Many gamers have spent the past few days immersed in Gotham City once again with the release of Batman: Arkham Origins. As the third game in the franchise, we actually journey back to an earlier time in Batman's career. This gives players a chance to return to Gotham but before the craziness from Arkham City as well as giving us a chance to see certain characters return or cross paths with Batman for the first time.
The story focuses on the bounty placed on Batman's head by Black Mask. This causes several of Batman's biggest foes to crawl out of the woodwork on Christmas Eve. As Alfred puts it, Batman could simply stay home but Batman knows these assassins roaming the street could lead to innocents getting harmed.
As far as those innocents go, thankfully for Batman's piece of mind, there aren't a whole lot on the streets. The game promises a bigger free-roaming environment. You'll have your main mission with reminders that you really ought to visit or stop so-and-so but as you cruise around the rooftops, you'll hear about certain crimes in progress. Similar to the previous games, you mainly beat up on a bunch of street thugs. It is a way to build up your points for upgrades. And you'll have plenty of dealings with Riddler to keep you busy as well.
If you've played the previous games, you'll be able to dive right in. There is a new "Enhanced Detective Mode" where you can replay what happened at crime scenes (this is essential in some parts). A lot of the familiar weapons are at your disposal along with some new ones. You'll also have some access to the Batplane, which you'll definitely want to use to avoid having to go back and forth, the long way.
Because it's set earlier than the other games, we can justify Batman not easily mopping the floor with his opponents. The boss battles are a little unbalanced, but again, we're talking about a less experienced Batman so that must explain why some of the fights got a little frustrating, right?
You may have heard about the early encounter with Deathstroke. Yes, we're talking about Deathstroke and he should be a complete badass. There's one thing to creating a challenge and another when that challenge relies on repeated playing just to get to the next part. I'm sure there are many expert gamers that were able to defeat him on the first try, right? There is a weird balance between the different villains. Some are pretty unexpected.
The biggest problem I had was the glitches. At one point, early in the game, on the way to try to find Penguin, the game simply froze. The screen went black and all I could hear street noise. Nothing could be one except for restarting the game. Then, of course, my Xbox wouldn't start back up. There were some known issues, especially when trying to log on with your WBID. Some of these issues were fixed. But other glitches in the game ended up leaving a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Nothing like having to replay the last bit over again because the game didn't save.
Aside from the small number of new characters and gameplay options and glitches, how is the game? The good and the bad thing is, it's Batman. You can't deny how fun it is skulking around the rooftops and waiting to drop down on your unsuspecting foes. There's that satisfaction seeing your final blow play out in slow-motion. Having enjoyed the previous games, who wouldn't want more? This might make us more accepting to any downsides.
The problem is, there's not really a lot of new aspects to the game to justify the full retail price, especially with the glitches. I would have preferred having the game delayed a tiny bit in order to iron these out. From our perspective, it's great having the Dark Knight in a video game of this caliber. There are plenty of tiny Easter Eggs that make you feel like the developers really kept us in mind. Whether it's mention of a certain company owned by green-clad archer or a poster for a certain top hat wearing magician, there are little things that really make this fun, from a comic reader's perspective. Interacting with the characters and seeing the introduction of others even makes you hunger for more.
If it wasn't for the glitches and freeze ups. Part of it is, how forgiving can Bat-fans be? WB Montreal had a strong legacy to live up to. They do nail it in many areas. There are some cool new aspects added, just not too many. The minor problems that should have been caught before the game's release leaves me a little fearful for future Batman games.
Batman: Arkham Origins can be a fun game. You get to be Batman, immersed in Gotham. You'll feel right at home if you've played the others. I can't say it's a great game but it can be a lot of fun. The story is interesting and different enough from the previous two games. Do your best to avoid spoilers, if you can. Troy Baker does a great job as Joker and Roger Craig Smith stepped into Batman's shoes nicely.
The game has its share of problems but it also has some really nice moments that will bring a smile to your face. If you've enjoyed the other two Arkham games, you will like this as well. It's not re-inventing the franchise but it doesn't really have to. It's unfortunate that there are some problems. Perhaps an update will fix some of them. Until then, you can count on return trips to Gotham to fully explore every corner. It's good. It's not great. But it's Batman. And you have some fun with this game.