Pixel Enemy

Batman: Arkham Origins – A completionist review by Pixel Enemy

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We’ve previously written about our issues with Batman: Arkham Origins, and held off reviewing the game until we felt we had a fairly complete package to work with. Well, we’re finally in a position where we can say we have a finished game after WB Games patched the title and we went as far as completing virtually every single challenge to 100% completion for this review. We fully understand the review is a little on the late side, but we’re confident you’ll appreciate our unique take on Batman: Arkham Origins – a completionist review.

Story

Batman: Arkham Origins is the third title in the wildly successful and critically acclaimed “Arkham” series, and while it certainly suffers a little in comparison to it’s predecessors, it doesn’t fall too far off the mark and maintains a loyalty to the franchise that I think actually works. Origins comes in as a prequel to the first title, Arkham Asylum and features a younger and angrier Bruce Wayne who hasn’t heard of or met The Joker yet and is still persecuted by the Gotham City Police – including Gordon. Taking place on Christmas Eve, the city is locked down due to the weather, so the only people who seem to be inhabiting Gotham are “bad guys” who are out to get our caped crusader, or a few rogue police officers and citizens who seem to fall prey to the aforementioned thugs.

meeting gordon

As we begin the story, we find that Black Mask has put out a $50 million bounty on Batman’s head, and a motley crew of assassins have assembled to take him down. We progress through the story meeting (and fighting) supervillans like Bane, Copperhead (who is actually pretty awesome), Killer Croc, Deadshot, Deathstroke, Shiva, Firefly and The Electrocutioner. Similarly, we meet other interesting characters in the Arkham universe like Harleen Quinzel (as a pre-Joker-esque Doctor), The Penguin (who appears as a weapons dealer), Anarky and Enigma. Most of the characters have unique challenges and “Most Wanted” missions which take various amounts of time and energy to complete – the Enigma challenges are the most time consuming as there are dozens and dozens of relays and extortion files located around the city.

Overall the story is basically a “track down and round up the bad guys” sort of scenario. As you get closer towards the end and complete many of the Most Wanted missions, the story becomes pretty engrossing and I found myself glued through the outstandingly animated cutscenes. About 75% of the way through, the story takes a very sharp left turn that left me slightly jarred, but subsequent events in the game put me more at ease. If you can get over the fact that it’s not going to win a Pulitzer for the writing, the story is fine and sits well within the Batman universe.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Many of the gadgets and mechanics from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City have made their return in Origins. Standard issue items like the Batarang (Remote, Multiple and Sonic), the Batclaw, Cryptographic Sequencer and Explosive Gel are used primarily, while items like the Glue Grenade, Disruptor and the Remote Claw are newer mechanics that are essential to complete the game. Some critics found fault with the fact that the Grapple Gun, which was in experimental mode in the earlier Arkham games is stock weaponry in a game that is supposed to take place at an earlier time – but honestly this wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

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One notable addition to combat and gameplay are the Electrocutioner’s Shock Gloves. Despite being wildly overpowered, the gloves offer an awesome ‘charge and use’ mechanic that can allow you to power up items like elevators and generators, as well as take down multiple combatants in street fights by busting through armour and shields easily.

Combat techniques are similar to the previous titles – heavy reliance on quickfire gadgets, beatdowns and takedowns are crucial to get your rating after a fight. It was pretty common for me to get a C or B rating after a fight, and due to the incredible amount of fighting you need to do in order to progress through the game, I forgot a lot about the different techniques and relied on brute force with the shock gloves to finish the game. Subsequently, the only challenges I didn’t complete were the fighting ones – and there are plenty.

Overall the gameplay mechanics are true to the Arkham franchise. Fights with multiple bad guys are awesome with some cool animations and slow-motion finishes. One minor detail I had an issue with was the fact that Batman occasionally seems like he’s punching or blocking at air, and I found the ground knockout just didn’t want to work from time to time. Again, not a deal breaker, but certainly noticeable.

Oh, and WB Games really needs to add an animation for hitting the elevator buttons – it’s just a small thing, but the little details matter guys.

The Open World

Origins borrows assets heavily from Arkham City and fans of the second instalment will recognize many of the buildings and landmarks that made Arkham City so amazing. Origins doesn’t stray from the formula much at all here, but adds the massive Pioneer bridge between the South districts of Gotham and links up a bunch of GCR Towers which need to be navigated to and ‘unlocked’ through a set of challenges. Another nice addition is the ability to fast travel between areas of the map quickly with the Batwing in a neat little animation that leaves our hero hurtling towards the ground of his destination. It works.

alfred

Fans who were clamouring for the Batcave will not be disappointed as it makes it’s appearance again but as more than a Challenge Map. Sure, it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s a welcome addition that you can play around in.

