PS3 Reviews: Batman: Arkham Origins Review

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Batman: Arkham Origins Review

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Graphics:

 

8.0

Gameplay:

 

7.3

Sound:

 

7.6

Control:

 

8.1

Replay Value:

 

7.9

Overall Rating:       7.7

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Developer:

Warner Bros. Games Montreal

Number Of Players:

1-4

Genre:

Action

Release Date:

October 25, 2013

Batman: Arkham Origins is one of those games that feels like it has a split personality. On the one hand, it features the dark yet oddly attractive style that is unique to the Batman character; on the other, it’s like dealing with a cocky individual who knows he has skills, but isn’t always willing to prove it. In other words, while the latest Batman effort is undoubtedly a solid, entertaining game, it lacks that “wow” factor we enjoyed in previous iterations. Maybe it’s because we’re not sensing anything new and the stakes are higher with each new entry…?

Strangely, one feels somewhat underwhelmed right from the start. The graphics are good but for whatever reason, I’m not anywhere near as impressed as I was with Rocksteady’s productions (remember, Warner Bros. Montreal handled this game). The animations are wonderfully fluid, most of the special effects are slick and refined, and the character modeling is awesome. But really, it’s the design that I find seriously lacking, as the so-called open-world setting just doesn’t cut the mustard in my eyes. Plus, they superimposed a lot of linear plot-advancing missions over a pseudo-sandbox format and frankly, it doesn’t work well.

The sound benefits from a decent yet surprisingly sparse soundtrack, and a set of accomplished effects that add a sense of urgency to every situation. The voice actors (particularly Troy Baker and Roger Craig Smith) do a great job with the admittedly amateur-ish writing and overall, the audio presents us with an engaging atmosphere that is very reminiscent of the comics. More could’ve been done with the music and some of the scenes are just a tad too hammy for my liking, but that’s okay. We accept a certain level of cheesiness when it comes to superheroes, don’t we? The technical aspects are good throughout, but not advanced enough to blow you away.

Here’s the premise— Villain Black Mask has put a $50 million bounty on the Caped Crusader’s head and as a result, eight super-villains have come to Gotham in an attempt to cash in. As you might expect, Batman is besieged on all sides by freakish enemies, which means the player must always be vigilant. Vigilantes bein’ vigilant, right? Get it? …okay, moving on; the game features well-planned pacing that allows you to familiarize yourself with Batman’s skills and gizmos. Such pacing adds a sense of balance to the adventure, but I really wish our surroundings were less…bland.

At the start of the game, you play through an initial sequence in Blackgate Prison, which isn’t all that invigorating, and then you hit the streets of Gotham. But unfortunately, it’s relatively small (especially after seeing recent virtual open worlds like Grand Theft Auto V) and at first, there really isn’t much to do. Bear in mind that I’m not comparing this game to GTAV, but I believe it makes sense to mention other games that feature freedom via sandbox territory. That’s what WB Montreal attempted to do with Origins; it just takes a while before icons begin to populate the map. And even when they do, it’s nothing all that special.

Also, I find it odd that many of the story missions aren’t always taking place in the exact streets you’re exploring. Story missions often occur away from those streets, in pre-set levels with a special location – such as Gotham City Police Headquarters – at its core. It’s almost as if one part of the development team really wanted to create a more linear narrative, while the other part insisted on an open-world setting. Eventually, the two were forced to meet each other halfway and that’s sorta what we get: A game that doesn’t fully embrace either style but tries to effectively utilize both linear and freedom-oriented systems. It sort of works but it still feels unfocused.

On the plus side, Batman is as deadly as ever, and he’s always fun to use. In addition to gliding silently through the dark, foreboding environment, Batman has the grapple hook, batarangs, smoke pellets, explosive gel, and his extremely helpful detective vision. You gain access to many of his most effective abilities and gizmos pretty quickly, which means you’ll never feel outmatched. It’s just a matter of practicing; get a hang of those nifty gadgets and get your timing right with the hand-to-hand combat. That extremely fluid, free-wheeling style of combat is still as invigorating as ever, even if it can feel slightly repetitive at times.

I’ve always liked the fact that you don’t have to be an action game master to be a bad-ass in the Batman games. You don’t have to memorize a series of complicated combination attacks, and you rarely feel helpless. Simply press the attack button at the correct time and watch Batman rip through a series of hapless victims. Administering the deadly final blow never gets boring and countering is simple and mostly straightforward. I still wanted some form of long-range weapon but then again, that’s not really Batman’s style. Either you take ‘em out silently while lurking in the shadows, one by one, or you rush right in, fists flying.

