Posted: March 2
They say the night is always darkest just before the dawn. In this particular situation, 'they' are being completely ridiculous, because the night is, in most cases, darkest at midnight.
In a way, this makes Batman: Arkham Origins the series dark-before-dawn/midnight like thing. I've completely lost track of this analogy, but it seemed like an excellent sentence to begin my review with.
Back on track. Arkham Origins, a prequel to Arkham Asylum has Bruce Wayne two years into his crusade against crime. At this point, he is still considered to be an urban myth by most, though Batman being Batman, publicity really isn't something he invests greatly in regardless. This fact makes much of the interaction Batman has with the people of Gotham City seem pointless and stupid, with almost every conversation containing the phrase; "You're not supposed to be real!"
It gets old quickly, and doesn't help the plot develop.
The villains are depictly rather well, with a few exceptions. Anarky is bland and his missions are repetitive, but the Joker is shown in what may be his best portrayal yet. I find Troy Baker's voice work to be--please don't crucify me--more interesting and befitting of his character than Mark Hamill's. His character's origins are explored in Origins, and while it's a commonly used backstory for him, it's depicted creatively through the form of delusional flashbacks. Bane has no personality, but his behaviour and sheer presence
is enough to justify his inclusion in the game. Roger Craig Smith's Batman voice is lame. It's almost like the guy tried to imitate both Kevin Conroy and Christian Bale at the same time. It doesn't work and really subtracts from every scene where he talks.
Origins' soundtrack fits perfectly into the wintry dystopia of Gotham City. I particularly loved the inclusion of bells and the remixing of Ukrainian Christmas carol "Carol of the Bells" in the Joker's introductory theme.
Gameplay has barely deviated from Arkham City, which is in no
way a bad thing. There are slight modifications like the Shock Gloves and Remote Claw, but both gadgets are simply cop-outs for actual gameplay and seem like a crutch for new players. The map design is actually pretty good, it's just the Pioneers' Bridge which makes navigation difficult. For those who don't know, it's a ludicrously long bridge situated between the two islands of Gotham that you are required to cross several times during the game's campaign. I like the map layout for predator segments, which is far tenser and rewarding should you choose to remain earthbound, though staying up high is far easier.
The game's newly introduced 'I Am the Night Mode' is my favourite addition to the series. It is a new game mode that starts you in a game of New Game Plus with the challenge of not dying a single time. Being killed will require you to begin the entire game from the start. This doesn't come across as a tacked-on attempt at longevity, although it certainly sounds that way. It genuinely made me want to continue playing Arkham Origins until I mastered it.
Also added to this latest game is the 'Dark Knight System'. Essentially four categories of abilities (Fighter, Predator, Vigilante and Detective) containing lists of challenges that reward you for completing them--in order. While the reward for mastering this system is hardly anything to write home about, the satisfaction it gives you is well worth it.
Naturally, the challenge mode is excellent, although I would have liked to see a survival map like Arkham Asylum's 'Totally Insane' or Arkham City's 'Iceberg Lounge VIP Room'. The '100 to 1' Challenge doesn't add up by comparison. Playing as Deathstroke is also a boring experience, but honestly, who plays a Batman game and doesn't
play as Batman?
Overall, I'd recommend Arkham Origins to anyone who enjoyed the previous two games. Just don't expect anything extraordinary. Arkham City is still the god of all games.