Batman Arkham Origins Review – Silent Dark Knight


By Darryn Bonthuys on Monday, October 28, 2013
"Treading on ground that has been covered before"

Arkham (10)

Whether you preferred the tense atmosphere of Arkham Asylum or the big-budget antics of Arkham City, one cannot deny that both games were in fact excellent. Arkham Origins on the other hand, brings very little to the table that hasn’t been seen already in those first two entries of the franchise.

That’s all fine and dandy if you’re looking for more Batman action that you’re familiar with, but a sequel or prequel is meant to still allow for part of the experience to be fresh. Instead, players are treading over familiar ground once again, with a large portion of Gotham City being a re-skinned Arkham City, albeit with an even colder winter motif.

Arkham (5)

The biggest new additions to the city come in the form of some new boroughs and interior levels, with players going inside the Gotham City Police Department, Blackgate prison and the infamous Bat-cave

Thanks to a curfew put in place, the citizens of Gotham are snug at home, leaving various gangs and corrupt police officers out to roam the streets, all wanting to grab themselves a piece of that $50 million bounty on the head of the Batman. That means that anyone you happen to see is just begging for some fist-based justice to be dished on their candy-asses.

Arkham (1)

As an Arkham game, Origins still keeps that tried and tested combat system intact. It’s all about controlling your battlefield, and nobody does that better than the Batman. A newcomer to the franchise can still kick all manner of asses with enough practice, while seasoned veterans will be bouncing around an arena, punching their way to victory and breaking as many bones as possible.

Arkham (6)

The system has not been changed one iota, and you’ll find that many of your combos still have the same results when applied, with freeflow exchanges of hits and badassery netting the appropriate amount of experience points as a reward. It’s just a pity that the camera for those fight scenes can still be problematic, as engaging in combat in a tight corner can be an exasperating performance.

Likewise with the predator mode. Where Batman swaps street fights for levels where he stalks gun-toting criminals, the status quo has remained intact. Players can still perch on gargoyles, hide in vents or lie in wait behind a wall, ambushing criminals and raising heartbeats in the process. It’s a mode that really does not need to be fixed, and the few additions of slightly smarter criminals with a few new toys that they’ll use to stop you turning them into human piñatas is as satisfying as it ever was.

Detective mode however, has been beefed up in an incremental fashion. Several case files will now have Batman not only examining the scene of the crime, but reconstructing it as well and sifting through a virtual video of events to uncover more clues. It’s a welcome step up from previous games, and it’s a pity that those cases are few and far between as they made me feel like a true dark knight detective.

Arkham (2)

One of the other few new additions that WB Montreal has added, comes in the form of new goons on which to pounce. Gangsters that possess more than some hard knocks training will counter your counters, and will require some swift action to defeat, while bruisers are more common-place and act as punch-sponges for you to attack.

New enemy types don’t add to much to the standard Arkham formula though, and it’s a pity that they weren’t experimented with more in order to shake the gameplay up a little bit more. Likewise with the boss fights; the eight assassins that descend on Gotham to take on the big bad bat should have made for some gripping entertainment.

Arkham (16)

But instead of running a gauntlet of lethal enemies that combine the three best parts of a Batman game (Brains, Brawns and gadgets), players get one or two highlights with the rest of the rogues gallery being squandered in the Most Wanted case files as quick and easy fights.

Out of all those fights though, Deathstroke, Firefly and Bane provide the best distraction. Deathstroke will have players duking it out in a lightning quick test of skills and face buttons, Firefly will require you to dodge quickly and let fly with those batarangs and Bane will test a player to their breaking point. Spot the problem here? That’s only three out of eight prime villains that make the game actually enjoyable.

Arkham (8)

The rest of them though, are essentially treading on ground that has been covered before. The Anarky missions smell like the Victor Zsasz phone call races from Arkham City, Deadshot is once again underutilised in a brief encounter and the Electrocutioner is an even bigger joke in the game than he is in the comics, existing only to help players amp up their arsenal.

The Mad Hatter returns once again, taking players on a psychedelic trip reminiscent of the Arkham Asylum Scarecrow stages, while Edward Nigma minus his Riddler getup once again taunts players to uncover data and get past several of his puzzles that prevent them from quick-traveling around the map. Again, this is ground that has all been covered before.

Arkham (9)

Special mention has to be given to the story of Arkham Origins though. It’s one of the few positives that the game has. It’s a dark tale that is woven here, as the Die Hard tale of Batman stepping out of the shadows to become more than just a vigilante – and it makes for some gripping viewing.

It’s the story of when the Batman first met the Joker, and how the two slowly realized that nothing would ever be the same again. Regular Batman voice Kevin Conroy is absent for this game, replaced by Ezio Auditore himself, Roger Craig Smith. Some folks have given WB Montreal some flak for this casting choice, but once again, I believe that Smith has proven them wrong.

 I loved his Dark Knight, a portrayal that makes me believe that this Batman is a younger, untested man who uses his rage to keep him going. One scene in particular, where Wayne’s butler Alfred attempts to stop him from plunging further into the darkness surrounding Gotham City by berating and labeling him as a spoilt rich child with parent issues, speaks of the fantastic voice work present here.

