Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

'Batman: Arkham Origins' Review: Brilliance Outweighs Frustrations

'Batman: Arkham Origins' Review: Brilliance Outweighs Frustrations
By , Lucas Siegel

Batman Begins, Again

It's time once again to suit up as the Batman and put on the cape and cowl to take down the villains of Gotham City. In "Batman: Arkham Origins," players turn back the clock on the popular "Arkham" series, going to Batman's second year of operation as Gotham's vigilante.

The younger, less-experienced hero meets many of his popular rogue's gallery foes for the first time, showing how he went from scrappy vigilante to trusted superhero. Developed this time by Warner Bros. Montreal (the first two games in the series came from Rocksteady), "Origins" lets players become the Batman in a different way than in the rest of the critically acclaimed series. The player learns how to play while Bruce Wayne himself is learning to be Batman. The approach changes the implementation of tried-and-true gameplay while delivering a story that, surprisingly, feels more like the comics than the rest of the game series does.

"Arkham Origins" Gameplay

This game is, at its heart, still an "Arkham" title. If you're used to the controls for movement and fighting from the prior games, especially "Arkham City," you'll have no trouble jumping right in. Warner Bros. Montreal has made no secret of the fact that they're using the same engine and assets as the prior games, with full access to previous producer Rocksteady's creations. They even give Rocksteady a substantial portion of the credits as thanks. There are new gadgets to play with, all of which have both combat and puzzle-solving uses. Gliding around the city moves pretty quickly, but if you have to get somewhere a little more quickly, you can travel fast via the Batwing — once you unlock the fast travel spots via Edward Nigma's towers.

MORE: 30 Great Costumes from New York Comic Con 2013

Overall, gameplay is more of the same – in the best way. There are puzzles to solve, random crimes to bust up (that get progressively harder, keeping the challenge level high) and, of course, the major villains to contend with, from the Assassins to beyond. The freeflow combat is still some of the best hand-to-hand fighting in the business, and the new gadgets only increase the fun. Glue-grenading one enemy, shocking another and pulling the next toward you into a clothesline with the Batclaw keeps the variety going throughout gameplay. This runs about 30 hours (if you do about 50 percent or more of the side missions).

The game helps you master various parts of combat as you go, with each boss tuned mostly to a specific style. Bane requires dodging and stunning; Deathstroke is all about well-timed counters. Deadshot makes you sneak around in predator mode, and Firefly makes you attack via your long-range weaponry.

The puzzles have changed as well, both due to the new gadgets and a new detective mode that allows you to investigate and reconstruct crime scenes. It's a fun and effective way to bring in the actual crime-solving aspect of the character that first appeared in "Detective Comics." It both breaks up the action and helps you explore more of the city.

If there are flaws in this setup, they are the same ones that have existed in the last two games. The dodge mechanism is very touchy. It makes for several frustrating moments when taking on large groups of enemies, or the aforementioned boss fights that require the dodge as part of the battle. You don't always dodge in the direction of your thumbstick, instead sometimes just going whatever direction Batman happens to be facing – even if that means diving directly into the attack you were hoping to avoid.

Likewise, when you've progressed into the game, you'll meet large groups of varied enemies, each with their own specific disarm/takedown moves. This presents a very high challenge, and novice players or those who prefer to just play for the story should definitely play on the Easy difficulty level. You can't change difficulty once you've started the game, so be warned. Even Normal gets tough, and you should anticipate your level of struggle from the beginning. The good news is that, since the difficulty ramps up, you never feel like there's nothing new to do, and you always feel incredibly accomplished after a hard fight. When you defeat some of the assassins, like Deathstroke and Bane, for example, it is nearly impossible not to throw your arms up in celebration. You've done something very few people can do – you are the Bat.

      

Display 4 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 3 Hide
    wazups2x , October 25, 2013 1:08 AM
    Great review! I was trying to find out if Origins had a good story and now I know it does. More reviews need to talk about a games story. It seems like most reviews ignore the story and only talk about gameplay and graphics. I really like that you had a whole section dedicated to the story.

    Bookmarked this site.
  • 0 Hide
    Abaddon , October 28, 2013 8:45 PM
    I've been playing this since Friday and am a massive fan. The review was pretty spot on, though I wouldn't agree about the graphics quality being similar, everything looks much better to me in this newest incarnation (though I am playing on a PC with an NVIDIA card and 3DVision, so I can imagine things would be much worse for ATI users or console kiddies).
    The other things which needs to be addressed are the menu's and map, there is essentially no mouse support here which is very frustrating (especially on the map, as this worked well in Arkham city, it's WASD only and very fiddly trying to select a marker).
  • 0 Hide
    photonboy , October 29, 2013 10:11 AM
    Abaddon,
    get an XBOX 360 controller for PC. Like MANY games on PC now, Batman was designed with the controller in mind.
  • 0 Hide
    wazups2x , November 2, 2013 5:14 PM
    @photonboy

    I disagree. I thought Batman: Arkham Asylum played much better with a mouse and keyboard than it did with a controller.

    I haven't played Origins or City yet so I don't know how those are but if they're like Asylum I see no reason to use a controller.
Tom’s guide in the world
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • UK
Follow Tom’s guide
Subscribe to our newsletter