Warner Bros. released their eagerly anticipated prequel to the previous Batman games in Batman Arkham Origins which is available now on consoles and PC platforms. With a new in-house development team at the helm, and legions of fans to cater to, how well does the finished product perform, and does the game follow in the footsteps of the previous outings without messing things up? Take a look at our Batman Arkham Origins video review for the full picture.
Batman Arkham Origins review text version:
Today we’re heading back to the lofty heights of Gotham in Warner Bros. latest Batman release Batman Arkham Origins which tells the story of Bruce Wayne in his early batman years – before the previous games – and how the man wrestles with his motives and identity. It’s Christmas eve, and there is a bounty on Batman’s head, leaving the caped crusader in the throws of hunting down master criminals such as Black Mask, whilst fending off a number of c-list assassins and the entire city of thugs and cops who all desire to claim the bounty for themselves. It makes an interesting predicament for Batman, but despite being less capable mentally, this is Batman we’re talking about here and therefore, whatever the game proposes, is never too challenging for the most determined detective of them all. What’s perhaps the best part of the story is how it sets the tone for the character, and the villains he apprehends in the other games. Players come up against classics such as Bane and The Joker, and it makes excellent viewing to see how the criminal and master detective form their well documented tempestuous and almost symbiotic relationship.
Story aside, Batman Arkham Origins looks and feels just like its predecessor, although there are a number of small touches added to the core game which make the experience, a bit more refined. The open world play area has been expanded into two main area, bridged by a solitary route, although there’s a handy fast travel feature on offer which takes away some of the scale but speeds things up. Whilst Batman can zip and glide through the air, covering the vast city at speed isn’t his forte.
Players are presented with pretty much the same sort of activities on offer from the previous games in that there are a number of side objectives to investigate at leisure and a resurgence of puzzles to solve. The main story itself is fairly tame, and has Batman tackle his pursuers at regular intervals to keep the momentum going. Whilst it’s very easy to become distracted, there are moments where the game feels either too empty, or too full. For example, there seems to be enemy encounters on every corner, which keeps things fresh if you’re looking for a fight, but becomes a hindrance if you’re en route somewhere and get engaged in a fight.
What is perhaps the biggest complaint about the game’s design has to be with the ease of which the navigation is accomplished. It’s obvious the game has been made to cater to as wide an audience as possible, but this loses appeal with those who have a bit more investigative prowess or are familiar with the other games. Far too often, a problem will be presented, but the game simply hands the solution on a silver platter, making progression feel somewhat forced.
The game offers its two styles of play whether that be when wandering the snow filled streets and rooftops, or engaged in a specific scenario. The Stealth is just as good as it has been, and remains thrilling and tense remaining undetected, although some of the AI is bit hit and miss and will sometimes spot you with ease, and at others are as blind as a bats – pun intended.
The combat is still as fast and fluid as expected with its simple controls, and throws in some fresh opponents to spice things up, making each encounter a joy to play as you rack up combos and jump from enemy to enemy in a fine display of free flowing acrobatics. There are moments where moves fail to connect properly as the auto lock on goes haywire, but this is a minor gripe and perhaps something that will be updated in the future.
In terms of looks the game sports some fine, dark and moody visuals that aren’t a far cry from the last game, and considering a number of assets have been reused that’s a given. That’s not to say the game is lazy with its visuals as the console version looks fantastic and plays very smoothly, whereas its PC brethren sports the best looks but has been plagued with a number of bugs. Character models are still some of the best looking around, and batman is animated extremely well, as expected. Interestingly, the game opts to drop in cutscenes far too frequently, and this ends up being quite jarring considering the quality is not up to par with the actual game engine.
Audio is very good, with solid performances from the new cast of voice actors used. Batman sounds suitably determined, and gruff to suit his more aggressive portrayal in this game, and Troy Baker as The Joker does an admirable job of sounding as wacky as Mark Hamill of the previous games. Coupled with some excellent secondary performances and a non intrusive orchestral score , and the game can’t really be faulted in the audio department.
Batman Arkham Origins provides a reasonable length story, that’ll eat away the hours, but does feel like it could have gone on for more as it ends fairly abruptly. However, once bested there are loads of side activities to clean up, and a tougher New Game plus as well as the return of the Combat and Predator challenges to compete in. Players can also for the first time, engage in multiplayer where two teams face off capturing objectives whilst trying to avoid one of the hero characters who can attack either team using stealth or gadgets. It’s an interesting distraction using maps from the story, but feels a bit tacked on more than anything, even though it’s a competent and fun offering to rack up more game hours.
Batman Arkham Origins is a worthy game to add to the series, although does feel like the stamp Warner Bros. development studio have left on the game leans on the side of subtlety rather than being overtly obvious. In a way, the game feels like an expansion of Arkham City, and tends not to stray too far from the tried and trusted formula – which can be considered a good or bad thing depending on how you view things. That said, there’s really little to fault here other than the sheer amount of hand holding, and perhaps lack of ambition with the franchise that leaves a somewhat by-the-numbers and over familiar experience. Fans will love the game, although might disagree with some of the villain choices used. Action gamers can once again take to the skies with ease and become the Dark Knight again with fresh things to do, and that’s what really counts.
Score 8.5/10 – Review by Robert Cram