It’s a spine-tingling moment where Wayne fully embraces his character, and the portrayal by Smith completely sold me on his version. Equal praise also has to be given to Troy Baker, who turns in a phenomenal job as the Joker. He’s as gleefully manic and chaotic as the character that Mark Hamill voiced, and a fantastic replacement.

Arkham (7)

Visually, the game looks fantastic…provided that you’re still stuck in 2011. Don’t let the new coat of paint fool you, this is still the same Arkham engine under the hood powering the latest Batman adventure. But it’s also a flawed engine. Playing on PS3 proved to be one hell of a task, as during my playthrough I uncovered numerous bugs, glitches and faults. I’d punch an enemy so hard, he’d become one with the wall, or my cape would flap over my face as I ran into an invisible wall.

There’ll be randomly spawned enemies, breaking the flow of combat  - or situations where I’d build up one hell of a combat flow earning multiple combos that would be broken up by that one enemy still standing around that would be untouchable. I’d glide over the Pioneer bridge and be hit with a frame rate that stuttered worse than King George VI; and that’s not even counting the times when the game would crash completely. 

Arkham (3)

Arkham Origins is crawling with these bugs, low-resolution textures and various other problems that makes it feel like a rushed product in comparison to the smooth and polished previous Arkham games. It’s a set of problems that were present when developer Warner Bros Montreal ported Arkham City onto the Wii U, and clearly, they’ve learnt very little since then. 

Arkham (15)

And then there’s the multiplayer. Developed by Splash Damage, Invisible Predator is at its best a one night stand of a distraction, and at its worst a clunky experience that feels woefully unbalanced. Players find themselves on one of two teams operating under the Joker and Bane banners. Games are won by killing everyone in sight and claiming as much territory as possible before the timer runs out. There’s a twist in this mode comes in the form of a third team.

Those players get to step into the boots of Batman and Robin, and dole out some justice as two of the eight players are randomly chosen to don a mask. The problem however, lies in the manner in which these characters are controlled.

Arkham (20)

Thugs feel slow and unresponsive, and just trying to aim a gun feels like wading through a river of syrup. Switching to the boy wonder or the caped crusader gives those players some stealthy advantages, but they’re ridiculously susceptible to gunfire and die far too quickly. Add to that the fact that you have to fill a ludicrous amount of bars to call on for some special assistance from your super-criminal boss, and the mode just doesn’t feel right for this type of game.

Still, if you can overlook those flaws and carry on playing, there is a massive amount of content available, to customise and equip your characters with, thanks to in-game unlocks and the option to buy more with real money on the Penguin black market.

Arkham (12)

That is one side of Arkham Origins that has been thankfully kept intact; let it not be said that there isn’t much to do in the game. The story alone will run you an easy dozen hours, while the most wanted case files throw in a batcave of extra quests. Challenge modes mix things up for experienced players, tasking them with playing the game and reaching certain goals as they punch, batarang and stalk their way through various levels, which can even be customised now to a certain degree.

Arkham (13)

Batman: Arkham Origins was reviewed by on the 28th of October , 2013 at 12:30 PM on PlayStation 3

GAMEPLAY
7.5
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That idea rings true for Arkham Origins, where the tried and tested freeflow combat mixes well with the silent predator nature of the dark knight detective. It's just a pity that nothing is really added to it.
DESIGN
6.0
Arkham Origins on PS3 is a mess. There are a ton of bugs that slipped past quality control, and even fast-traveling will create a very likely scenario of the game crashing. More time should have been spent on polishing the game, instead of rushing it out into the market.
VALUE
8.0
If you can overlook the numerous bugs and more stale moments of Arkham Origins, and have no problem with playing more of the same Batman game, then you'll find plenty to do in Gotham City, and beyond with the multiplayer mode on offer.
TOTAL
6.9
Buggy, tired and rushed are just some of the examples why Arkham Origins is the weakest title in the Batman trilogy. This isn't the game that Gotham deserves, nor the one that it needs right now.
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Author:Darryn Bonthuys

Because he's the writer that Lazygamer deserves, but not the one it actually needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can't take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a loud-mouthed journalist, a watchful procrastinator. A dork knight.
  • LAblak22

    That Arkham (9) screenshot is SO Batman Year One. :D

    You know, so many people are hating on this game, but when I eventually get my hands on it, I’m going to dim the lights, put out some new sheets, light some Jasmine scented candles and just spend some quality time with it regardless of its reputation.

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      that’s just so disturbing

      • ToshZA

        I didn’t want to say anything, but yes, yes it is.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        I know, Lilac would be much nicer.

        • Sageville

          True nothing says Batman like Lilac.

    • Anon A Mouse

      Thankfully no mention of any lotion.

      • Admiral Chief Ninja

        O_O

      • Rincethis

        It rubs the lotion in… 0-O

        • Sageville

          Indeed!

