As this is a much younger Batman, Warner Bros has done something really clever, namely a change in voice actors to portray these characters. The usual voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, has been replaced with Roger Craig Smith, who does a good interpretation of Conroy’s Batman, it was very rare I actually noted that this was a different person. Likewise Troy Baker who voices Joker has done a fantastic job at capturing the sheer insanity of the Joker, and has taken over wonderfully for Mark Hamill.
The basic story of Batman Arkham Origins only lasts about 8 hours so it is relatively short, but I don’t believe it matters as the story is really enjoyable. I know though that this will be a problem for many, but this is why I like all the side activities around Gotham, from the work of stopping Enigma and his evil extortion network, to stopping the Mad Hatter, which allows you to go through a messed up world stylised like Wonderland, which is incredible to go through for many reasons, and then there are still many other villains. Gotham is so full of things to do that steering off the main path is never a bad thing, and completing these side objectives is often very fun. Story and characters aside, the basic actions of the game are pretty familiar to anyone who has played Arkham Asylum or even Arkham City. The combat is very much physical based relying around jumping between enemies to knock them down and deliver damage, as well as relying upon a pretty basic counter system that can often get you through many tough scrapes in both standard fights and even boss battles which often heavily rely on counter attacks to keep you alive. Even with how familiar this is it is never a bad thing as this how Batman fights and is true to form, what is better though is using the more traditional stealth mechanics of Batman to scope out your enemies without them even knowing where you are, then, striking them individually in a coordinated attack which is also often fun.
Batman’s reliance on gadgets is still very much active here, he has his usual gadgets that get him by such as his smoke pellets and his Batarangs, but he still adds things to his army of gadgets that become available as the game continues. One of these items is the shock gloves which act in a similar manner to BAT mode in Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, the shock gloves for a temporary time deal a good amount of damage to enemies which Batman faces. They actually feel more like a cheating system and because it seemed to ruin my fun because of their power, I only really used this item while in boss battles. The other new item available is the Glue Grenade, which replaces the freeze grenade. The glue grenade makes no sense in its concept, at one point during Batman’s adventure he says “I need to make a glue raft” which makes no sense in the slightest.
Arkham Origins also takes a more detective based spin then the previous Batman games, often Batman will go to crime scenes and try to discover who the culprit is. These are great fun and keep you thinking in parts as well as really making you feel like Batman in many forms, the way Batman analyses every detail that you find in order to get to the right conclusion is well done and is enjoyable to do multiple times over. The effects in these sections are incredible as you see the entire crime get reconstructed to get all the details. Getting around has been drastically improved, Gotham in a sense is a lot smaller then Arkham City mainly because it is a whole lot easier to navigate. However even with this being the case one of the major issues in Gotham is that it is separated into two sections and is connected by the Gotham Pioneer Bridge which is long and tedious to cross, this has been dealt with by the use of fast travel points located in each part of Gotham. The entire Gotham is not available by fast travel right away but as you gain more abilities you can unlock more fast travel points.
Batman Arkham Origins is a fantastic inclusion in the Arkham series. The game is fun and full of new ideas, if you enjoyed any of the previous Batman games you will most likely enjoy this as this is as good as Arkham City, or at least I think it is. The best thing about this is that it is an Origin to the entire Batman tale and it does well at telling this story, and once Joker’s familiar grin creeps across the screen things just get even better.