Arkham Origins has finally been released, and now that the anticipation and hype have dissipated to some extent, those of us who have purchased the game are left to engage with the final product, which is the third installment and first prequel in the Arkham game series.
Since I haven’t finished the game, I won’t attempt to concoct a proper review for it, but rather, I will speak on my impression of the game thus far, which clocks in at approximately 20% completion, and includes much exploration.
Batman looks meaner and more prepared than ever, sporting sliver-grey metallic-padded armor that truly contributes to the “knight” concept that is attributed to the Batman character, while the Bat-armor also suggests an emphasis on suit functionality; the suit looks like it can actually stop bullets and absorb melee damage (except for the groin section). While the suit looks tough and damage-absorbent, the voice sounds equally as tough, and one might even claim that it resembles Kevin Conroy’s, in that Roger Craig Smith’s delivery is convincing, and essentially has the same low register of Conroy; the Smith-Batman sounds much like a younger Conroy-Batman, but Bat-fans with a keen ear will immediately differentiate the new voice from the old voice.
The Gotham map revisits locations from Arkham City, but transforms them such that they resemble what Gotham would have looked like prior to the alterations it underwent in Arkham City; Arkham Origins is a prequel, after all. Arkham City aficionados will recognize areas like Park Row, Amusement Mile, and the Bowery. Additionally, staring at the Wonder Tower evokes odd feelings of nostalgia, in a weird deja-vu I’ve-been-here-before but-only-in-the-future sort of way; these feelings get even stranger when I consider the truth about Protocol 10, as detailed in Arkham City.
Unfortunately, Gotham City seems to be populated only by thugs and criminals, and thus far exhibits no civilian pedestrians at all; neither did Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, but that’s because the former was set on an island that housed a massive asylum, while the latter exhibited the concept of the criminally insane running their own city under pseudo-Orwellian terms. Yet, in Arkham Origins, when you listen to a citywide announcement, you realize that some type of curfew or warning has been put into effect, implying that all civilians have returned to their homes. Perhaps all the brawlers, thugs, criminals, and villainous henchmen decided to forgo the curfew so that they could plot some evil; evil is afoot, indeed, as Batman must deal with a slew of problems, including but not limited to Enigma’s (the Riddler’s) scheme to blackmail and extort countless political figures, bomb threats made by an anarchic revolution leader, the Penguin’s arms dealings, and a bounty on his life placed by crime boss Black Mask.
Graphically speaking, an Arkham game hasn’t looked this polished, although the other two games still stand up proudly. The freeflow combat system feels ever-so-slightly more stiff than that of the other games, and I often found myself tapping the Triangle button on my PS3 controller about three times in order to perform a proper counter; perhaps this issue resides in the amount of force used to tap the button. Minor technical flaws include some frame rate slowdowns and hiccups, which will hopefully continue to be patched.
Batman is much younger, and some ability-tweaks made by WB Montreal reflect that. For example, younger Batman (Origins) can grapple to rooftops and objects that would most likely be too high up for older Batman (Asylum & City) to reach; additionally, Batman’s Grapnel Boost function on his Grapple Gun allows him to boost further than before. Also, Batman remains airborne slightly longer when gliding, which is comforting.
Gamers and others expecting a massive cinematic experience should look elsewhere. There are plenty of games that offer the type of gaming experience that relies heavily on the concept of cinematic presentation, despite the fact that video games are a separate form of media from Hollywood film or cinema; this is not to imply that this type game-film stylistic convergence is inherently abominable, however. Rather, the stylistic convergence is more progressive than offensive, but Arkham Origins does not necessarily partake in it. Origins has a hint of cinematic flair, but so far seems to be sparse with plot-related cutscenes. Yet, don’t fret and imagine it’s like Dark Souls, which probably has about ten cutscenes available in the entire game (and unfortunately, I have eighty disgusting hours clocked on it).
Long story short: Arkham Origins, so far, is a decent video game and a welcomed addition to the series. However, it most likely won’t radically impress seasoned fans of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, but they will feel right at home using the Batclaw to snag green glowing objects, or to rip metal grating from ventilation shafts, or to simply take down ten thugs in brutal flawless freeflow combat while achieving a x50 Combo – pure satisfaction. I’m looking forward to playing more of the game, and perhaps updating this impressionistic review.
As a parting note, I’ll say that I was impressed by the Remote Claw – a genius addition to Batman’s Utility Belt that allows you to essentially create a wire that Batman can Grapple up to, instead of relying solely on Grappling up to edges, ledges, roofs or telephone poles. Anyway, the game is definitely worth playing in my eyes, if only to gain XP from conversing with Alfred at the Batcave after fast-travelling via Bat-wing from a boss fight, or from two hours of Enigma Data Collection. (Yes, you can actually gain XP from talking to Alfred, and yes, the Riddler has once again left you a ton of crap to collect.)
If you have Arkham Origins, play it and leave a comment on Facebook or below and speak about what you love, like, or hate about the game!