First of all, I am a huge Batman fan. That doesn't mean this review will be a fanboy galore, as it most certainly is not. First thing is first though and I need to get this off my chest; people who say this 'feels repetative' is dumbfounding. how many times does Batman suddenly decide to overhaul how he fights?
Anyway, the game has a superb atmosphere. Year one and Killing Joke are clearly inspirations for the story. On top of that, Gotham is eerily quiet, as it should be on Christmas eve late at night, in a city full of corruption to the point where Black Mask has a hold of the police comissioner on his payroll, SWAT teams in his pocket and criminals running the streets. Ontop of that, you have the GPD issuing emergency broadcasts that citizens stay inside. THIS is why there are very few citizens out and about. Its a complaint I see from people who just do not think about the game and the situation. Why would you be out late on christmas even when theres 8 assassins and countless more gang members out for blood?
Theres quite abit of 'Tim Burton' to the atmosphere. The portrayal of Joker and bane are especially brilliant. Bane here is done justice unlike the previous two games. I loved the boss fights too. For me, the gameplay isn't bland. Its slower than in Arkham City, but for me that represents the inexperienced Bruce in a much bulkier and heavily armored suit combined with Bruce's attacks being more raw and powerful. it feels asif im dealing more damage, theres more aggression and power behind the blows. This is why Batman moves slower in comparison to the lightweight armoured experienced Batman from AA and AC.
Batman makes mistakes in this, his interrogations aren't always fruitful, he goes blind in for the punch and gets hit and is learning the hard way. This is THE first time he is taking on super criminals, and it clearly shows.One of the most telling things about the character of Bruce is how charming he is with Vicki Vale at the start of AC, yet at the start of AO she says one thing and he is pissed off and is so up himself he goes 'interview over'.
The graphics are great in this game, Some say its not 'christmassy' enough. In a town that is so corrupt, its citizens so oppressed, officials in the pocket of mob bosses, I like that we get to see more 'christmassy' decorations and tones in some parts of Gotham than in others, for me it represents the class division within Gotham City and the disparity between the poor and the rich, which was always a key theme within many Batman stories.
The Crime Scene investigation is a massive step up. I love it. Some people have criticised how you just press and hold a Button and it does it all for you, which to me is exactly what I would've thought would happen. You find the clues and the batcomputer, just like in AC pieces it together within the cowel. Its much more detailed and advanced and It adds to the experience.
I prefer this story to AC; theres a great twist midway through and the story is utilised brilliantly with all the characters. This is asmuch an origin story for Batman, as it is for Joker, Bane, Deadshot, Jim, Barbara, Croc, penguin, Harley and so forth.
For me its hard to rate the Arkham games. So I will do so for different criteria;
AO (VERY close between AA/AO)
AO (Only reason I mark down is because of the chage of shoulder buttons which is programmed in my head from AC)
AO (its the christmas tone that I adore)
The problem with rating the games as a whole is down to what story you like most. For me, I love AA and AO more than AC, but I much prefer playing AC/AO because the gameplay is miles better than in AA. AA's story is superior to AC and so is AO's story. But on the other hand, AC is the most polished of all the games.
So its down to what mood I am in. If I want to patrol gotham or have some of the best boss fights, I would play AO. If I fancied reliving the best story, and the best atmosphere, id go AA. If I fancied a mixture of the best polished gameplay and the best iteration of free flow, I would play AC
The thing is this;
AA's combat is quite far behind AC/AO. AO has much more to glide and explore than AC. AC has perfect combat and polish. How do you rate all 3? Personally, I cant rate an order because I would give all very similar scores for different reasons. None are perfect, and some miss elements of another.
If AA had AC's dramaticaly improved gameplay, Fights like the Freeze fight, more gadgets and changed Killer Croc's boss fight (I had a brilliant idea) and replay value, Asylum would be best. If AC had a better story, atmosphere and the crime scene investigation from AO, Id say AC was best. If AO didnt have frame rate issues and had Conroy/Hamill, then they would all be on par with each other.
The best way to review Arkham games is to not compare them directly to each other, but to review them as an individual Batman experience. Some prefer the creepy elements in AA to the less atmospheric AC. AC was more cinematic, but thats down to the story and PERSONAL PREFERENCE to the story. Not every comic book has the best story, but its artwork may be better than anothers, its interpretation and characterisation may be better. This is the way I have reviewed Origins. It is a brilliant Batman game, with a brilliant story. For me, it lacks Kevin Conroy although Troy Baker does a superb Joker.
The only issue I have ever had, is frame rate. It can be horribly bad but a patch IS on the way, which is why I will complain about it here, but stress that a patch is on the way, and this will mean that very soon there will be no bearing on the over all experience.
To conclude, is this game more of the same? Combat wise, it changes the pace to match a slower more rage-filled Batman, but its almost the same as in Arkham City. I cant see why its a bad thing; its fluent and works. Gadgets are implements similarly to AC.
If the gameplay isn't broken, why fix it? Alot of people say 'innovate, needs innovation'. How? What would you do to innovate? My only suggestions would be to add more different take downs and to use the environment more IE an aggressive stealth takedown in a hallway Batman could smash the villains head into the wall or something like that.
Improvements? I cant think of anything to improve. Its a great experience just like the previous Arkham games. I have rated the game an 8 as i believe it is a great game and great experience.