On a cold Christmas Eve, a mysterious figure shrouded in darkness – known to some as the Bat-Man – is prowling Gotham, vigilant and alert as ever. Holiday season or not, there are innocents in danger, as almost all the Gotham police department are corrupt, leaving a path for chaos. This night for the Batman is like any other, until one of the city’s most notorious mobsters, Black Mask, raises a fifty million dollar bounty on the caped crusaders head, alongside hiring eight assassins to track him down. Only two years into cleaning the streets of Gotham and Batman has already started the chain reaction that will result in the arrival of many super villains.
If you weren’t already aware, Arkham Origins is a prequel, set before the likes of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Whereas London developer Rocksteady created the first two games, the baton has now been passed onto Warner Bros. Games Montréal, who have been given the exact same resources as their peers. The game therefore uses the same game mechanics and controls, which makes it easy to jump into. For me, the best upgraded feature was the Detective Vision’s ‘crime scene’ mode. Instead of having you wander in a circle scanning objects for clues, now you have the ability to recreate the scene for yourself, placing an intractable digital simulation of whatever crime was commited. I found it rather refreshing having a larger amount of control over these scenes, especially as I could re-wind and fast-forward the event in order to obtain new evidence. It was a lot of fun, and more importantly, it made me feel like Batman.
You start the game by responding to a breakout at Blackgate prison; the only place where every criminal in Gotham is held. Upon entering the facility, you soon realise that none other than Black Mask himself has broken in too, looking to free the Calendar man out of his death penalty. Though however kind a gesture this may seem, it’s all part of a much bigger plan and Commissioner Loeb is involved. The game’s story is shorter than its predecessors and takes place in just eight hours, but luckily there’s plenty to keep you entertained in the form of side-quests, puzzles and challenge maps.
If, like myself, you were hoping for more substantial boss fights, compared to the Titan sized Joker of Arkham Asylum, then I’m happy to say that most of them take a different route entirely. Instead of creating fixed fights that consist of an arena based battle (barr one or two) the new developers have instead decided to give a more cinematic approach. This has resulted in more personal boss fights, many of which will rely on your skill of using the counter button. I still think that the boss fights lacked the quality seen in Rocksteady’s titles, but overall they were a worthy departure from the norm. Throughout the game you’ll encounter many enemies, most of whom have seen a little less spotlight than before. One of those people is Firefly, who if you’ve scoured the floors of Arkham Asylum, will notice his arson-related crimes referenced in littered newspaper articles.
Also joining your enhanced vision are a couple of new gadgets, namely the Remote Claw; a device used to grapple two objects (or thugs) together and reel them in at great speed. This can also be used to create a zip wire between two points, making for an even stealthier travel route, aside from helping you gain access to previously unaccessible areas. Another new item (preivously only seen in the Wii version of Arkham City) are the shock gloves. These gloves charge up with kinetic energy made from keeping up your fight combo, allowing you to gain unstoppable force once they are fully charged. Click both analogue sticks down and not even enemies covered in armour or carrying a shield will resist your fists of thunder.
In terms of the size of the map it’s at least twice the size of Arkham City, mixing together the architecture of Origins and City together. As you glide around you’ll recognise many landmarks, such as Wonder Tower, Monarch Theatre and the Sionis steel mill. Should you tire of traversing the larger map then hop into the Batwing for fast travel. Unfortunately it’s not pilotable, but instead you’re treated to a short cut scene between travels. Next to the city, you can now head back to the Batcave.
Yes, you can finally fulfil your geeky fan boy dreams and explore the cave in all its fancy. Only two years into being set up, you’ll notice many references to Batman lore, as well as see many items in the process of being built, such as the Batmobile. Amongst all the clutter, however, lies Alfred, who is always happy to give some wisdom at any time, often referencing to your past and the present. Though this was a small feature, it was nice to see the new devs dipping into the relationship between the two characters.
Delving deeper into the story, you get see the rough start between Gordon and Batman’s friendship, taking a strong influence from the year one Batman storyline and how they came to trust one another. Sadly you won’t have the boy wonder by your side, but he is playable in the multiplayer mode.
Outsourced to separate developers Splash Damage, the multiplayer mode lets players take control either as a member of the Joker’s or Bane’s gang, as well as being placed in the shoes of the caped crusaders themselves. All together that makes eight-player matches and features a range of objectives. If you happen to be placed in one of the gangs, then not only should you be aware of the opposite crew of thugs, but also what lurks above in the rafters. I mostly played as Batman during my time and had a blast doing so. Being able to sneak above both teams with my teammate, gave me a sense of overwhelming power, as I could quite literally make my opponents fearful of me. Whether that meant throwing a batarang near them, or taking out one of their team via a well executed grate takedown. It was a smart idea to outsource the development and let Montreal focus on the story, which makes this extra mode a fun experience to have with your friends after completing the already ‘beefy’ story mode.
- + Undervalued villains get their time in the spotlight.
- + Both new voices of Joker and the Batman provide worthy renditions.
- + Plenty of side quests and puzzles to keep you busy for hours.
- - Story seems to finish a tad bit too quickly.
- - Loses the finesse seen from the original developers of the series.