Trapped in the Past

User Rating: 7 | Batman: Arkham Origins PS3
Arkham Origins is a troubled game. It possesses a fantastic story that establishes the perfect foundation for the Arkham universe. In fact, this is probably one of my favorite Dark Knight tales out there, creating a thrilling back story that flawlessly demonstrates the excitement and repercussions of Batman's first encounter with the Joker. The gameplay is still solid in most regards, inheriting the same fluid fighting mechanics that made the Arkham games some of the best action games ever made. Boss battles have been fine-tuned to perfection, making each fight gripping and challenging, sharply contrasting those in the previous two Arkham titles. Even the acting is great, with fantastic performances by both Roger Craig Smith as the Caped Crusader and Troy Baker, the best voice actor of 2013, portraying a younger, volatile, and deliciously psychotic Joker that even rivals the work of Mark Hamill in the original games. With all this praise, it seems like Origins would be another stellar Batman experience. But it's not. Origins is a good game marred by repetitiveness and unwelcome additions that hold it back from being a truly memorable experience. For instance, the combat features the new Shock Gloves, along with all of your favorite old gadgets. These new weapons can destroy any shield or break any barrier standing between you and your foes, causing you to ridiculously overpower anyone who stands in your path. In Arkham City, each fight against a new foe, such as the ninjas from the League of Shadows, required planning and different combos in order to take down the opposition. Here, you can mash the square button once the gloves are powered, quickly ruining any enjoyment or challenge to the campaign by giving you a practically automatic victory. The fighting feels much shoddier in this game as well. While City's battles felt like I was establishing a rhythm with each broken bone, Origins' fights are a struggle just to connect Batman's fists to the skulls of the street thugs. Not only do punches consistently miss their marks, but rooms can also become packed as well. In one of the later fights, enemies start randomly spawning at exponential rates, making it nearly impossible to focus on the fight, as well as causing the game to lag. Arkham Origins' Gotham feels like a hollow version of Arkham City's masterful open world. Not all grappling points are functional, forcing you to think of alternate routes to seemingly accessible locations. What's worse about traversal, though, is the fact that you have to cross a long bridge when journeying from one end of the map to the next. This becomes extremely frustrating, since the game offers a fast-travel system via the Batwing that allows you to skip over these segments. Arkham City's world was fun to explore and full of secrets, making you want to soar over rooftops and plunge into alleyways to search for every last Easter egg. Here, the world is barren, featuring no incentive to explore or enjoy the near clone of the original open world, which is a striking missed opportunity. Overall, the greatest sin Arkham Origins commits is the fact that it's not an entertaining experience. Aside from the engaging plot, nearly everything that made Arkham City a masterpiece has been unnecessarily edited to fit the canon or just flat out dropped altogether. Riddle trophies and puzzles have been replaced by randomly scattered extortion packs, which require little to no skill to obtain and are extremely disappointing. Similarly, most of the side missions are copied and pasted from City, swapping the villains that are involved to make it seem novel. Even Detective Mode, which on the outset looked like an intuitive new gameplay feature to compliment the blood-pumping combat, is a monotonous quest searching for red triangles instead of legitimate investigation. When all is said and done, Arkham Origins is a game that should be played. The narrative is intense and occasionally unbelievable. Sadly, however, it doesn't receive the solid gameplay accompaniment it deserves. Too often I found myself wondering about what the game could have been, rather than enjoy the campaign I was playing. Fighting is fresh, but new additions cause the experience to feel much more hollow and less rewarding than in prior games, making you feel more like a player than the actual Dark Knight. While the flawless story, voice acting, and boss fights soar, the rest of Arkham Origins holds the game back from becoming the Batman prequel that the gaming industry truly deserves. 6.5/10