Batman: Arkham Origins (Wii U) Review:

Batman’s Christmas surprise.

I heard there's a lunar eclipse tonight.
I heard there’s a lunar eclipse tonight.

Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to the utterly fantastic Arkham Asylum and goes some way to set up said game, unlike Asylum however, Origins was not made by Rocksteady and as such, it stutters and never quite comes into its own.

As Origins follows on from Arkham City in terms of development it takes on the larger open-world aesthetic and design of City, including the entire City map and adds a fair amount on top – this is not a good thing. Arkham City filled its world with a ton of things to do and so many nice touches scattered around, Origins doesn’t do this, it feels empty, bland and too big. It doesn’t help that the majority of the map contains extremely tall buildings, as you will not spend much time at all on the ground beyond the occasional fight.

They should know that they have a green crosshair around them.
They should know that they have a green crosshair around them.

This time around, the game is set on Christmas Eve which is refreshing, and everything is covered in snow that crunches under Batman’s feet as he walks over it, a very nice touch that does help to make the game a little more visually interesting than it could have been. There is still a fair amount to do in the over-world, like crime scenes and all of the Riddler stuff (that is too boring to describe), except that Riddler trophies are gone and there is much less to scan, just in general, Origins is not very exciting outside of missions and side-missions.

In the missions Arkham Origins is almost as good as City and Asylum, the cast of villains is great and the storyline is almost as good as we’ve seen before, however, certain aspects of the game go underused, notably Killer Croc and Deathstroke, killer Croc in particular is there for the opening fight and then kind of makes a hilariously bad cameo towards the end. Batman’s relationship with Commissioner Gordon also doesn’t build to much or really get started. Black Mask and Joker however save the game from perhaps mediocrity as they both command the screen and the latter half of the game really gets into its own.

Not in game.
Watch out Deathstroke! Batman’s holding a light!

One area of the story that was written very well is Bruce Wayne’s interactions with Alfred; the writers really nailed the relationship there. Overall though, the story of Arkham Origins is quite good and not much worse than the previous games.

It is in the story where the visuals look better; at times the game looks lovely, better than the last two thanks to some great lighting effects – this can be a snazzy looking game. Origins plays as well as the older games too, picking off guards one by one feels as intuitive as ever and stealth gameplay still feels epic if you do it right. Fighting in the game is just as silky smooth as it has been, why change something that isn’t broke?

Screw you. Sir.
Screw you. Sir.

As with the rest of the gameplay holding up well, you feel like Batman, you feel powerful, you can feel in complete control of the enemy and you can feel like you are feared. Key to the feel of the game is that you also feel vulnerable, something the developer nailed just as well as in past Arkham games; guns are still deadly and you can get beaten in a fight if you keep on miss-timing your attacks.

There have been a few key additions to the series also, there are two new items to play with, the Shock Gloves and the Remote Claw. The Remote Claw I feel never really comes into its own and ultimately feels pointless, and the Shock Gloves are essentially your “get out of jail free card” as when you use them your attacks become super strong, destroying everyone in your path with little to no effort on your part.

These gloves really are too strong.
These gloves really are too strong.

As the map is huge, there are fast-travel locations that have to be unlocked by doing side-missions, thank goodness for these as constantly going over bridges that last forever is not fun. Crime scenes have also been given a new lease of life, with you looking for clues in small areas to unfold the crime that took place, you can fast-forward and rewind the crime-scene to see if there was anything you missed; these are great but there are not enough of them.

A major disappointment on the Wii U version (other than the fact that it misses out on the supposedly tacky multiplayer mode) is the lack of gamepad integration. Gone is all but the map on the gamepad’s screen from Arkham City, this seems like a step backwards as all the gamepad functions on City were brilliant. Another issue is to do with the gamepad, but not a fault of the gamepad: comms come from the gamepad speaker, which would be a nice touch if it were louder – again, not an issue in City, I have no idea why the testers thought the volume from the gamepad was  acceptable, because it just is not.

Summary:

Bigger does not mean better, as Arkham Origins feels empty and somewhat bland in comparison to the rest of the Arkham series despite holding onto the same brilliant gameplay and aesthetics. Not as good as the rest of the series, but for Christmas Batman shenanigans, you can’t do much better.

Flawed, but good, Batman: Arkham Origins is worth it for a cheaper price or those who love the Caped Crusader.

78/100

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