When I heard that there was going to be another Batman: Arkham game I was excited. When I heard it was going to be a prequel I pulled a face but wasn’t surprised as Arkham City had ended rather definitively. Then I heard that Rocksteady wasn’t to helm the project and my excitement started to be replaced by cynicism. Rocksteady did a superb job of building the parallel timeline based on the one-off series by Frank Miller and I was concerned that the newly founded Warner Games Montreal had been founded purely for Warner Games to cash in and cut Rocksteady out of the action in one hit.
If I’m perfectly honest I didn’t get on brilliantly with the comic. It was too stylised and Batman was portrayed too much a like a bitch but there’s no denying the importance of the work and the original game title expanded on it wonderfully. The sequel was a tad far-fetched but still good fun and driven by a great story which for me has always been the appeal of the caped crusader. So Origins had a lot to live up to, especially as prequels tend to be somewhat of a poisoned chalice.
Warners Games Montreal were charged with the development of on of the biggest titles of 2013 and if they fucked it up they’d not only go pop but kill the franchise forever. So, rather shrewdly they didn’t change too much. A few game play tweaks here and there, a few new gadgets, and lots of new menus which are clumsy, annoying and unnecessary. Batman also gets a new look to tie in with the post Year One setting. It’s actually my favourite bit about the game (so far). It feels less like the custom suit of awesome from the first two games and more like a series of components modified with a couple of bespoke bits chucked in. It works very well.
Unfortunately the similarities to the previous game don’t stop there. Half of the area of Gotham city you have to play in is directly taken from Arkham City. Obviously it’s all in much better condition at this point in the Arkham timeline but I for one felt rather cheated by the fact that half of the environment I was running around in I’d already spent hours and hours running around in. I was also incredibly disappointed to find that Riddler trophies once again made an all too prominent appearance. But instead of question marks (because he’s not the Riddler yet) and riddles data packets and a relay network. But it’s all toss because at least the premise behind how the question marks got around the Asylum and Arkham city made sense. This just doesn’t as it’s an inhabited city and feels noting more than laziness on the part of the developers.
Granted I did spend ages trying to track down all the trophies in the first game because I wanted as high a score as possible. In the second game it was a refusal to be beaten by the Riddler despite how tedious many of the challenges were. This time round it’s just boring.
Perhaps my standards are too high and I shouldn’t expect so much as the second game merely expanded on the first. But this doesn’t feel expanded, it feels copied, tweaked and wrapped up as something new.
Other similarities include ‘Crimes in Progress’ which is essentially like rescuing political prisoners fortunately though this is an improvement as rather than saving a snivelling wretch you get to duff rival gangs, rescue pinned down police officers or duff up crocked cops who are roughing up civilians. So it’s all a lot of fist swinging, face kicking fun.
Well, sort of. Whilst overall the game play is good with the combat mechanic improved further from the near perfect display on show in Arkham City, the crime scenes aren’t challenging, save points during missions are far too far apart and the environment too big to navigate by grappling and gliding which forces you to use bat plane drop off points which would be quick were it not for the insufferable and unskippable cut scene. Should you choose to swing and glide your way about you’ll be rewarded by an extremely rich environment. And despite my misgivings about the environment being copied from Arkham City, it is nice to see those parts of the city looking as they once were. Rather than knackered.
The plot however is pretty good. It’s Christmas Eve and the Black Mask has hired a small army of trained assassins to do Batman in. The story twists and turns forcing you to deal with the likes of Penguin and other well-known Super Villains. If I’m perfectly honest the story didn’t grab as immediately as the but I think it’s much more to do with the freedom of the environment offers as you can spend hours doing other stuff before you even start playing the main story. This is both a good thing and a bad one as it’s easy to get bored with the game without really giving it a go.
Although it’s other big problem is that it crashes. A lot. If I were working for Warner Games Montreal I would be embarrassed. If I worked for Rocksteady I’d be really pissed off. Because the fact of the matter is, for all the duplications and rip offs, it’s still a good and very enjoyable game. But it is totally let down by the frequency it crashes and the total lack of patch available. And they’re not minor either. The game crashed for me just as I was about to defeat Deathstroke – who’s a hard fucker to beat – much to my utter despair.
So is Arkham Origins worth getting then? Yes. Of course it is. Because for all the rehashing and the flaws it’s still a Batman game. It still looks and feels right and it’s still great fun. Should you pay £40 for it? Good God no. £30 from Amazon, fine, but not top sticker because there’s just not enough newness in there despite the good story, the fun ways in which characters are introduced and not to mention some awesome punch ups you get to have with some seriously bad ass villains. It’s just such a shame it’s let down in other areas.
Buy Batman: Arkham Origins because you’re a fan. Buy it because it’s part of a fascinating story. Buy it because you just love to kick in face. Just don’t buy it expecting it to work all of the time. Because it doesn’t. On several levels. And remember, although it may be glitchy it’s still better than most other games in the market. And it has Batman in it.