The Dark Knight returns for a third game but with a twist! You'll be playing a younger Batman as the game is set before the events of Arkham Asylum. The "Origins" title had me thinking I would get to play and see how Bruce Wayne becomes the Batman but that wasn't the case. Right off the bat (hehe), you play as Bruce Wayne already dressed up as The Dark Knight, solving cases, and beating up bad guys. It’s perfectly fine and it works but it just wasn’t what I was expecting. The game should’ve been called “Batman The Events Before Arkham Asylum” or “Batman Oh Lookey You’re A Newbie Vigilante” but honestly I’m just nitpicking at this point. So where were we? Oh right the review! Let’s get to it.
I’m just going to mention right now that I don’t follow the comics so I wouldn’t know if the game shares a similar story. Having said that, I think the story was great. The game does wonders with the Batman universe and characters that really get you absorbed into the story. The story starts off simple enough with you chasing one villain and gets you wrapped up into a series of events that has you chasing down more than a handful of other villains. Some villains you will have to face as part of the main quest such as Firefly and Bane. Others you’ll get to face as a side quest such as the Mad Hatter and Anarky. I like how this was handled although I felt some villains weren’t given enough of a spotlight. The Mad Hatter side quest, for instance, was a psychedelic and fun playthrough but by the end of it I was left thinking “that’s it?”. You speak to the guy once, go through his weird world, then defeat him and save Alice. It was all done too quickly and I really wanted to get to play through more of his weird worlds. Plot twists in the game were done well and were highlights in the game’s story. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding out who was really in control after dealing with some questionable crimes. The main story is solid with some interesting side quests when you feel like dipping into something a little different.
Just like the previous entries of the series, Arkham Origins’ gameplay is fun, solid, and fits Batman to a tee. You press Y to beat bad guys up and rake up the combos. Pressing X when an enemy is about to attack will result in a counter. Pressing A stuns enemies which will allow you to beat enemies up easier. Double tapping B while moving the left analog to a certain direction will result in Batman dodging enemy attacks or going behind them. Simple enough and it feels as good as ever. However the controls in Arkham Origins can, at times, feel oddly different from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. I never really had a problem stacking up combos in the previous games but I sometimes have trouble getting it right in this one. It’s not a game breaker by any means but it somehow feels like a step back from the previous games. When it works, it works flawlessly and it’s oh so satisfying to see the Dark Knight move from enemy to enemy dishing out punches and kicks. When it decides to mess up however, it can be really frustrating and it’s not because you lose your streak. It’s frustrating because you can die as a result. I wanted Batman to deal with the gunman first but instead he goes for the unarmed thug despite moving the left analog towards the gunman. Sometimes I press X to counter but Batman just sucks up the punch. Other times I double tap B to dodge but, for some reason, he won’t so he ends up dying. It could be that I’m not playing it right, I won’t deny that possibility. But to go from smooth and fluid gameplay to smooth but can be clunky gameplay is a little disappointing.
Now for the bosses, the one part of the game that isn’t a step backwards. In fact, I would say it might even be a step forward. It’s not a big step forward but a step in the right direction nevertheless. Boss battles are simple but that isn’t a bad thing. It may sound bland doing the same things over and over again until the boss is defeated but they are usually pretty epic. Bane, for example, requires dodging and beating him up repeatedly. Killer Croc is similar but you get to throw Batarangs every now and then. Firefly has you spamming Batarangs and Glue Grenades. They don’t sound very epic on paper but they feel grand when you’re actually playing. These are the kind of boss fights that give you a satisfying feeling when you’re done. These are boss fights that make you go “Aw yeah! Batman wins yet again!”. Or you could keep that to yourself to avoid getting weird looks but hey, it feels good.
Wii U version uses the gamepad screen as a map which can be really handy especially since you can double tap certain points for fast travel. Aside from that, you can use the gamepad to look around crime scenes which is pretty nice. Lastly, when accessing your Bat Suit collection, you can press your finger onto the gamepad screen which acts as a fingerprint detector. It doesn’t innovate the way the gamepad is used but the effort is there and it’s well appreciated.
As a fan of the Batman Arkham games, I was a little dismayed at the reviews and scores it was getting. The more I read about the game, the more it seemed like a disappointing entry into the series. Now that I’ve actually gotten to play the game, I will say that it’s true that it doesn’t innovate the series or move it forward and that it’s just more of the same but I wouldn’t call that a bad thing. More of the same would be bad if the previous games were already bad to begin with but Origins gives you more of the same fun and solid gameplay as that of the previous games. It’s a shame it doesn’t try something new but with a formula that works wonderfully, why try to change it? If you were a fan of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City then I don’t see why you wouldn’t get to enjoy this. It may not feel as fresh as Arkham Asylum or as innovative as Arkham City but Arkham Origins is still a worthy entry into the Arkham series simply because the gameplay still shines.