Adam Bown grabs his cowl and cape to see what the Dark Knight’s latest adventure has in store for gamers
When an IP earns a sequel, and in some cases its own franchise, it usually takes one of two paths. Either it beats the same dead horse over and over until it becomes atomised, like your Assassin’s Greeds and Cash Grab of Duties, or it attempts to creatively build upon its predecessor, like Bioshock: Infinite or Far Cry 3, showing that perhaps resuscitating the horse and treating it with love and care is a better option.
When it comes to the Batman: Arkham franchise, it certainly seemed to have gone with the latter. Arkham City expanded upon Arkham Asylum, introducing an open-world aspect, a chance to play as multiple characters and a plethora of side-quests incorporating various characters from the comic book world. But has Arkham Origins continued this trend of innovation?
This entry in the franchise follows the eponymous caped-crusader several years before the events of Arkham Asylum, as he is being hunted down by eight assassins all after a fifty million dollar bounty placed on his head by Black Mask.
A suitably over the top premise for a story based on a man who fight crime while dressed as a bat, yet it never truly uses the potential of such a premise to good effect, not at the beginning of the game at least. In fact, the first few missions of the game were as entertaining as watching paint dry on growing grass, and contain some of the worst utilisations of antagonists ever witnessed. Killer Croc, a boss you have no choice but to run from in Arkham Asylum as he would end you Ozzy Osbourne style otherwise, is beaten in a more straightforward bout of fisticuffs with ease. While Deathstroke, despite all the focus on him during the promotional material, is bested by the Bat in one of the opening missions in a boss fight with more grind than a MMORPG.
At this point the game was on the verge of overstaying its welcome, the antagonists were push-overs, the narrative was flat and while the ‘free-flow’ combat championed in the previous games, continued to be satisfying and fluid it was not enough to make up for what, at that point, the game was lacking. Even the addition of a new game mechanic which added to the ‘evidence scanner’ of prior entries allowing Batman to deconstruct and reconstruct a crime scene seemed superfluous, as it ostensibly had no endgame. Yet, a crime scene investigated at Black Mask’s safe-house provides a plot twist that finally allows for the clown prince of crime the Joker to enter the fray, and suddenly the game sprang to life. It is as if the writers recognised what they were creating was painfully boring and decided to be proactive about it. Then, finally, the stakes are raised, and with a clearly defined central antagonist the game becomes enjoyable.
Although, if relying on the Joker to be the main antagonist is a retread of the other Arkham games, albeit here it was more relieving than annoying, then the other features in Origins are looking to form a conga line. The combat is essentially the same, the majority of gadgets still remain from Arkham City with a couple of additions here and there and even the boss fights evoke an eerie sense of déjà-vu. For instance, if the boss fights with Copperhead and Mad Hatter were combined the end result would be the Scarecrow levels from Arkham Asylum.
On a more positive note, voice actor Roger Craig Smith, does a decent job of taking up the mantle of Batman from veteran Kevin Conroy, seemingly mediating the voice work of Conroy and Christian Bale from the Nolan-verse, while Troy Baker, who voices Booker DeWitt in Bioshock: Infinite and Joel in The Last Of Us, does likewise with the Joker a role left vacant by Mark Hamill at the end of Arkham Asylum.
However, overall Batman: Arkham Origins is a disappointing entry into the series that feels tired and played out, if you are a fan of the protagonist it will satisfy you otherwise it is one worth avoiding.
Quench Verdict: 2/5
What did you think to Batman: Arkham Origins? Did the Dark Knight kick ass or should he just hang up the cowl and cape? Let us know in the comments section below