By Kermath Davies
Ever since I finished Batman: Arkham City, I've been eagerly awaiting the sequel and seeing where this amazing franchise went next.
The origin of Batman is, in itself, an extremely interesting idea for a storyline. Following on from Batman: Arkham City, however, I feel like Arkham Origins is winging it most of the way. The inherited combat system is stunning, but it lacks some of the attention and refinement that made Arkham City and Arkham Asylum such great games. But what has really changed?
Arkham Origins is a bit of a misleading title; it may be a prequel, but this story is neither about Arkham, nor is it an truly an origin story. It's more of a traditional Batman plot that follows some of The Dark Knight's most familiar themes over its roughly eight hours of main story content: a self-destructive insistence on working alone, how far he'll go to avoid taking a life and so on.
That said, the plot is adequate enough and gives Batman a reason to face so many villains in one night – a US$50 million bounty on his head.
The transition of development teams from Rocksteady to WB Montreal made me wonder if the writers took a step back and realised they were stuck with a series that had already killed off its main antagonist. For this reason I think Origins was the only way to go – while still keeping the exceptional battle system and controls from the previous games – and why not? The game lets you start with most of the previous skills you worked so hard for in Arkham City unlocked and sitting in a 'core skills' category. There are tons of upgrades though, and always something you'll be longing to acquire.
Obtaining new weapons can be achieved by unlocking upgrades, but fundamental tools are given to you throughout the game as usual. The main difference this time being that most of the weapons are scavenged off fallen enemies, rather than manufactured at the Bat Cave.
One of these items is a pair of electric shock gloves, which seems to have replaced the brawling technique that the previous games had.
During a fight the gloves will build up charge, and instead of initiating powerful battle combos, the gloves discharge, letting you clear out the room ridiculously fast by slamming the square button. Activating these gloves feels almost like cheating, not that this prevented me from using them every chance I got.
Hitting combos is still extremely satisfying, and breaking out of brawls by shooting huge lengths of grappling hooks to building tops is strangely euphoric.
Flying around Arkham City is also better than ever, although at times disorientating. Double-tapping square will accelerate your glide up the grapple and force you up, keeping you in limbo to flawlessly shoot another grapple to a building close-by. There's even a trophy to unlock by gliding across the bridge without touching the ground.
The main problem I found with all the detail-heavy scenes was the major glitching waiting for the graphics to keep up with the gameplay, especially when getting around Arkham City in the snow. This was the first time I'd seen anything like it, where my PS3 was struggling to keep up. When I looked up the issue, it seems to exist on all systems, with many complaining about laggy controls and bad guys getting stuck in walls, forcing the player to restart and retry the mission.
Batman: Arkham Origins delivers as a sequel, though mostly through riding the wave of the successful game mechanics used in the previous three titles. The additions made to this game haven't made it a standout addition to the franchise, but the fantastic free-flowing combat and captivating cutscenes make it all worthwhile.
Batman: Arkham Origins
:: Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive
:: Developer: WB Games Montréal
:: Format: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U
:: Rating: M