Like most of you out there, I grew up with comics and games. I also grew up with comics and cartoons, and with comics and movies. As you guys know, the previous combinations hardly ever ended up in a successful result: apart from comics+cartoons, comics-themed movies often were dull and ridiculous, while comics-themed games often ended up with being frustrating, at the very least.
Then, one day, Christofer Nolan reinvented the movie genre, and so did Rocksteady with Arkham game series. Asylum and City set new awesome standards in games and for this reason, I started to tremble when I found out that the last installment was going to be developed by a different team. For some reason, WB decided to pass the code to the recently born Montreal studio, so I was both curious and afraid to find out the outcome of their work.
You already had a preview of the product with this post, so here is my final review.
Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline set several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. It takes place during Christmas Eve before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, where a young and inexperienced Batman strives to fight his inner ghosts and tries to become the Dark Knight. Not only Gordon is not yet a Batman ally, but also Alfred struggles to balance the good hart of Bruce Wayne versus his vigilante tendencies. As the story unfolds, you will meet many important characters for the first time and forge key relationships.
The story starts when Gotham’s drug lord Black Mask, tired of Batman interference, puts a reward on the Dark Night’s head. As a result, the deadliest bounty killers move to Gotham in search of glory and, in their job, are somewhat helped by a bunch of corrupted policemen and SWAT members. Therefore, not only Batman has to defend himself against the criminals but also has to convince a bunch of good men (Jim Gordon, just to start) that he is playing on their part. Since criminals need weapons, Batman strategy consists in interrogating the biggest weapon’s smuggler of the town, The Penguin!
Little by little our hero unravels the mystery, finding out that a much bigger threat set his claws on Gotham.
As the main story unfolds, a dozen of side quests and Enigma’s challenges will allow for experience points harvest, serving the purpose of both introducing you to the DC universe and letting you buy new upgrades.
Batman: AO is a good game, that will give you hours of fun. Unfortunately, all the good things behind this game can be overwhelmed by the fact that most of them have already been seen in the previous two games. Despite the name “Origins”, there is not much originality here. It is a fact that Arkham City looks like an excellent version of the city before it was turned into an open-sky-penitentiary, but it is also a fact that the game was supposed to explore “Batman before Batman”.
In the game, Bruce Wayne already has almost all of his power-ups and the Batcave is, for the most part, complete. What I mean here is that there are not many origins to explore, and the game can be boring if you have already played the other episodes.
Luckily, a few things are still worthy to be explored. A nice variation on augmented reality is indeed the new investigation mode. The game features a lot of primary and side quests where you’ll have to use your investigation gears, rebuilding a 3D crime scene and then analyzing it frame by frame for evidence.
Furthermore, a “mention of honor” (well, sort of…) deserves the freshly introduced competitive multiplayer campaign. It was probably neither needed nor appropriate inside a stealth-action game, but it works and it is fun. Despite the fact that I had to struggle a lot before finding a populated lobby to play it, I always enjoyed the match when I finally found one. Here is it how it works:
– you enter an 8 people lobby. The computer will split the team into three crews: Bane gang (3 players), Joker gang (3 players) and Dynamic Duo squad;
[You won’t see the picture above till the end of the match, but I inserted it for clarity.]
– the match starts: if you are Batman (or Robin) you’ll have to neutralize as many enemies as possible; if you are a Bane (or Joker) minion, you’ll have to kill the opposite team (and possibly Batman and Robin as well) while avoiding to be killed;
[Click images above to enlarge.]
– according to your performance, you’ll have the chance to unlock a gate that allows you to “turn” into Bane of Joker and play as such.
– when all “reinforcement” is over the match ends. At this point the “wheel” will spin again, deciding your fate. Who will you be, this time?
[Multiplayer pictures made by g0blin. AO pictures were taken from the net.]
Edit: January 27, 2014:
Multiplayer clip added. Please excuse the low quality. It will be taken care of soon.