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Batman: Arkham Origins

By breadbitten31-10-2013
MrJenssen (editor)
BloodyFanGirl (editor)

The Defence

Warner Bros Montreal
WB Games
Action, Adventure
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 2.6 GHz
AMD Phenom II X4 3.4 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
AMD Radeon HD 6950
4 GB
20 GB
9.0c, 10, 11

Note: Due to multiplayer having a lot of issues this review will focus on the single player portion. We will update the review when the multiplayer gets fixed.

The Case

Following the success of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, WB Games have decided to hand the responsibility of making a prequel to the inexperienced hands of Warner Bros Montreal instead of series curators Rocksteady Studios. Does this new team cock up the established formula or do they manage to honor its progenitors?

The Trial

The team at Warner Bros Montreal are in a terrible position. Not only have they been given the unenviable responsibility of following up Rocksteady's superb run with the Batman license in the Arkham series, but they also have to work around the established canon and justify making a prequel of all things! My heart goes out to the rag-tag group of newcomers and seasoned vets at the studio for being given such a monumental task. Taking that into consideration, Batman: Arkham Origins is a rousing triumph, however if we were to compare it to the legacy of its predecessors, the game falls short in more ways than one.



Batman: Arkham Origins is, as the name implies, an origin story. However the game deftly avoids being one about the Dark Knight himself and instead treats it as the origin of the Arkhamverse itself. The game’s story setup is a blatant excuse to cram in a smattering of undesirables from Batman’s rogues gallery, but it manages to find its footing pretty quickly. The game is set on Christmas Eve, with Black Mask having placed a sizeable bounty on the Dark Knight’s head, attracting eight of the deadliest killers and assassins to try and take him down. Like the best Batman stories told, it has its ebbs and tides and eventually it reveals a neat trick up its sleeve. It’s a great story, arguably the best in the series so far, with one exceptional sequence in particular that is bound to make any hardcore Batman fan stroke their chin.

The first thing you’ll notice in Arkham Origins is the high production value. For example, the cinematics in the game actually feel cinematic this time around, with plenty of dynamic camerawork and a lot more emphasis given to the characters’ faces when speaking or emoting; there’s definitely a more auteurist feel to them here than in the previous games. It’s appropriate then that the game’s cast of actors do an incredible job of completely owning their respective roles. As a child of the 90s, Batman: The Animated Series was an integral part of my life; to me, Kevin Conroy IS Batman and Mark Hamill IS the Joker. Learning that Conroy and Hamill would be replaced for Origins (Mark Hamill famously retired from the character shortly before Arkham City had released), especially after their excellent performances in the prior games, was a massive blow to fans like me. Why the praise for the new cast, then? As Batman, Roger Craig Smith brings in the calm, confident and understated nature of Conroy’s Batman and melds it with a more controlled rendition of actor Christian Bale’s angrier portrayal from Nolan’s films. On the flipside, Troy Baker IS the next Joker! Baker essentially plays a younger version of Mark Hamill’s Joker and manages to steal the show every time the character comes on screen, with the great chemistry between the two characters established by Kevin and Mark still intact.

Kids – don’t buy drugs... Become vigilantes and get them for free!

Kids – don’t buy drugs... Become vigilantes and get them for free!

Being a prequel, the game is set entirely in North Gotham, which is where Arkham City was also set, but the scale has been expanded to include an additional borough linked by the Pioneer’s Bridge. It’s almost enough to officially call Arkham Origins an open-world game but, as a world, Gotham City fares pretty badly even if we compare it to its predecessor Arkham City. There’s a distinct lack of “life” in the game world. The story prescribes that because of the severe weather conditions, Gotham City has been put under a state of perceived lockdown, with citizens staying indoors, giving rise to a wave of criminal activity throughout the city. You might think that this could explain the lack of any soul around the city that is not trying to whack you into submission, but this is poverty-stricken and economically struggling Gotham City we’re talking about! One can at least expect a few homeless people huddled around barrel fires trying to survive the night and the thugs just to make traversing the expertly-designed world a little less depressing.

