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Nov 04, 2013

Batman: Arkham Origins Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $49.99
We Recommend: $39.99
  • Developer: WB Games Montreal , Splash Damage
  • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Released: Oct 24, 2013
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U
  • Reviewed: Windows

The third game in the Arkham trilogy has arrived, and the events actually take place two years into the career of Batman after Bruce Wayne returned from his self-imposed exile. Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman, is young, naive, and learning about himself while dealing with pent up frustration, anger, grief, and loss. Arkham Origins sets the stage for what’s to come while introducing interesting characters, but with stale gameplay.

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Crime is on the rise in Gotham City, and Black Mask has put a bounty on Batman’s head, $50 million dollars to be exact. Ten assassins assemble to take on the bounty and dispatch themselves to draw The Bat out for the kill. Batman being Batman, deploys himself into Gotham City and will not return home until everyone has been captured. But he must do this alone, as the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) are all on the take, except for the incomparable Jim Gordon, a young Captain on the GCPD who does not appreciate the vigilante’s behavior.

If you’ve played Rocksteady’s last game, Batman: Arkham City, you’ll be right at home with Batman: Arkham Origins. This is both a bad and a good thing. The bad part is you’ll feel a sense of déjà vu in the location, the thugs you come across, random crimes, hidden objects to find, and overall combat. The good part, is Batman is as good as ever and is a delight to control once again. You’ll be grapneling to rooftops, gliding across Gotham City, pummeling foes into the ground, stalking them gargoyles, and the occasional backtracking like a Metroidvania.

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Upgrades are essentially the same as they were in prior games, once you’ve earned enough XP from combat or completing objectives, you’ll be able to spend them on armor upgrades, gadget upgrades, or auxiliary upgrades, assuming you’ve done enough to unlock the prerequisite. While not a huge deal, similar gadgets appear in Origins, such as the glue grenade in place of the ice grenade – it’s interesting how some of these devices never appear in Arkham Asylum or Arkham City.

About midway through, you’ll acquire Electrocutioner’s gloves in Megaman fashion, which eases combat considerably. It also makes the shock gloves open new doors for traversal finding secrets and is the key for progressing the main story. If you played Wii U title, Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, the B.A.T. system it is similar to how the shock gloves work here, over time you charge up the gloves and then for a limited time, can deal extra damage to foes and get new special moves. You’ll deal with shielded, armored, and knived enemies much easier once charged and activated for use against enemies.

Changes come in the form in which detective mode is used to solve crimes. This is more of a CSI-based type of where you can’t fail, but uses more deductive reasoning as Batman would to solve a crime. You’ll scan a room for clues, and have to rewind and fast forward a tape to find things that were missed by the GCPD’s investigation. These are story events that can’t be missed, but provide nice downtime between the combat and predator sections.

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The city is devoid of civilian life, as it is Christmas Eve, and there’s a winter storm hitting. Giving no reason for civilians to be out, but all the reasons for villains to be out, taking over the city all at once. Half of the Arkham Origins Gotham City represents the map seen and played in Arkham City. So you will be retreading some of the same ground.

Batman can now return to the Batcave, either at-will or for story purposes, but is able to converse with Alfred and explore, change costumes (a post-game option), or take on combat challenges from within the Batcave itself.

Over the course of the game, you’ll see where the Origins name comes into play, as you’ll learn of character’s humble beginnings: What a toll the venom that Bane uses takes on him, how the Joker becomes infatuated with Batman, and how Batman ensures how he’ll never take a life – and how doing so will haunt him even more. There are stark similarities between the struggles going on here as seen in The Dark Knight movie series. Inspiration is even drawn from the bat-suit design as well.

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Challenge Mode returns, just as it’s been. You can choose to with Ranked which is the standard way of playing, Campaign where you can use modifiers, Custom which are the same maps but with more modifiers and tons of combinations, and Combat Training to further gain an understanding of how to use the Bat in all scenarios. Doing any of these challenges nets you XP to further your Bat-career.

Multiplayer is introduced for the first time and couldn’t feel more out of place. There’s a 3v3v2 of the Joker Gang vs the Bane Gang, then Batman and Robin (who doesn’t appear in the game elsewhere) who try to interfere. It plays like a third-person shooter, which at no point in the main game do you get to do.

The gangs can shoot at each other and kill one another while capturing outposts, where Batman and Robin merely skulk in the shadows and are only able to knock out opponents from either side. Their presence is not required and are merely an annoyance. Playing as either Batman or Robin does tend to be fun, but you’re just as fragile to gunfire as in the singleplayer.

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Graphically, the game is gorgeous. While consoles run at 30fps, the PC version absolutely soars above 60fps. There’s even an ability to turn advanced PC features like Ambient Occlusion, Dynamic Shadows, Tesselation, DX11 enhancements, and PhysX (NVIDIA cards only) that has gorgeous effects of glowing embers from fires, and a realistically flowing cape as Batman stands in the wind.

My PC Specs:
– Intel Core i7 3770k @ 3.9GHz (Turbo)

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Arkham Origin’s musical score is fantastic, organs and church bells accompanied by sweeping orchestrals evoke Danny Elfman’s movie score from 1989, Batman. Even the inclusion of some Christmas classics are placed in a subtle way into the score, which really nails the Christmas Eve feel.

Voicework by Roger Craig Smith as Bruce Wayne / Batman gives a younger, less gruff sound to the dark knight. And Troy Baker’s version of The Joker imitates Mark Hamill’s Joker, while also sounding youthful and less worn, cementing that both characters fit in this prequel world. Other characters make an appearance lack certain things that we know them with later. For instance, The Penguin lacks his eyepiece and The Riddler is simply known as Enigma. Little details do well. Ambient dialogue throughout the city is better, where every criminal doesn’t sound like a city full of Nolan Norths.

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There’s a lot of familiarity when playing Arkham Origins, especially coming from off the last game just two years ago, and not many improvements or significant changes were made. But what you’ll find is a competent game with strong fighting mechanics, a forgettable and out of place multiplayer mode, with a great story to be told that sets up for Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. It’s just a shame Warner Brothers Montreal couldn’t create a Gotham City that steps out of Rocksteady’s bat-shadow.

A voucher for the full game was provided by Green Man Gaming for review purposes.