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Batman: Arkham Origins Review by Alistair Kennedy (PS3)

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Where do I begin? Crime alley? Bruce Wayne? Gotham City ? No....everyone and their mother knows the story of Batman so I shall press on. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Two classic....nay groundbreaking comic hero games if you will. Created by the wonderfully talented folks at Rocksteady Games these are two of my favourite titles ever (Asylum over City for me but let's not argue) despite Batman not being one of my favourite comic superheroes. The caped crusader finally had achieved what not many (if any) comic book characters have accomplished - made a game not only playable and faithful to source but a game that would appeal to players who are not familiar with or usually enticed to buy comic related merchandise.

The previous Arkham games all have the same premise - you’re Batman. Batman in Gotham with a villain to stop completing whatever crime spree is thrown at Mr Wayne. Asylum was an atmospheric affair, claustrophobic at times, but very atmospheric and as a fan of the graphic novel I loved this one (erasing the Joker-Hulk final boss). City the sequel, and boy did they go all out! This time Rocksteady gave us a bigger chunk of Gotham to play in and an even more outlandish story (perfect but in my mind a bit stretched overall). Which brings us to the game in question - Batman: Arkham Origins the prequel game set in Batman’s second year of crime fighting and hands the player a map more than double the size of the map in Arkham City! How could anything possibly go wrong?

For this title Rocksteady have taken a backseat, presumably working on the next gen follow up to Arkham City, and have allowed WB Montreal to use their, already in place, assets to create what should of been a simple copy paste and another winner of a game for them right? Wrong! From the outset it's clear Gotham is now huge, so massive in fact that you need the Batwing to fast travel, which is now common place in every game to come out this side of Skyrim. To utilise the fast travel you must unlock the Gotham City radio towers which The Riddler, (referred to as “Enigma” here) has locked down, sound familiar Far Cry fans? The Batwing travel is accompanied by a cutscene....every...god...damn...time.....and a jerky mess of a cutscene at that! So anyway you start as Batman who finds out Black Mask has put a massive bounty on his head for all the top assassins to compete for all taking place on Christmas Eve! That's as complicated as the plot gets, no seriously that's it. Now while I don't expect a Lord Of The Rings style storytelling saga, Batman deserves more than a paper thin device used as an excuse to throw his entire b team of rouges from the pages to the screen, Batman deserves more and so do we!

The gameplay is OK at best and most mechanics transfer from Rocksteady (a legacy unscathed) including the famous Arkham fighting mechanic, a meaty system that saves this game from becoming completely unbearable. The problem lies in the rest of the game, Batman and Gotham look good I won't say great as the graphic level on PS3 has been raised by The Last Of Us and Beyond: Two Souls, the graphics are adequate. Although the character design for the enemies and their AI have been served up short and several times have lead to unfinishable areas when a character surrenders to Bats only to surrender through a background object leading to the level being broken and a restart required, at this stage in the PS3’s life span, and with the Arkham games previous outstanding record, this is simply unacceptable. In some parts the restraints they clearly came across have worked in WB Montreal’s favour like steam and clouds hiding the draw distance in the city actually helps to make Gotham feel more mysterious and dark rather than distract from the fact that not a lot can be displayed on the screen at any given time.

Being allowed to walk around the Bat Cave and talk to Alfred is a nice touch but after a two minute exploration of the half built Batmobile training area and the non functioning elevator to Wayne Manor that's your lot! Detective mode is slightly more expanded on but is basically rewinding a scene till you see a red line which you follow to a scan the next clue, it's about as exciting as the plot twist (if you can even call it that) which I had it figured out a few hours in, it was that obvious

The boss battles are stale and uninspired particularly the Deathstroke one early in the game which is just a series of counter button presses at the right time rather than requiring any actual skill. Late in the game Batman becomes poisoned again and the WB Montreal team try to replicate the Scarecrow levels of the past only to come up short. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but here it feels like a cheap cop out.

Old locations are revisited and is nice to visit as a player of the previous games and see the changes. Side quests this time are definitely not a patch on the Riddler trophies which are sorely missed and the ones we do get can't even step up. You are rewarded with dark knight challenge unlocks and new equipment every so often which helps Bats progress but nothing that hasn't been done already. There is a tacked on multiplayer mode in which you can choose to play as Batman or robin, or play as Joker/Banes thugs, at the time of writing I could not get into a game so not sure if there are server problems or that people don't care or are unaware of the addition. I personally think they missed a trick by not adding a Batman and Robin online co-op campaign but I can only hope Rocksteady are already working on this for the next true Arkham game for next gen!

All in all if you love Batman and get this game cheap you will some fun, not a lot mind you as the games main campaign only lasts around 8-9 hours so not as long as it's bigger brothers. I would find it hard to recommend as I was very let down and was very aware this just wasn't the Batman game I was looking for. They aimed to make a prequel game and they succeeded this game definitely feels like it was made and released before Arkham Asylum. Approach with caution!

Alister Kennedy

 

 

 

 

Overall Score - 64%