I was not expecting much. Honestly, even from the first game play trailers, I could feel unbreakable chains of sameness forcing my hype rocket to the ground. It looked so familiar I was not even interested in getting it on launch day, and as reviews started popping up everywhere, my suspicions were partially confirmed.
Being the huge Batman fan that I am, I still knew that at some point I was going to try it out. And that I did on Halloween night. Ten hours later, my opinions on the game have changed drastically. This is the largest, most complete, most refined Arkham to date. Every single aspect of the game has been tuned to the point where it has reached its full potential.
It is true that regarding game play, this is Arkham City on a larger scale, with a larger map and plenty more skills, animations, gadgets and son on. But the story in Origins is fantastic and stands out as the best in the trilogy. Every major enemy is introduced with flair, and the fights are spectacular. The Deathstroke battle (which has caused many a lot of trouble, but I thoroughly enjoyed) in particular, was epically designed. The martial artistry displayed in this scene is jaw dropping. I cannot think of a more awesome and cinematic showdown in a comic book-inspired video game.
Graphics-wise, this game presents subtle differences in art style, opting for slightly less exaggerated characters and less contrast in general. This approach makes the game feel more tied to reality rather than a comic book, given the colorful palette applied to the previous titles.
I must say I do find a major setback with regards to a particular decision in the art direction, and that is Batman´s character design. It makes no sense at all. An excessively armored Batman on his second professional year cannot be justified on any grounds, and the countless amount of gadgets, from the get go, at times removed me from the context the story so passionately tries to portray.
The atmosphere is thick with immersion and somehow darker as well. I feel this visual interpretation more akin to the Batman world I know and grew up with. Similar to what Tim Burton did on his second Bats movie.
Moving on to sound, expect the same level of quality from before, although some of the impact sounds did seem to lose some of their, well, impact. I noticed this especially on finishing hits.
The music is appropriately epic when it needs to be, but in all honesty, there´s nothing truly new in the sound category, unless we talk about the voice cast. And we should because it is quite the highlight in Origins. With Joker and Batman taking center stage, all fears have been expertly put to rest (sigh!). Their delivery is true to the groundwork laid before them, but both Roger Craig and Troy Baker bring certain freshness to their interpretations, and that sits nicely with my taste. I will go as far as saying that for the franchise, I even like them better than Kevin and Mark...gulp!... *raises shield* In my opinion, Batman´s way more bad ass this time around, and Joker sounds a bit less schizophrenic, making the sound waves of Gotham a a little less saturated.
So to wrap things up, yes, Origins is very similar to City. Yet after spending some time with it, I´ve come to the conclusion that the Arkham formula is too much of a winning one, and polishing it rather than messing with it was perhaps, the safest and truest (to the franchise) course of action WB could have taken. Batman Arkham Origins´ biggest hurdle is its legacy, and the uncontrollable human tendency to compare.
As a gamer and Batman fan, I have given the game a chance and wholeheartedly recommend Arkham Origins. A truly memorable experience if measured on its own grounds. Nine out of Ten.