Join me if you will, for a quick journey back in time. Let me take you back to the end of the Summer in 2009. A little known video game studio named Rocksteady had joined forces with DC Entertainment and were about to release the action adventure game, Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The result was a hugely popular game that was a commercial success and the start of an exciting new franchise for current generation consoles. Films had shown us super heroes were cool and now video games were joining the showcase as well.
Flash forward to present day. It’s the autumn of 2013 and Rocksteady have left the franchise. We don’t know why but we have known that it was happening for a long time. This has caused slight trepidation in fans of the franchise. What will the new game be like? Will the game stay true to the franchise? How will the combat work? What will the tone be like? Will it remain an open world adventure?
Sure, before the game’s release we knew the answer to most of these things. The franchise was left in the capable hands of Warner Brothers Montreal and after two successful outings Rocksteady had developed a working formula. We knew the environment would be open-world like the game’s predecessor, Arkham City. We knew that the game would keep the mature tone and instead of being a sequel would instead feature a story set before the first two games to show a younger, more inexperienced Batman. Arkham Origins has a Batman that has to prove himself to the city’s police force, including Captain Jim Gordon and Detective Harvey Bullock, while keeping corrupt police off the street and battling insane criminals like The Joker or The Penguin.
We also knew what characters we could expect to encounter due to the clever press releases spotlighting different assassins you would come across as part of the game’s plot that were issued throughout the game’s marketing campaign. The story of this game follows in the footsteps of the previous two titles in terms of being one of the game’s biggest strengths. The plot revolves around Crime Lord Black Mask placing a bounty on Batman’s head which lures out eight assassins who come to Gotham in order to claim their prize.
This plot is a great way to introduce lesser known villains into the game and it is a nice little nod for fanboys of the Batman comics with the inclusion of characters such as Deadshot, Deathstroke, Killer Croc and Firefly.
It is shame then that the voice acting will disappoint the fanboy audience due to Batman’s voice actor Kevin Conry stepping away from the caped crusader role as well as Mark Hamill not reprising his role as The Joker. The voice acting is fine, but for fans of the animated series and / or previous instalments of the Arkham franchise, the new talent just doesn’t offer the same experience.
Another failing that the game unfortunately delivers is in the combat. While the team at WB Montreal have stuck to the similar formula of the previous titles, they have obviously done a little tinkering to try and update the game and keep it fresh. Unfortunately it means that some of the button presses are often not registered or delivered too late, which breaks up what was a very pleasing achievement in piecing together a large combo across a big group of enemies.
Whilst talking about the very minor difference WB Montreal has added, it is worth noting the inclusion of a multiplayer mode for players. While it may be confusing on why this was included, the multiplayer mode is a good bit of fun but nothing that will draw away from the main online gameplay. The multiplayer sees two players take on the role of Batman and Robin and face-off against six thugs. It plays well and adds a bit of longevity to the game but it is not something anyone was particularly crying for from the franchise.
The longevity of the game is also something that didn’t need to be helped. There are a huge array of side quests, the inclusion on the challenge mode and challenge maps as well as the new game plus mode and the new ‘I am the Night’ mode, allowing the player no deaths throughout the whole game. It is great that this game keeps on giving and with the ability to free travel across the game map or fast travel you can play the game however you see fit.
In closing Batman: Arkham Origins is an enjoyable game. It is a game that hasn’t really progressed the franchise, but it will be enjoyable for fans of the previous titles. It is a shame that there is so little progression in the series, which is the game’s most negative point, but when you have such a great formula already it’s hard to perfect it any further.