Oh right, the gameplay! Warner Bros Montreal has adhered unflinchingly to the winning formula of traversal, exploration and combat that was first established by Arkham Asylum and later fully realized in Arkham City. On normal difficulty, the combat feels like it has been tweaked to make Batman feel a little more vulnerable and prone to making mistakes; enemies react quicker and more ferociously than in prior games, a sensible enough design choice given that this is Batman in his early years. I still blamed myself for missing a beat or two, mostly because of how ingrained the combat is in my muscle memory after two games. That said, Origins plays it much safer with traversal and exploration, but this also makes sense given how perfectly Batman moved around in the environments of Arkham City. One element that Origins has changed for the better is the way the game doles out upgrade points and how gadgets and moves in general are unlocked. I always felt that Arkham City was a bit too generous in showering players with XP, with every upgrade readily available to be unlocked. Origins wisely remedies this by having the upgrades branch into a system that resembles something like a skill-tree, with certain upgrades only becoming available after two or more linked upgrades are unlocked. Then there are the ‘Auxiliary Upgrades’ which can only be unlocked by completing certain challenges within the game. It’s a slap in the face of instant player-gratification for sure but it also makes players work that much harder for rewards.

Batman, in his n00b days, used to teabag his fallen enemies.

Batman, in his n00b days, used to teabag his fallen enemies.

Some other changes that Arkham Origins brings to the table is the way that Batman can now digitally reconstruct a crime scene using his suit’s link to the Batcomputer, finding out things such as the direction a bullet was fired or where an object important to the case might have fallen, based on variables such as speed and trajectory. Think of the memory-scrambling sequences from Remember Me with a slice of Detective Norman Jayden’s ARI investigation sequences and you’ve got a pretty good ballpark. It’s a good idea and it definitely goes an extra length into making the player feel involved in the investigation but it still feels rather undercooked. The lone area that Origins actually outshines either of its predecessors is in the way the game handles boss fights, which make use of Batman’s abilities in a more emergent manner. I can’t exactly pinpoint how they did it but the boss fights felt way more natural (with one sole exception) and up-close than anything in either Arkhams Asylum or City.

Arkham Origins is a great looking game. Its art style tones down the grim pomp and color of the previous games, opting instead for a style that resembles the Nolan trilogy more than anything else. It’s definitely worth mentioning that the game in its current state runs far worse than both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. There are frequent frame drops, stuttering cutscenes, crashes, and a general wonkiness to some of the animations in the game making it feel as if the game was shipped to make a deadline regardless of what state it was in. I’m quite confident that most, if not all, of these glitches can be swept clean by a patch or two in the near future.

The Verdict

Batman: Arkham Origins was doomed right from the beginning, but by sticking to what works and adding sensibly, if also conservatively, manages to rise above any of the pre-emptive criticisms hurled by fans, ending up a solid game that manages to slavishly stay true to Arkham City - almost to a fault.

Case Review

  • Spin Me a Yarn: Arkham Origins’ story is the best in the series so far.
  • Round 1 - FIGHT: The boss fights are well handled, most of them even outdoing the best ones from prior games.
  • It’s Called Acting: Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker’s portrayals of Batman and The Joker are worth the price of admission on their own.
  • Wasted Potential: The developers squander the game’s theme of assassins hunting Batman in an open-world by sticking to only narrative.
  • Holy Déjà Vu Batman: Plays, feels and looks exactly like the last game that came out a little more than two years ago.
  • A Buggy Batcomputer: Visual glitches, crashes and broken side-quests means you’ll be hitting “Restart from Checkpoint” a lot.
Score: 4/5
WB Montreal plays it safe and sticks to what works while adding little-to-nothing, for better or for worse.


The first two games in the Batman Arkham series by Rocksteady have managed a rare feat, being excellent game adaptations of something originally from a different medium. The pace of the gameplay, the structure of the levels and the flow of combat were all done extremely well. Arkham Origins tries to follow in their footsteps and at a first glance seems to offer most of the fans’ favourite features from its predecessors. Unfortunately, even simply copying the old stuff is far from perfect in execution. The in-game world of Origins is twice as large as Arkham City, but half of it is copied from the earlier game with only a handful of modifications. It also does not feel that large due to the fact that it consists of two regions separated by a very long bridge. The addition of quick-travel saves it from being too annoying, as many missions love to throw you back and forth between those two distant parts of the world.

