Newest ‘Batman’ release fails to live up to its predecessors
It’s hard to shines when you’re compared to RockSteady Games. No one can blame you if you don’t happen to execute the same sky-high brilliance, the out-of-this-world excellence that that company created when it released “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Batman: Arkham City.” But really, WB Games, the Shock Gauntlets?! As if “Batman: Arkham Origins” wasn’t mediocre enough, you have to add a weapon so overpowered, so game-altering that it saps what little fun there was right out into the ether?
You see the problem.
“Arkham Origins,” which isn’t truly an origin story in the sense of the word, is what happens when franchises stop remembering the little details. (The First Impressions review, which covered initial thoughts and plot, can be read here.) For those who played the first two games, you should remember the copious amounts of Easter eggs, DC Comics-themed to boot, scattered throughout the game. You could find them everywhere, and it was a great incentive to explore and engage with the game. “Origins” fails to incorporate those gems in any significant way, sticking with the typical puzzles you have to solve, and you’re left with shockingly little desire to want to sleuth around.
Since you have no reason to sneak around, you may as well just get on with the story, right? Fighting villains from the Batman canon is normally a sure-fire way to re-engage with an Arkham game. And in “Origins,” that stays true for the most part. Until you receive those stupid gauntlets. Once you have your super-powered electric fists-of-fury, you can punch your way through the game. Riot shields? Ha! More like wet paper bags. Armored creeps with stun batons chasing you down? No need to bother waking all the way up; just stick your fist out and I’m sure the baddies will just run into them for you.
On top of all that, it introduces a flaw into the origin story: These weapons aren’t found in the earlier games. With a weapon so powerful, why would Batman ever stop using them?
You see why I’m angry.
It’s these small things that cast an intense glare on “Origins,” brought into even sharper focus when they have been constructed from the same sources of its predecessors. Still, not all is miserable in “Origins.” There’s plenty to keep you occupied — from rage-inducing puzzles to goons galore — to distract you, and the story does manage to keep your attention. Lots of other, non-game-killing gadgets await you, and combat is still fantastic and easily the game’s strongest asset.
XP, collected from battles and collectibles and everything in between, can be used to unlock new abilities and features from several different tech trees. Armor, combat perks and gadget upgrades are just some of the possible purchases.
Side missions are everywhere if you want to participate, which you should as they unlock fast travel and generally increase the fun factor. A shadowy villain — The Riddler, though known here as Enigma — has stored data packs around Gotham, protecting them with puzzle defense. He’s also seized control of several of the city’s radar towers, which, when you recapture them, unlock fast-travel when in the Bat Wing jet.
As noted in the initial review, this Arkahm game is the first to introduce multiplayer, in which three of Bane’s cult and three Joker recruits have at each other while two other players play as Batman and Robin. The crooks capture territory and cause mayhem and murder. Batman and Robin, obviously, work to stop this by debilitating the baddies. It’s fun enough, but there really isn’t a reason for its existence. Far better online multiplayer games are out there if that’s what you crave.
A warning: There are glitches in the system. The game crashed several times during playthrough, and certain mandatory interactions glitched out altogether, leaving you stuck. Significant, but not enough to stop playing.
It’s these effects, both what’s in-game and what’s missing, that bring “Batman: Arkham Origins” to its knees. And with all those crazy villains trying to end his heroics, there’s little worse that could happen. But hey, those Shock Gauntlets will save the day.
Two shadowy stars out of five.