After the first two fantastic games in the Batman: Arkham series, Arkham Origins was well-hyped and had an audience that just wanted more Batman; however, most of those fans were left incredibly underwhelmed.
Origins took Batman into a completely new place, a place before The Joker was a widely-known criminal mastermind, a place where Batman and James Gordon were not friends who respected each other, but where Gordon regarded Batman as the enemy — as a vigilante who had no respect for the law. That was a fantastic direction to take the game series in, as it sent you into a completely new story instead of a continuation from the earlier Arkham games and it was put together very well. It introduced lots of new villains to the series, with Deathstroke and Firefly making interesting additions for boss battles as assassins trying to claim a bounty of $50m that has been put on Batman’s head. With that in mind, though, to build on a brilliant game series, you need more than just a good storyline.
While the mechanics and combat were as good as they were in its widely-heralded predecessors, that’s all they were – as good as. Arkham Asylum blew people away with a mixture of the storyline, combat and stealth mechanics that the game relies so heavily on. Arkham City came in and built on that, improving features from the first game, including making it a larger open world experience. City also showcased small improvements like the cryptographic sequencer; instead of having radio waves, you had passwords, some of which were purely for comic effect. Origins, however, just took the things from Arkham City and placed them into a even larger open world – an unnecessarily larger world.
The main new addition to Origins was the way you can inspect a crime scene, fast forwarding and rewinding action to see what happened at what point. While a nice feature, it was much more of a novelty than a groundbreaking addition. The side quests in Origins were fun, if not a little reminiscent. The Anarky bombs were essentially a different way to market Zsasz’s ringing phones from Arkham City, and the Black Mask drug stashes were a very obvious rehash of the Titan containers that you could help Bane destroy in City. Completing Penguin’s most wanted section did give you some nice interaction with Barbara Gordon, though, who is so desperate to be your sidekick (spoiler: it doesn’t end well), but essentially, as is the consistent story with Origins, it is just all too familiar.
Even the combat system has started to feel a little tiring; Batman hasbeen fighting in the exact same way for the past four years between Asylum and Origins. Sure, it’s always fun to take criminals to beatdown city, but once again, Origins pushes it into the unnecessary category. In Asylum, there were fights where you had to take on 15-20 bad guys at once, but in Origins, fights are compulsory to do anything from find the data handlers that Enigma has hired, to stopping a crime, to buying a cheeseburger. …I may have made that last one up, but my point is that there are so many points where you need to fight a massive group of people that it just gets tedious.
When initially playing through Asylum, I remember how fun it was to mount a gargoyle and do an inverted takedown on a criminal. By the time Origins came around, all anybody has to do is drop down, catch the guy, swing round between a few gargoyles, and wait until the last one was still left standing underneath, before doing the same thing again. Rinse and repeat for about eight villains. Even the threat of a gun just wasn’t intimidating because you could fly between people during a fight and knock it out of their hands.
Then there were the bugs. Arkham Origins was so full of them that videos of any number of them can be found on the internet, but not only was the gameplay riddled with things that would completely break your game, but save files would get corrupted. Lots of problems were PC only, but console players had their fix of errors too. These errors were things like infinite falling, where, as the name suggests, Batman would just keep on falling, and no, Scarecrow’s drugs didn’t play a part in that. Others were a progress story stall, where no matter what you tried, you couldn’t go any further, while there was also unobtainable free flow focus mode, which was limited to PC only.
In experiences limited to just myself and friends, there have been the following:
- A point where the Batwing in a transitional cut-scene never stops flying;
- When trying to get into a radio tower, you would not be able to climb through the window, and even though you could access the lock with your cryptographic sequencer, Enigma would lock you out of the room via windows on the bars, therefore rendering your Batwing useless in this zone unless you restarted from the last checkpoint;
- A point when you met Anarky just after an autosave point where the game would crash and if you rebooted, it would place you at the same point, where the game would crash once again;
- A fight with Joker where you’re meant to use beatdown featured no prompts and the buttons would not allow you to do it without them, and you couldn’t even get to the menu;
- Throwing a remote-controlled Batarang results in a weird brown vortex appearing on-screen.
While Origins had momentary flashes of brilliance, it was far outweighed by the negative features of the game. Instead of building on a positive storyline, they worked against it, which left gamers and fans of the Batman series with a bad taste in their mouths. It isn’t a horrible game, but considering the other two games in the series so far are so highly rated, this was a tremendous drop off in quality, and it just felt all too predictable. Here’s hoping Arkham Knight, back in the rock steady hands of Rocksteady (see what I did there?) returns to top form.