The worst types of villains are the ones that know everything about you.
The tagline of the previous Arkham installment applies here too. The build-up to Arkham Origins was fantastic; WB games released teaser trailers on YouTube from the beginning of the year, showcasing a new assassin in each video. According to the plot (which is the selling point of the teaser trailers), 8 assassins from all over the world converge on Gotham City on Christmas eve with one intention, kill Batman before the other assassins do and claim the $50 million bounty placed on his head by the mysterious crime lord Black Mask.
The plot begins when there is a breakout at Blackgate prison and Batman is forced to intervene, although a little late as he is unable to save Black Mask from executing Commissioner Loeb. He faces killer Croc and the Penguin (yeah, they’re back) and finds out about the bounty on his head. This triggers a cat and mouse chase between Batman and Black Mask but there’s where the suited murderer’s involvement ends. The principle story is basically between Batman and his arch nemesis Joker and their enmity, or rather the origin of it.
As far as the story is concerned, I have no complaints. The intricacies of the relations between Batman and the Joker, Alfred, Bane, Commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara(Oracle in the other games) have been beautifully displayed. When you hear that the Joker is once again the central antagonist I wouldn’t blame you if you were hesitant, but I can guarantee that the hesitancy will be put behind you 5 minutes into the game. The return of Joker in Arkham 3 provides the game its shine and shows a fascinating take on the clown prince of crime. Another feature here is Batman’s ability to tune into police radio frequencies, which gives you an array of small-time crimes you can look into when you’re bored with the story, you know, just for extra credit; Most Wanted lets you chase villains like Anarky and Dr.Zzasz outside the main story who go about disrupting the City planting bombs.
This game has a greater emphasis on Batman’s detective skills. Batman can scan a crime scene using his “Detective Vision” to highlight points of interest and holograms act out theoretical scenarios of the crime that occurred. The crimes can be reviewed at will, via Batman’s link to the Bat-computer in the Batcave, allowing the player to view virtual recreations of the scene from different angles with the ability to move back and forth through the timeline of the crime, view it in slow motion, or pause it while looking for clues to advance and solve the crime. For example, reviewing the downing of a helicopter, Batman is presented with false and accurate clues; investigation of the scene can reveal that the helicopter was shot, allowing Batman to trace the bullet’s trajectory to a murdered police officer and another crime scene. Once a crime is solved, the player is shown a Batman-narrated rundown of the crime. Stealth games don’t get cooler than this.
The game play and fights of Origin was what was criticized. With the availability of weapons like the shock gloves and the concussion detonator the fights become a tad too easy. On the spot strategy based combat is ignored more often than not as you can stun all the enemies around you with one jolt of the electrocutioner’s gloves and clear away the paralyzed thugs with the caress of a button. No doubt the boss battles had its own variety and unpredictability, as each fight told its own story in its own way making it much more fun and interactive for the players.
The third instalment offers Gotham City for the first time (not including the added feature in Arkham City), which means a bigger map and more to do. The city is extremely vast and the missions and sub missions doesn’t do justice to such a terrain, each with its own characteristics. Once you get access to the batwing, travelling between places becomes a lot easier, as long as you decrypt the riddler’s radio towers to unlock specific areas on the map.
Origins also offers multiplayer in Batman for the first time. Here you can be a part of a gang, either the Joker’s or Bane’s, or you can even be among the good guys as the dark knight or the boy wonder, Robin. Playing in multiplayer is actually challenging as you know that the enemies have an as good a chance to beat you as you have them.
Another interesting development was the change in the main voice cast, that is, of Batman and Joker. Long time Batman voicer Kevin Conroy is replaced by Roger Smith while Troy Baker voices Joker after Mark Hamill’s retirement. You’ll have to pause for a moment to be able to understand that the maniacal laugh isn’t Hamill’s, as Troy Baker does a superb job with the voiceovers. Overall this would be the cherry on a very superb cake, which maybe is a little too sweet. I’m of course talking about Origins replication of its prequels and a few unnecessary modifications. But it’s well worth the 1500 bucks I paid for it.
My verdict: I would agree with the words of IGN’s Dan Stapleton, “Arkham Origins is a low point for the series, but even when it’s not very good, it’s still pretty good.” Even If you haven’t played any of the Arkham series before, starting from Origins isn’t such a bad idea because then the next games would exceed your expectations (it also syncs up with the story well). The addictive factor from the previous games still remains and would in fact, be its strong point.
Published on December 2013 for 19A