So, you’ve spent $60 on another Arkham game, waited 2 days to download it on your 0.3Mbps internet, and now you’re excited for what twists and turns await! However, after all that build up you’re presented with Arkham Origins, a game you essentially played a couple of years ago in the form of Arkham City. You’re confused. It’s enjoyable, most definitely, but it’s pretty much the exact same game. Same combat, same gadgets, same villains, and sometimes even the same levels. You figure that it’s just going to take awhile before it really comes into it’s own. And then, the drug sequence hits, and you realise you’ve been duped; and yet, you’re still kinda okay with it.
As the title suggests, Arkham Origins follows a younger Batman who harbours a far more black and white (mostly black) view of justice, and is willing to pursue it more aggressively. After a $50 million bounty is placed on his head by a mysterious benefactor, he must fight his way through deadly assassins and hordes of mobsters to discover who did it. It’s a cool plot, and it worked well in Arkham City, but unfortunately, it still suffers the same pitfalls.
Whilst it starts off just fine, keeping track of everything that’s going on starts to become a challenge in itself. This is especially noticeable when side quests start coming in, and often leads to a lot of underutilisation of characters. Killer Croc shows up for a short while, you fight Deathstroke once, and some sidequests (I’m looking at you, Deadshot) act more so as things to do, rather than an interesting side-plot. Even the same tropes from Arkham City are used, right down to Batman getting poisoned and a psychedelic sequence. Ultimately, it boils down to yet another story about Batman and Joker, exploring another facet of their strange dynamic. Just like Arkham City.
Naturally, the open-world is back in Arkham Origins, but instead of being in a city created through shifty means for shifty reasons; you’re in Gotham, a city that became so delinquent that even the cops are bad guys. Overall, it’s a slightly larger world than Arkham city, which may seem excessive to some players, and yet, a much needed evolution for others. You can still swoop around, dive bombing and grapnel accelerating your way above the streets, or you can fast travel to certain districts after unlocking towers. It’s a similar mechanic to Far Cry 3, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. I rarely used the fast travel option, but when I did, it was a much appreciated addition.
It’s a good thing to have the option too, because there’s still a bunch to do in Gotham. As with each of the previous instalments, there are collectibles, side quests, and challenges; albeit with an eerie lack of citizens around as everyone is apparently locked up inside for Christmas Eve. Essentially, If you managed to get 100% in Arkham City, then you’re going to have another long journey ahead of you. There is also a new multiplayer mode where two gangs fight while a hero tries to eliminate enough to fill an ‘intimidation gauge’. I haven’t been able to try out multiplayer (see aforementioned internet speed, sorry guys!), but it’s another thing to keep you occupied.
Honestly, the game looks just as good as any Arkham game should, so you won’t strain your eyes collecting everything. The same dark, gothic atmosphere is present from other games, looking grittier and more detailed than ever. You can see the detail on Batman’s cape, the footprints left in the snow, and the faces of your enemies as you bash their jaws into the ground. Of course, when I say it looks the same, I mean it looks almost identical. The buildings, the insides of buildings, and perhaps even the layouts of entire areas look like they were cloned from Arkham City. This means that it’s not exactly a giant leap forward graphically or architecturally for the series, but at least it manages to uphold the high standards we’ve come to expect; even if it’s only the same standard.
At it’s core, the Arkham series is about fluid combat, predatory stealth, and being the god damn Batman. Origins won’t disappoint in this regard, but it doesn’t innovate either. Just about everything experienced in Arkham City is still here, apart from the line launcher (which you get back later anyway) and unlockable gadgets, so you’re already doing better than Samus Aran. The most notable addition is the shock gloves, which charge up during combat and allow you to more easily dispatch enemies in combat. I quickly learned that the instant they charged, I could end any encounter in a few seconds. They’re a little OP to say the least, but help keep things moving.
Talking about stealth, everything is back from Arkham City; and that’s it. I noticed that there was no information about what enemies can do, or the gadgets they have, since it’s just assumed knowledge from the previous games. It’s a dangerous assumption to make, especially when players forget things between instalments. It almost feels as though the game was rushed out for fans of the series to simply give them something new or updated.
Being released just two year after Arkham City, it’s surprising just how similar Origins is to it’s predecessor. Sure, it might not bring that much new to the table, but it should be noted that this installment was developed by Warner Brothers and not Rocksteady Studios. Honestly, Origins is still a game that fans of the franchise will happily dig their teeth into. It has the villains, the gadgets, the combat, and the levels of an Arkham game. If you’re looking for innovation, you’re going to be bitterly disappointed. Given more development time, it’s possible this could have been another spectacular achievement, but as it currently stands; it’s simply a very good, albeit predictable experience… Alright, fine, I’ll say it. It’s the sequel we deserve, but it’s really not the one we needed right now.