    • John’s (JJ’s) Steaming backlog

      That’s like being with a los girl. “I’ll just spend some time with her regardless of her reputation.”

      • Admiral Chief Ninja

        …and the next morning it burns when you pee

        • John’s (JJ’s) Steaming backlog

          Hahaha.

        • Sageville

          Personal stories…. TMI

    • trey

      that’s beautiful, and pretty close to what i did

  • Umar heartless

    Hey looks like I was right, just more of the same done worse. To the Batman fans that bit my head off when I dissed the trailer….er……#suckit

  • Devourer of Small Bunnies

    Welp. That sucks.

  • Admiral Chief Ninja

    Heh “punch-sponges”

  • Gareth L

    GOTY via Steam Summer Sale 2014, here I come. :P

    Thanks for the thorough review, Darryn! :)

    • Admiral Chief Ninja

      Amen, right with you there

      • Ultimo_Cleric N7

        Hear hear!

    • John’s (JJ’s) Steaming backlog

      So it shall be

  • Admiral Chief Ninja

    ..should have played on PC darryl

  • Sageville

    I’m enjoying it, granted, it’s alot of the same assets and gameplay but it’s still very fun to play.

    • SaintsRowNigri

      Question: Would you not have gotten the same enjoyment replaying Arkham City?

      • Sageville

        Nah, it’s got new boss fights and that Detective replay is pretty cool, wish there was more of that. (Plus I got a statue with the collectors edition)

  • Ultimo_Cleric N7

    Dammit! this really sucks to hear. Well, thanks to the Dork Knight for being the reviewer that this game deserves. The fact that Darryn gave an Arkham game this score will tell you that he doesnt score emotionally. (wait that came out wrong……) I will give it a miss until its a bit cheaper

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Sounds a bit disappointing, especially the part about boss battles. Looks as if they just rushed this game out the door.

  • Anon A Mouse

    So being the heretic that never played any of the Batman games. Which one should I get? Is it just fisticuffs with almost a story (God of War), or something completely different?

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      AA & AC are both good, you can’t go wrong with either. The only real difference is AA takes place inside the asylum, whereas AC takes place over a part of the city – so it’s a bit more open world.

      • Admiral Chief Ninja

        …both include FISTS AND FEET OF JUSTICE

    • Uberutang

      AA and then AO.

    • ward09

      The story somewhat continues from one to the next, so star with Asylum and you will want to continue the awesomeness in City.

  • Rock789

    Good review Darryn.

    But now me a sad Panda… :( Was so looking forward to it… Oh well – c’est la vie!

  • Skyblue

    This is one of my fav Batman games of all time. They should have remade this instead of cocking up Origins as it was too soon for a sequel. The turnaround time on these AAA titles due to financial commitments is ruining it for the players. Say what you want about Blizzard, I still get excited for every Starcraft release.

    • ElNicko

      Atleast with Blizzard they really do take their sweet time Polishing a game before it gets released.

      • Skyblue

        Amen brother!

  • Uberutang

    Playing it on PC and so far so good. Better optimised than Arkham City and only one bug so far (cannot climb into a air duct to unlock a radio tower thing).

    FPS is solid 60fps at all times and controls are nice and smooth.

    Story so far is tons better than the previous 2 games.

    • Skyblue

      I found Arkham City to be a poor port even on power hardware.

  • Jakeithus

    I was hoping for more, but cannot complain at all with what I got. I’m 40% of the way through the story so far, and I have to say that part is fantastic. Origins has the best opening of any of the Arkham games so far, and I really like the setting and feel of Batman as a younger, less refined vigilante. The combat is as solid as ever, and the boss fights I’ve seen so far have been some of the best out of all of them.

    The one criticism I do have is that there are a few things that just stick too closely to what you’ve already done in Arkham City, and so it lacks the same sense of surprise and excitement. I kind of expected that, given the new developer and the fact it is clearly more of a “filler” game than something that really pushes the series forward, but I did hope for more in that sense.

    I also expected better use out of the 8 assassins, and was hoping to feel hunted by them more than I have up to this point. It’s been exciting when they do show up, it’s just not as often as I was expecting.

    In any case, I’ve been greatly enjoying it so far.

  • oVg
  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    I have had a week and a half to play the crap out of this game (I started on Hard mode with no counter indicators) and here are my thoughts:

    I don’t agree with the majority of reviews but that’s what they are.

    Here’s why I think this is the best Arkham game:
    1: Its thankfully a lot more challenging than the previous two. I’d say it’s about twice as difficult unless i’m useless lol

    2: The boss battles are absolutely insane

    3: Batman is a lot more brutal in his attacks, like proper Batman abusiveness!

    4: The music is powerful

    5: The story is at least on par with Asylum

    WB Montreal wasn’t out to change the core game in the first place, so I don’t see why that is a problem. They made all the right improvements that they thought were needed.

    With all the bugs being reported, that’s rather unfortunate and sloppy from WB Montreal and inexcusable.

    But the copy I own gave me no issues aside from one crash. So when the game works, its amazing!

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