The fluid combat is one of the most enjoyable parts of previous Arkham games. AO tries to spice it up with more special enemies that require new tricks to defeat. Unfortunately, some minor technical problems hurt the experience severely. Sometimes, your button presses will not register and you will miss a block, while other times Batman will stand still and punch the air around him instead of leaping at another enemy when you want him to. While some may consider it a representation of an inexperienced vigilante, it still makes combat much less enjoyable for the player. The story itself does not break any new ground, but it is decent enough. The audio and voiceovers work well even without the original actors. The one area where there is an unquestionable improvement is the graphics. While some small artistic changes may be a matter of taste, the graphical effects got better in the two years that passed between AC and AO; the higher quality ambient occlusion, tessellation, powerful anti-aliasing and deformable snow are nice to look at if your graphics card can handle all of that. Unfortunately, some effects and level items are only enabled with advanced PhysX with no less interactive parts for lower settings.

Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins is still a good game. Had it been the first game in the series, it would still pass as a nice adaptation of Batman. However, its predecessors were excellent and highly polished games. While worse overall design might not be a big reason to judge the game too harshly, low quality copies of elements perfected in the previous games are hard to excuse. For full retail price, it is not worth picking up now as it is, to me, nothing more than an additional few Batman missions with a set of shortcomings.

Score: 3.5/5


Taking Batman: Arkham Origins and not comparing it to the two previous titles is somewhat of an impossibility. Especially considering that these games are all, particularly Arkham City and Origins, very similar. In many, many ways. The game plays, feels and looks practically identical. For a true sequel, well, in this case – prequel, this is not really something to be proud off. Besides, Arkham Origins, compared to a lot of games coming out now, looks quite bland and washed out, mainly thanks to a subpar texture quality.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. AO still has all you expect from a good Batman game: awesome animations, cool gadgets, exciting fights and most of all – Batman. Some new mechanical expansions, such as a more in-depth detective work is a really nice and engaging distraction from the fighting that gives you a real chance to be the “greatest worlds detective”. Much better facial animations give even insignificant thugs a deeper, more believable personality. And the voiceover cast does a marvellous job all across the board, even to a level where it’s very hard to tell that some of the iconic voice actors have been replaced.

While traversing the city you will have a warm fuzzy feeling about the familiar locations from few years back but that doesn’t do much to alleviate the monotony if you try put the story on hold and “save the city” while answering distress calls. Those distress calls are nothing more than respawning mobs and after you fought ten of them, you feel like you fought them all. The inclusion of great boss fights and an interesting story helps the game but the lack of true innovation on both, technical and gameplay side leaves the game somewhat disappointing even if it’s not much worse than the previous iterations. That is what happens to a good game that didn’t fulfil the high expectation of being a great one.

Score: 4/5


Comments (8)
You must be to post a comment.
Posts: 267

My main problem with the game was not repackaging itself, but lower quality of repackaged parts as well as average quality of a new content. It could have seemed a great game if two excellent games haven't been in series before it. That really shapes the perceived quality.

Posts: 53

Pardon me for rehashing a comment that's been made all over the Internet, but I bet the fact that the next Call of Duty game is essentially a repackaged copy of the same game is not gonna be criticized upon as much as this.

Posts: 3290

Marvel always appealed to me more

Posts: 124

...and you never wedged in some time to pretend you're Batman in between your bot-bashing playtime?

Posts: 3290

I grew up on The Transformers. The REAL Transformers

Posts: 124

@Bobfish You must've had a joyless childhood.

Posts: 3290

I still haven't even finished Asylum. I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about

Posts: 1317

Yeah it's as I feared. More of the same. It's probably a great game, but I don't see a reason to pay full retail price for a game that is essentially a repackaged Arkham City. I'll get it on a sale someday.