It’s just that the freedom aspect isn’t fleshed out enough. As I said, the story missions are quite linear, and you’re not always allowed to select an approach; i.e., stealth or up-close-and-personal combat. With tougher enemies, you’re forced to take them down in face-to-face combat because stealth is often useless against such foes. Then you toss in the fact that the map doesn’t feel like a living breathing world, but more of a hemmed-in playground, and you start to wonder if the designers had a cohesive aim. I don’t want to take away from the control and general combat and stealth mechanics, though, because those remain as great as ever.

There are plenty of side missions to unlock, too, and they don’t seem tacked-on or boring. The Riddler is always up for a game or two, and it’s fun to build your character abilities by completing various platforming and other action-based challenges. Yeah, you remember gliding through rings, don’t you? However, in another slight downside, you may notice that Batman’s skill tree isn’t all that exciting. His default equipment and capabilities are sufficient, and much of his best stuff is automatically unlocked via story progression. So the tech tree almost feels superfluous, to the point where I actually forgot to go in there and unlock stuff.

Oh, and I have to mention the boss fights. They’re okay but they’re not all that well designed, and some of them are downright frustrating. Then I remembered that WB Games Montreal is the same team that outsourced the boss encounters in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which represented that game’s biggest shortcoming. Maybe there’s a reason they did that; maybe boss fights just aren’t one of the team’s strengths, if the tough fights in Origins are any indication. Weirder still, they actually seem to get easier as the game moves forward. Well, at least Batman never stops feeling like the total bad-ass he is, and that's important.

The stealth is great, the combat is fantastic fun, the character designs are excellent, the story has a few high points, and Batman’s prodigious skills are impressive. Being able to reconstruct crimes by retracing events is a cool development of the detective feature, and maneuvering through the dark landscape and stalking enemies with superhero glee will make you grin. High production values enhance the immersion factor and despite doing little that is actually new, you’ll soon find yourself ensconced in another engaging quest. It’s easy to overlook the quality of the foundation when your expectations were so damn high.

That being said, Batman: Arkham Origins is a bit of a letdown for me. That’s mostly because the previous two titles from Rocksteady Studios weren’t merely great games, they were legitimate Game of the Year contenders. Although Origins has a lot going for it, most of that was expected and in truth, I anticipated much more. And this really feels more like a hybrid open-world/linear game, which is a little disconcerting. Like so many games that try too hard, it feels as if it lacks direction. Still, if you’re a fan of the superhero in question, and you’ve always loved the combat and stealth mechanics (which are freakin’ awesome), then you definitely have to give this one a try. Just don't expect singular greatness.

The Good: Slick effects and fluid animation. Some great voice performances. Stealth and combat mechanics are still fantastic. Batman has plenty of cool gizmos and highly effective abilities. Diverse, entertaining villains. Plenty of entertaining content if you play long enough.

The Bad: Feels somewhat unfocused. Boss fights can be frustrating. Tech tree skills aren’t all that exciting. Not enough freshness, a lot of the same ol’ same ol’.

The Ugly: “A little emptiness in an open world goes a long way…unfortunately.”

10/28/2013 Ben Dutka

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Comments (16 posts)

Temjin001
Monday, October 28, 2013 @ 9:55:01 PM
Reply

This game really didn't need to happen from what I've read here and other places. I love the first two Arkham games and this new game makes me feel the filler side of milking a franchises popularity just to keep the series fresh in consumer minds.
Here's hoping Rocksteady restores these Batman games to proper elite form.

As for Origins, I may give it a shot when I catch it on a real good deal. I don't think it'll be all that long before it happens actually. But it's too bad that it's likely a good deal of people bought this game day one, having trusted this one would be something special.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 10/28/2013 9:57:49 PM

Agree with this comment 5 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, October 28, 2013 @ 11:29:16 PM

^ My sentiments about GoW Ascension.

Agree with this comment 5 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Tim Speed24
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 6:18:00 PM

Ditto for God of War Ascension and Batman Origins

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Tim Speed24
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 6:20:53 PM

But I will tell you what Batman Arham Origins Blackgate on the Vita is pretty good.

It's a fun 2.5 side scroller that reminds me of old school type play with better graphics.

Really the Vita needed something like this.

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SaiyanSempai
Monday, October 28, 2013 @ 10:39:36 PM
Reply

Didn't end up getting this day one like I did the other two and I'm glad. I was getting a very GoW:Ascension-like vibe from it.