Gotham City buildings are typically no-go zones, with a few areas that you can explore as part of the missions and storyline. However, if you’re looking for much more than scenery – you aren’t going to get it. Despite this fact, Gotham City in Origins feels pretty open world. It’s nothing like Skyrim or GTA, but you can still just tool around the city checking out stuff at your leisure – fighting bad guys and looking for trophies that will all add up to XP points. Occasionally you’ll get notified of crimes being committed by thugs through the Police radio, and there are a set of crime investigations that you will need to solve by using your Detective Mode to scan for clues and track down perpetrators. While these crimes are fun to go through the motions with, they are not very challenging as puzzles and you basically get handed the answers fairly effortlessly. Reconstructing the crimes is a nice new feature that will hopefully see some more play with upcoming DLC.

nice city

For a Batman game, the city in perpetual night does the job well enough, but I’ll be totally honest – in a third parter I would have liked just a little bit more from an open world, especially since the bar has been set so high by games like Far Cry 3. However, by the time you get to Blackgate Prison, you’ll forget all about the drawbacks and be totally in awe of the work that devs put into the new prison for Origins – it’s good enough to go back and explore it again some more. (See the completionist section for more)

Graphics and Sound

Running Origins on a PC with a GTX670 and 16GB of RAM doesn’t disappoint one bit. For the purposes of this review, I didn’t run the game on three monitors, but set it up to play on one at 1920×1080 with all the settings maxed out and PhysX on High. All of the games in the series take advantage of Nvidia’s PhysX and Origins is no stranger to beautiful textures and lighting either. Some cool effects like the footprints in the snow or the smoke that drifts off the Shock Gloves are nice touches for sure, and the game didn’t slow down or get choppy in fights with massive amounts of opponents.

lighting

Smoke and mist from fire extinguishers and environmental elements are a really nice here also – occasionally having to drift into Detective Mode to take down enemies due to the field of view being so obscured.

Sound wise, I was initially disappointed with what I felt were weak sound effects for punches kicks and the like. In fact, I was checking my audio setup because I seemed to remember the hits and strikes felt meatier and more ‘oomphy’. I’m not really sure if it was just me getting used to it or the fact that the patch fixed the issue, but I stopped noticing the sound being a little weaker a some point in the first few hours of playing.

Music is amazingly orchestrated by Christopher Drake and fits the game absolutely perfectly. At times when the action starts up, the music punches in dramatically while maintaining the darkness you’d expect for a game about The Dark Knight. I’ve been a little frustrated trying to purchase the OST on iTunes as it’s not unlocked in my region yet – but I know I’ll be throwing it on again in my headphones on the long train ride to and from work.

Glitches and Bugs

I have to admit, I was a little frustrated with some of the bugs that initially plagued the game – particularly when it rendered the game essentially broken. Despite the patch, WB Games still has a buggy little title on their hands that should get future patches to clear up a few minor details. Some lingering frustrations were noted in such moments as interrogations, where the hands of the perpetrator would literally disappear into Batman’s arm. Similarly, after collecting one of the Pinkney Plaques, if I hit TAB to listen to the recording, the game would crash out to Windows and I’d have to reload – fortunately I wouldn’t lose my work.

enigma

One other glitch which was the most bizarre occurred in two places where I had completed the challenge or mission – yet the icon still appeared on the map. At one point I spent about 30 minutes flying around the building, going underground, trying everything to see where I had missed this one datapack – only to find that I had already collected it and the icon on the map was a glitch.

In another case, I had no option to interrogate an Anarky henchman and we both were left standing there until one of us (me) decided to reload the game and take him out again – problem solved.

With the game patched, I’d estimate that WB Games fixed about 90-95% of the issues and the game helps you forget there are problems pretty quickly…but I’m hopeful they won’t sit back and will continue to work on the game as a gesture of goodwill for the sketchy launch.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer gameplay is not even worth mentioning really. I don’t get WB Games would add a multiplayer aspect to a game that is so obviously enjoyed as a single player experience. In the one hour that I spent in multiplayer, I was plagued with empty servers, and when I finally got in one, the interface was so strange – I really couldn’t enjoy it at all.

At one point, playing as Batman, I kept getting smoked by a guy in some gang who saw me a mile away. So, I never figured out what made me so obvious to the naked eye – I mean, wasn’t I supposed to be a ninja?

