In The ShadowsMuch like the Caped Crusader himself Batman Arkham Origins suddenly surprises you. In the first hour or three that I spent gallivanting around Gotham City I couldn’t help but feel unimpressed with what was going on, or more accurately, what wasn’t going on. Arkham Origins initially felt more like DLC tied to the previous game than a new stand alone title. The city felt exactly the same albeit a bit bigger, as did the combat, as did controlling Bats himself as you moved around the map. Aside from a few new gadgets and some upgrades to old ones (which makes little sense given that this game is a prequel) it all felt pretty much the same.
As someone who isn’t an obsessive Batman fan but is instead an average appreciator of him and his universe, fan service alone wasn’t enough to get me instantly excited about this title. And let me tell you fan service has certainly been the focus here. Avid comic readers and movie watchers will be more than satisfied with the characters making appearances and the way in which they are portrayed. But this of course is expected given the massive precedent set by Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Anything less would have been a disaster and an insult to the fans.
But as mentioned above, this regular gamer wasn’t blown away. Everything was as expected. That is until the story kicked in. If you’ve read any/many of my reviews in the past you’ll know that a lot of my focus when playing a game goes towards the quality of the story and how it affects me. The third title in the Batman series has raised the bar significantly and once it really gets going you’ll find yourself itching to get to the end of each mission. Not only is this game about taking down super villains one by one but there’s a great focus on the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred which injects a degree of emotion into what I first expected would be just another story about stopping the baddies as was the case in the previous two titles.
“as mentioned above, this regular gamer wasn’t blown away. Everything was as expected.”
Playability is however bringing very little to the table that we haven’t already seen before. The combat system is almost exactly as it was aside from a few new enemy types which offer an additional challenge and some subtle changes to the counter attack animations give smoother transitions from one enemy to another.
Predator rooms are also pretty much the same. Thugs are stupid and very easy to sneak up on for a stealth take down and while most predator rooms feature air ducts and breakable walls, allowing you to mix up your tactics, you won’t find any reason to use them as it seems once again wall mounted gargoyles are a favourite feature for many of Gotham’s interior designers and using these vantage points are the most obvious and the easiest way to get through these rooms.
Boss battles unfortunately all feel a bit samey as well. Not when comparing each boss to each other but instead when compared to previous games. Some require clever use of counters, others need the use of stuns and beat downs etc. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
A battle against Deathstroke early on in the piece felt a little too tough at first and for any gamers that haven’t played an Arkham title before this could have been near on impossible as by that point there hadn’t been a great deal of training on how to successfully pull of some quality combos. To make matters more frustrating at one point Deathstroke just suddenly died and not because I won the fight. I hadn’t even knocked out half of his health bar when he just suddenly dropped like a sack of crap and the game wouldn’t let me go any further. My only option was to reload the checkpoint and start over.
Thankfully this is the one and only bug/glitch that I have come across though. When loading checkpoints some textures load in low res first and it can take a little while for their high res versions to pop up and moving through the various areas of the city sometimes causes the game to stop for a moment while the next area is loaded into ram.
Some might say when something aint broke then don’t fix it. And I agree to some extent but Arkham Origins felt a lot like DLC rather than a new stand alone game. It looks, feels and sounds almost exactly the same as its predecessor and the lack of improvements made the overall experience pretty underwhelming. This is not to say it’s not a good game. It’s just not all that special.
Batman Arkham Origins plays it safe by providing players with a familiar experience as before - it does nothing more to stand out over Arkham City. Don't expect any leaps.