Batman: Arkham Origins – Sorta Review

I’ve been putting off writing this, much like I put off starting the game in the first place. I wanted to give it some time first. Firstly to hopefully fix all those bugs I heard about. Secondly to let my thoughts digest for a bit.

Black borders courtesy of my subpar TV.

This is the third big release in the Batman Arkham series, not counting the handheld game that accompanied this one, and it is not developed by the same team that did the first two. This might give you some clues that Warner Bros. perhaps do not have the best of the series in mind. Instead of Rocksteady Studios, this was developed by WB Games Montréal.

It was released on PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii U (which is the version I played).

Sadly I have to report that if you have not played the previous games, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, there is very little reason to get Arkham Origins. The game clearly assumes you have played its predescessors, and does very little to introduce you to the setting, controls or even the multitude of gadgets you start out with. At best you can expect a small prompt whenever you’re in a place you’ll need to use a gadget. For returning players there’s immediately a sense of familiarity, but for new players I can imagine you’d mostly feel lost and confused.

Just not very hard.

The opening level tries a little, bless it.

It would also be terribly remiss of me to proceed without mentioning the bugs. There has been some conflicting reports on whether it’s especially bad on the Wii U, or if that’s the best version, or whether it’s just as bad across all platforms, and it depends on how lucky (or unlucky) the player is.

I wonder now if I could have been an arsehole and knocked the sock down.

These guys are certainly optimistic.

While my play session started very promising, it wasn’t that far into it that the bugs started showing up for me as well. Sometimes during indoor levels the map on the gamepad screen would just vanish. Gadgets would fail to connect properly. Animations got a bit wonky, especially when climbing up ledges. At one point Batman crawled into an invisible hole while going up a ladder and wouldn’t come out. I had to restart from checkpoint and try again, and it happened two more times before it finally let me progress.

Worst of all was the Diamond district which suffered massive performance issues, and the occasional freeze. At one point it froze so hard it actually crashed my Wii U, which is the first time I’ve ever had a game console actually crash on me. While I’m sure there are people eager to blame this on the Wii U, it feels more like poor coding and bad optimisation on the part of the game to me. Feel free to make up your own mind.

He thinks you look delicious.

Here’s someone who also wants your mind. To make it up. Maybe.

Thankfully it’s not all bad news. If you were expecting more gameplay in line with Asylum and City, you are in luck, because that’s just what you’re getting! More third-person walking, running, fighting and gliding! So long as no bugs are getting in the way, the game still works as you expect. Combat feels meaty and heavy. The gadgets help you out! Alfred plays support! There are mooks to beat up! Perhaps a bit many mooks… when they’re getting in your way while you’re hunting for collectibles, it might get a tad annoying.

It also feels like they might have upped the combat difficulty a tad? Even on what I thought would be normal street encounters I got knocked out a bit too often. Maybe that speaks more to my rusty skills than anything. I’ll just say that when those guys you can’t counter showed up, I didn’t feel quite as awesome any longer.

Okay, Alfred worries easily, but still.

Even Alfred is worried!

Of course, that kinda shifted back in my favour once I got the Shock Gloves… speaking of gadgets, there are now a lot of them. Twelve, I believe, not counting the Shock Gloves which are more of a passive upgrade. And you can also spend level-up points to unlock even more stuff, giving you far more options than you could ever think to use. A small tip: I would avoid getting the proximity sensor on the explosive gel, because that actually limits your tactical options.

But yeah, so long as nothing bugs out, everything is just as good as you would expect it to be. Getting into a nice flow in combat feels great, stalking a room of gun-wielding mooks is awesome, travel… well, that’s maybe a tad clunkier than I remember it being in City, but also fun when you get into a flow.

Batman just dives out without a parachute, of course.

And you can use the Batwing for fast-travel!

And I have to say that the Wii U features actually feel quite handy and neat. First of all there’s the map on the screen of course. Having that there all the time, and being able to tap objectives on the screen to set waypoints, I love it. I think the Wii U might be my favourite platform for open-world games for this reason. And it works as Batman’s communicator as well. Incoming communications; intercepted communications; playing off audio files; all of those are played through the speaker on the gamepad, and personally I found that really cool.

It is also used for fine aiming during the new investigation mode, which is honestly the coolest new addition to the game in my opinion. You now hunt for clues, scan them, build up a chain of events that you can play back and forth to figure out where to look for additional clues, like objects that went flying. And of course to help you plot trajectories if it was a shooting. I kinda wish there was even more of that, and less combat.

I usually got so caught up in it I forgot to hit the screenshot button.

This was the only shot of doing an investigation I found. Not really selling it…

The other addition is crimes in progress. Since Batman always pays attention to the police scanner, you will regularly get informed of crimes going on nearby, at which point you can choose to intervene. Unless you’re going for roleplay reasons, this is just doing a bit of combat for an exp bonus. And it’s fun, occasionally. I kinda got tired of them fairly quick though. Still, at least you have a reason for beating up the crooks apart from just for the giggles.

And finally I feel I should mention the boss fights, if only to say they are largely bullshit. To their credit, the developers seem to have tried their best to make sure the bossfights are as diverse as possible. But this also means that how well they work is very hit and miss. The final boss fight being especially frustrating. And it’s not so much that they’re outright difficult, it’s often more that they fail to explain what you’re supposed to be doing all that well. All too often I was just banging my head against them trying to figure out what to do so I at least could have a chance of winning on my next try. Having so many gadgets doesn’t really help. Maybe some people find that fun, but I certainly didn’t.

Though the textures looked nicer while I was playing.

It’s quite a good-looking city to explore, I’d say.

It’s not an awful game, I wouldn’t say that, but it is very broken right now. So my verdict is: Don’t buy it yet. Not at full price. Wait for them to fix it, and/or drop the price. And even then, only buy it if you have played Arkham Asylum and Arkham City first, and you just want another dose of Batman.

~Wulf

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Posted on November 27, 2013, in Games, Sorta reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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