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'Batman: Arkham Origins' Review: Brilliance Outweighs Frustrations

In the latest 'Batman: Arkham' saga, Warner Bros. Montreal takes the reins for a prequel that allows you to develop as that character does.


The 'Arkham Origins' story

There's just something about an origin story. Those early moments of a character's life or career divulge so much more about them than you can learn later in their fictional lives. That certainly holds true here, as the story of a young, second-year Batman on one crazy Christmas Eve gives us a deeper insight into the emotion of the character than the previous two games did combined.

You'll have first encounters with villains both famous — the Joker, the Riddler (known as Enigma here) and Bane — and some mostly known only by comic book fans, such as Firefly and Shiva. "Arkham Origins" offers up a story that feels closer to the comic book incarnations of these characters than ever before – ironic, since comic book and TV writer Paul Dini wrote the first two games and wasn't involved with this one.

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The story all takes place on Christmas Eve (one long Christmas Eve, since it'll take you about 15-20 hours for just the main story, with another 10-15 hours of side content). It starts with Black Mask putting out a hit on Gotham's fledgling vigilante. The villain is offering up a hefty $50 million for Batman's head, and this bounty brings all sorts of characters out of the woodworks, including eight assassins, the Gotham PD and other villains who might be more interested in simply matching wits than cashing in.

There's a major plot twist I won't spoil here. But when it happens, the entire story shifts dramatically, and for the better. There are several "holy crap" moments scattered throughout the game, and the various villains are introduced in many different ways that make you actually feel like they're different, not just placeholders for the next big fight.

And then there's Bruce Wayne's journey. Again, we're holding back for fear of spoilers, but the emotional resonance must be pointed out. This isn’t the Batman whose confidence helps him take on anything – instead, impulse drives him into the fray. His frustration is palpable, his choices meaty. And you get to see the character you love develop before your eyes. If Warner Bros. Interactive's main goal in this game was to make you feel what it is to become Batman, they succeeded.