Batman: Arkham Asylum was one of the best games of 2009 and perhaps the biggest surprise in gaming history. The sequel, Arkham City kicked it into a second gear with a larger game world and a much bigger character roster. So what can Arkham Origins do? Well, it has an even bigger game world, even more side missions, even more gadgets, but in terms of gameplay, not much new can be found here. Instead of continuing from where Arkham City ended, Origins happens before Batman was the veteran superhero he nowadays is. Gotham's biggest crime boss, Black Mask places a 50 million dollar-bounty on Batman's head and that is a motivator for eight deadly assassins to chase the Dark Knight. Everything is not exactly how it seems, though, since the Joker has his own plans, too. Batman just hasn't met him yet. What a Christmas Eve it's going to be!
The gameplay is very similar to the previous Arkham games. Batman can glide all around Gotham City and explore every corner there. Bats can also use his super-fast Batwing to travel longer distances. Aside from adventuring, Batman features two main things: the freeflow combat and predator encounters. The freeflow combat is simple; Batman counters with one button and strikes with the other, so he can seamlessly move from enemy to enemy defeating even a large gang if needed to. The combat is still great and the different henchmen, from knife-wielders to riot shield-users and durable giants, create variety, since you can't defeat them all using the same methods. Predator encounters are another Arkham-tradition; hide in the shadows, strike fast and silently and go back hiding until they've all been laid out one by one. Batman can sneak up from behind quietly with a silent takedown, swing in the gargoyles above and drop from there, strike from below and even string up the enemies leaving them hanging.
Batman truly loves gadgets and they're mostly the same as in Asylum and City. Detective vision is of course the most important of all since you can see enemies through walls with it and it also lets you see fragile walls and other important hotspots. All the puzzles involve solving them with a gadget, may it be blowing up a weak wall with explosive gel, hitting a far-away button with a remote-controlled batarang or opening locked doors with the cryptographic sequencer. One new gadget is the remote claw which allows you to create a rope between two anchor points. It truly feels like you're Batman when playing, just like it was in AA and AC. The gameplay elements work just as fine as before and if you just can't get enough of Bat-action, Origins surely won't disappoint. But if you're looking for something new and mind-blowing, you're in for a disappointment. Origins feels very familiar if you've played through the previous Arkham-games, right down to the hallucinations that are once again in.
One thing Arkham Origins improves upon are the boss battles. This time they just feel better flowing and balanced. The main focus is on the assassins chasing Batman. For example Deathstroke, a masked expert swordsman is all about technique and counters. You have to have good reflexes to get through him. Firefly likes to keep a good distance to fry his victim, thanks to his flamethrower and jetpack. The Electrocutioner is a loud-mouthed pit fighter that doesn't fight fair; he utilizes special shock gloves. Bane, that will be quite a pain in the ass throughout the game, likes to use his huge strength and charge toward his foe like a raging bull. Arkham Origins has a lot more boss battles than AA or AC had. Arkham City featured some minor crime-scene scanning, but this time, it's been taken to a whole new level. Crime-scene sequences are very easy and straight-forward, but they're also visually impressive and innovative. Batman gets to prove why he's truly the World's Greatest Detective.
Arkham Origins looks very similar to Asylum and City and that's certainly not a bad thing. The always dark, gothic Gotham is a bit less depressing than usual, thanks to Christmas lights and white snow. The environments are well detailed and pretty. Batman has a more heavy-looking, armored suit and he starts growing a beard and his cape gets more and more torn as time passes. The character models look great once again. I can't wait to see what the developers can do with Batman on next-generation consoles! The game freezed on me once and even that was partly my fault. There is some lag, especially after you use the Batwing, but it's understandable since the game world is so big and beautiful. There are also some audio issues like the Batwing sometimes having no sound and some of the dialogue being too loud and some too quiet, but they're minor flaws. The soundtrack is once again excellent, creating just the perfect dark mood for the Caped Crusader's adventure. Voice acting is a real treat. A lot of people were worried about how the new Batman and Joker-voice actors would do, but they do a great job at replacing Conroy and Hamill. Batman's voice is great once again, the new voice actor's voice is almost identical to Conroy's and same goes for Joker, I had to really carefully listen to notice any differences between him and Hamill.
The story mode is enjoyably long once again, just like City's. The main story will probably take around 15 hours from an average player. And it's great that there's a lot to do once the main story is finished. There are more side missions than ever. Batman can try to outwit Enigma (aka The Riddler), put an end to Penguin's gun dealing, destroy Black Mask's drug stashes, prove his worth to Shiva, save an innocent girl from Mad Hatter and more. There are a lot of useful upgrades to unlock and classic Batman suits to earn for those who are after nostalgia. There are also extra crime-scenes to scan that have nothing to do with the main story and random street crimes to stop. Then there's the challenge mode which features combat challenges to improve your countering and attacking and predator encounters to improve your stealth abilities. For the first time ever, Arkham Origins also has an online multiplayer which I haven't tested yet.
If you've greatly enjoyed the first two Arkham games, definitely buy this one too, since it features many memorable moments that are a must for a Batman-fan. While it doesn't bring much new to the table, scenes like Joker's twisted, laughter-filled amusement park-themed hotel visit, a visit to the Wonderland, thanks to Mad Hatter and exploring Penguin's ship, are moments that must be experienced. I found Joker's amusement park hotel-segment to be one of the best things I've ever experienced in any Arkham game. But if you're fed up with the combat and stealth encounters, don't bother trying out this one, because it doesn't feature much new.
The Good: Great combat and stealth action, looks great, excellent voice acting, boss battles have been improved, gadgets are fun to use, features some of the best Arkham-game moments ever
The Bad: Doesn't do much new, lag, minor audio issues
REAL SCORE: 9.2