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Batman: Arkham Origins

9:0807/11/2013Posted by Dave Stuart2 Comments

Arkham Origins is exactly the game you thought it would be, for better and sometimes worse. In following up Rocksteady’s Arkham City, released in 2011, the new Warner Brothers Montreal studio have delivered a solid and enjoyable game which will no-doubt please fans of the series, but whose reverence to its past ultimately leaves it feeling like something of a missed opportunity.

Set five years before the events of Arkham Asylum, Origins sees you once again taking control of Batman, this time only a short while into his crime-fighting days. As such it serves as the character’s introduction to many of the key characters people have come to know throughout the series. Adopting the same format as Arkham City the game sees you navigating the open world of Gotham City, the conceit here being that on Christmas Eve Black Mask has assembled a selection of nine assassins to take out Batman, and placed a $50m bounty on your head.

Origins starts fairly strong, after re-introducing you to the world it quickly opens up and doesn’t waste time funnelling you down a linear path. So within an hour you are back traversing the world as if you never left, the familiar controls come flooding back, your map lights up with side-quests and collectibles. It’s familiar and reassuring, but also a little disappointing.

WB Montreal have done a fine job aping the feel of the previous Arkham games, in fact if I’d stopped my Arkham City playthrough halfway through a couple of years ago and given this I’m not sure I’d have been able to tell the difference, at least for a while. Which is sort of damning with faint praise. Because the Arkham games are some of the best of this generation, with the free-flowing combat (again almost perfectly reconstructed here) arguably the best and most enjoyable combat system around, so why does more of the same stick in the craw so?

The lack of any real innovation would be one answer. Building on what has come before is one thing, but repeating it to quite this degree starts to feel a little cheap, especially for a new game. The pace of this console generation means that replicating one of the best games from two years ago isn’t enough, and starts to feel a little lazy. The main story here is fine, it has some well-designed encounters, some interesting bosses but also its fair share of bland locations and moments where the façade comes away, just a little bit, and the lack of polish shows through.

But ultimately its not as engaging, or as well written as the previous titles. It’s a sadly repetitive theme, but one that is hard to ignore. There is nothing actively bad about Arkham Origins. It’s a solid and generally well-made game (though beware some bugs and issues that have been plaguing all versions of the game since launch, which hopefully will be fixed in patches soon) and for both fans of the series who are happy to dip back into the world, or those unfamiliar with the games, there is a lot of content here to enjoy.

But it is also impossible to review the game in a vacuum: the other Arkham games already exist, and are both available very cheaply on all systems. For those who had their fill of this game last time out, there is little here that will draw them back in. The promise of it being something of an Origin story is largely wasted. Batman here is as all-powerful and imposing as ever, his slightly cobbled together costume and amplified aggression the only real clues that you are supposed to be playing a younger, more inexperienced version of the character. I understand the impulse not to take gameplay elements out, and the idea of a Batman who is slightly incompetent is one easy to make frustrating, but it remains disappointing that the Batman presented here isn’t a bit more rough and ready, and still learning the tricks of the trade.

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  • sportsmotoring said:

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