I may just skip this one altogether. I still have unopened games I want to get to before the PS4 drops.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Jawknee
Monday, October 28, 2013 @ 10:53:17 PM
Reply

Shame. I've even read the Wii U version has less features than Arkam City Armored edition. I mean, c'mon! Wth?! I'll pick this up when it's cheap because it's more Batman but as Temji said, this game feels like it was unneeded. Dare I call it a cash grab?

Agree with this comment 6 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, October 28, 2013 @ 11:30:00 PM

That's what prequels are.

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telly
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:57:20 AM

Yep. Which I don't necessarily begrudge the gamemakers for, but the bottom line is this game sounds like exactly what I thought it would be -- a competent retread of what's already been done and inessential as a result. I love Batman, and I love these games, and I LOVE the idea of running around Christmas Eve and squaring off against assassins, but no way I'm paying full price for the privilege.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, October 28, 2013 @ 11:30:55 PM
Reply

That's what I think will happen to Metal Gear Solid V, it will end up with two frayed ends of an open world and linear game poorly sewn together in places.

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Cesar_ser_4
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 12:42:09 AM
Reply

The worst part about this game is that the PC version is filled with so many bugs. I just may kill it with fire.

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Lord carlos
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 3:37:01 AM
Reply

A side from a few framerate drops & bad camera positioning,i'm having a blast.
8/10

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___________
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 4:36:15 AM
Reply

im really enjoying it so far, besides all the game breaking bugs.
if i had a nickel for every time batmans sunk into the world, or fallen trough a object after grappling onto it, or hitting a invisible brick wall while leaping from platform to platform, id have enough cashola to buy out the great wane himself!
not to mention the slowdown, oh my god the frame rate dances up and down more frequently than a robot on absinthe!
theres even slowdown at the main menu of the game, you press start to bring up the menus and it freezes there for a few moments every time.
really starting to think i somehow got the pre alpha build of the game, and somehow managed to play that on my retail ps3.
seriously, what is certification for?
games have to go gold minimum a month before release so developers can lend the game to M$ and $ony to make sure its up to scratch.
a game that glitches out every 5 minutes forcing you to reset the game is considered up to scratch is it?
really starting to get sick of having to put up with these broken a$$ games!

putting aside the infuriating constant bugs though, im really enjoying it.
most of the things that felt missing or needed improvement have done.
the detective mode is far more involved than the other games.
asylum and city certainly did not make you feel like the worlds greatest detective, and while origins may not either its still light and day better than those two!
the storys allot better too, some really nice twists and turns within it that you really dont expect.
its nice to see the origins of allot of characters too, the creepy flashbacks of the joker and batman, then jokers first discussions with the doctor.

only thing that needs fixing now is the god dam sluggish controls!
theres still a massive delay from pressing a button and the action being performed.
try doge and see how long it takes for batman to actually start moving.
gets REALLY infuriating in the boss battles.
if i had a nickel for every time i died because of the stupid sluggish controls, well, wayne would not be wayne at all!
nothing more frustrating than having to redo a whole level because the god dam controls did not do what you asked too!
i dont think ive ever screamed OH F*CKING BULLSH*T I ASKED YOU TO COUNTER so much in my entire life!

they certainly need to inject more life into the open world though.
it reminds me allot of mafia 2, the open world is just there to serve as a area to travel around in, nothing more.
which is a shame theres so much more they could do with that vast open space.
they need to try take the missions out of the closed buildings and let them leak out onto the streets.

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PC_Max
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:24:49 AM
Reply

Well, as I suspected, this game maybe a pass. Although I did enjoy Arkham City and its predecessor, this just did not scream to buy for me.

Keep playing!

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telly
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:59:11 AM
Reply

Reminds me of God of War: Ascension: A pretty well-executed retread of what we've already seen and unessential. Looks like it's worth a playthrough for those of us who liked the earlier games (Arkham City was the closest I've ever come to running around Tim Burton's Gotham City, absolutely loved it) but no way does this justify $60.

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Geobaldi
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 5:24:15 PM
Reply

I stopped playing after the first hour. The game is a bug riddled mess.

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PlatformGamerNZ
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:15:59 PM
Reply

from what i have heard it's a gud game but not a reallr great or amazing game so i was a little off put by what people were telling me weither to get it on vita when i plan to try to get one with christmas. but then i though i'd like to give it a go why now its batman right.

happy gaming =)

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