Batman: Arkham Origins Review
Batman: Arkham Origins is a game that sticks closely to the template laid out by Rocksteady in Arkham Asylum and its successor Arkham City.
That is both a good and bad thing.
On the one hand, Batman: Arkham Origins retains the core features that have made the Batman games such a joy to play – the fantastic combat system, an aggressive brand of predatory stealth and a host of gadgets with which to play.
On the flip-side, however, Batman: Arkham Origins often feels like little more than an update to Arkham City, bereft as it is of any truly new ideas.
Whether that is a result of Batman: Arkham Origins being given to a developer who were likely under instruction not to tinker too much or whether the formula is starting to wear thin in the third entry of the Arkham series matters little to the player.
The fact is that what you get with Batman: Arkham Origins is a good but underwhelming Batman game.
Batman: Arkham Origins – Story and Combat
While ostensibly setting up the events of Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham Origins’ main focus in terms of story, at least in its early stages, is on the band of assassins that have been hired by Black Mask to take down Batman.
The idea of having to track down, be hunted by and battle with some of Batman’s arch-nemeses is an appealing one.
What a shame it is then that the reality falls far short of the fantasy. We don’t want to spoil anything for you, but suffice to say that some of the encounters with your would-be assassins are probably not would you would expect.
Batman: Arkham Origins’ by the numbers boss battles feel a little lazy and, while we should remember that there were some poor boss battles in the previous Batman games, you will be disappointed if you’re expecting anything as engaging and thoughtful as Arkham City’s Mr Freeze boss fight.
The core combat itself, though, is as fun and rewarding as ever. In keeping with the series, Batman: Arkham Origins’ timing based thug bashing remains an epitome of the cliché ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’.
Once you bring the various gadgets and abilities into play that are gradually unlocked as you earn XP throughout the game, there’s plenty of complexity for those who want it and a welcome variety of approaches that can be taken, depending on how you want to spend your upgrade points.
Regardless of how deep you want to go, however, stringing a large combo together is as satisfying as it always was been in the Arkham series. In a theme that’s likely to continue throughout this review, there’s nothing new about it, but it’s good nonetheless.
Batman: Arkham Origins – Puzzles and Crime Scenes
Of course, the Batman Arkham games have always strived to show off Batman’s cerebral side and Batman: Arkham Origins is no different.
As Batman, you’ll find yourself undertaking the odd crime scene investigation, using Batman’s detective vision to piece evidence together.
These crime scene investigations have never been much more than a welcome change of pace in the Batman games and they remain as such in Origins.
Warner Bros has made a little tweak by adding the ability to rewind and fast-forward simulated crimes in Batman’s detective vision.
It’s a device reminiscent of Remember Me’s memory remixing, but unfortunately it lacks the panache of that particular mechanic and adds little to the experience of investigating a crime.
Investigating crime scenes is not the only time when Arkham Origins will ask the player to adopt a more thoughtful approach. Progression in Batman: Arkham Origins often requires you make use of Batman’s array of gadgets to overcome obstacles.
When it comes to the gadgets you use and the light touch puzzles you’ll need to solve, you’ve seen it all before in previous Batman games (unless you think a glue grenade that performs the exact same function as Arkham City’s freeze grenade counts as new).
Again, it all works fine and it’s not as if Arkham Origins’ gadgets aren’t fun to use, but there’s that niggling sense again that Origins is more an update than it is a true sequel.
That feeling isn’t helped by the fact that large parts of Batman: Arkham Origins’ map are lifted straight out of Arkham City.
In fairness, Arkham Origins does present the player with a bigger game world, just be prepared for the fact that if you’ve played the previous Batman game you’ll frequently get a sense of déjà vu.
There is plenty to do within that map, however. The collectibles that have become synonymous with the series are there – hidden around the world by Enigma – as are a host of side quests and missions for the player to chase down and complete.
While it could be said that the main story is a little shorter than might be expected, there’s little to complain about in that regard when there are so many other things to do.
Batman: Arkham Origins – Review
It’s easy to be hard on a developer that’s been the recipient of much cynicism since the news that they would be taking the baton from Rocksteady in making Arkham Origins, but to do so would be a little unfair.
When it comes down to it, Batman: Arkham Origins is a good Batman game that still gives the player that sense of ‘being the bat’ in its best moments, whether that’s as a result of stealthily taking out a room of enemies unseen, making use of Batman’s gadgets or battering a group of thugs to a pulp.
The issue is that there’s nothing that feels fresh about Arkham Origins, nothing that it feels like you haven’t seen before.
Indeed, in some cases, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that you’ve seen those things done better in previous Batman games.
That shouldn’t detract from the fact that there is plenty of fun to be had with Batman: Arkham Origins. Just be aware that if you go in expecting Arkham Origins to be a big step forward, you’re likely to come away disappointed.
Version Tested: Xbox 360