Batman : Arkham Origins Review
Cart: Batman Arkham Origins
Cab: PS3 / Xbox 360 / Wii U
Coin: Warner Bros. Games
OK, here goes: Arkham Origins is the best Batman game yet.
Yeah, I know it’s not what you’ve been hearing on the grapevine, but seriously: if you were to play all of the Arkham games in one go, this would be the one that you’d rate most highly.
Granted: it’s easy to be critical of yet another Arkham game after Rocksteady’s two tour-de-forces, Asylum and City. Each one set out its unique stall in its own unique way. The timing of Asylum was perfect, striking the popular chord that Nolan North so expertly plucked with Batman Begins. A supremely accomplished game on every level; Asylum was simply screaming out for a worthy sequel and yet I found myself struggling to get to grips with City’s sprawling narrative, incessant side-quests and directionless nature.
“If Arkham Asylum is akin to the thrill of watching Batman Begins for the first time, Arkham City feels like you’re being made to watch the entire Christopher Nolan trilogy simultaneously on three different screens for the third time running”
More gadgets, more space, more moves
I ended-up throwing the towel in with City, bored of its clamour to grab my attention at every turn. Oh great, yet another iconic DC villain thrown in for five minutes just to tick a box. Oh joy, yet another franchise desperately trying to pin its hopes on the overrated open-world template. You catch my drift. The tighter script and smaller environment of Asylum made for a far more engrossing experience – one of Metroid-esque proportions.
But there was no going back on what was a financially more fruitful template. Thankfully, Warner Brothers have at least taken note of City’s failings. Indeed, they’ve somehow managed to mix the best of both worlds. Origins borrows the engaging script and clearer focus of Asylum whilst mixing things with an even grander scope than City offered. The result feels strangely leaner yet more expansive and builds on the excellent mechanics of old – whilst offering a nod to the character’s more interesting, formative years. Given the over-saturation of Batman’s iconic foes with Rocksteady, Warner Bros. have been forced to think a bit more carefully about their rogues gallery. The experience feels all the more fresh for it, with Origins re-acquainting you with some of DC’s more leftfield villains.
It’s the last time they ever sang “Jingle bells, Batman smells” …
Some would argue that this is a sign of a franchise running out of steam; I’d say it’s a sign a developer being forced to think a bit more creatively. Granted, the Riddler quests have been toned down somewhat in their complexity and variety but solid challenge rooms and an intriguing online experience make for an arguably more rounded package. A package that, should you have played it side-by-side with its predecessors, you’d probably peg as the most consummate.
Origins won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s easy to see how the Rocksteady faithful could be left jaded or disappointed. But Batman’s bigger than Rocksteady – bigger than all of us – and more than capable of standing tall in any context he’s put in.
So forget the hype of past and present – and enjoy.
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