To be fair, I didn’t give it much of a chance, but if I do end up going back in for some more multiplayer experience (doubtful), I’ll let you know. In fact, nevermind…just play the single player campaign. ‘Nuff said.

The Completionist Perspective

Now, I know you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I spent just over 40 hours completing every single part of the main storyline, Most Wanted Missions, Gotham City Intel, and Casefile Report. I’ve unlocked every Personnel File and Challenge Map, as well as maxed out almost every gadget upgrade. After all that, the only things I haven’t completed are the fighting challenges and the multiplayer achievements – which are just not worth mentioning. I couldn’t be assed at all to figure out how to take out three thugs with a glue grenade or something similar.

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Going for the 100% on all the items mentioned above leaves you feeling a little like you are running a marathon – you know there’s an end, but it becomes a question of how much you’ll enjoy it before you get there. For Origins, I have to admit it got a little tiresome towards the end while I was running around finding Anarky symbols and looking for Enigma extortion packs so I could get into his server room. Some of the hidden stuff is particularly hard to find, so a map indicator with altitude would be a big help in some cases.

As I mentioned earlier, every part of the map interiors (eg. Gotham City Police Station, Sewers, Blackgate, Steel Mill, etc.) could be explored again after the initial visit, and due to the fact that you need to unlock certain mechanics after you were there the first time, you’ll need to go back again for another visit. I’m not sure if this is the best way to sell an open world game like Origins.

2013-11-10_00039It’s hard to imagine that people would throw on Origins and just wander around the city as the rest of the challenges and fights feel repetitive after you have done them the first time – so in my mind, in order to get the 100% completion, you need to do it on the first go and do it as fast as you can. After a while, I don’t honestly think the game holds enough interest to go back again and again as Arkham City might have – particularly as you could play with different characters like Catwoman.

Overall and Score

All in all, I think Origins does much better than a lot of reviews and critics have pegged it as. While the game did have bugs on launch, it is a true Arkham title in the gameplay, mechanics and overall theme. Sure, we all wanted Rocksteady to handle the controls on this one, but WB Games hasn’t done a bad job either. It’s easily the weakest part of the trilogy so far, but that doesn’t mean it has to suck too much ass.

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Bruce Wayne in this title is totally unique from the previous two – he’s raw, unhinged and a total badass. There were a few times where he was kicking the shit out of people and I was like, “Whoa! Dude, calm down.” Without giving much away, some of the beatdowns you can lay on the main villains are pretty crazy. I’m surprised one character in particular didn’t end up with a significant head injury from the ass-kicking he got. Nevertheless, it works and I liked the different dimension to the character.

 Pros:

  •  Graphics
  •  New mechanics
  •  New additions to the map
  •  Badass Batman and cool storyline

Cons:

  • Still has a few bugs
  • Too many challenges that are not engaging enough
  • Weak multiplayer

Final Verdict: 8  (With an engrossing storyline, interesting additions to the gameplay elements and an excellent visual display and score, Batman: Arkham Origins can sit confidently in my collection as a worthy third part to an outstanding series in the Batman universe.)

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I purchased Batman: Arkham Origins through Steam and played through on an Intel i7 3770. Graphics were handled by an Nvidia GTX670 and the system ran on 16GB of RAM. Sound handled by Razer 7.1 Tiamat headphones. All screenshots and images for this article were taken by the author during the review.

After 40 hours of this, I can finally cool my PC down for a bit and get back to GTA V.

Screenshots (some spoilers):

  • enkoo

    The game run silky smooth on my 5 year old card. Very happy about that. The bugs it still has are really annoying and wont let me complete certain side misions.

    • http://www.pixelenemy.com/ Rob Newberry

      Which side missions can’t you finish?

      • enkoo

        I finished the main story long time ago, but one last Enigma tower and the 5th crime investigation mission are left. Couldn’t find a way to fix it, buildings keep being tranparent, going through them all the time. I’m done with the game anyway.

        • http://www.pixelenemy.com/ Rob Newberry

          Ah, that sucks.

  • glennsnoise

    Nice review. I’ve been playing on Xbox 360 for two weeks now. Graphics during fights with many opponents are sluggish. Some bugs (can’t get one datapack off my map, despite having harvested said datapack). I’ve logged way too many hours with Arkham City, and sadly like it significantly more than Arkham Origins. But I don’t feel as if I wasted my money. I look forward to a general release of all DLC.

    • http://www.pixelenemy.com/ Rob Newberry

      Yeah, I have the same bug with the datapack. I think I included a screencap in the review. Arkham City is a better game for sure…but this one is okay. I didn’t hate it as much as some people did.