Gotham City is in trouble again, which means it’s time for the Dark Knight to come out of his Bat Cave and save her from the clutches of the crime lords. Rocksteady’s Batman franchise is on its third outing after Arkham Asylum in 2009 and Arkham City in 2011, but instead of continuing from where the latter left off, Arkham Origins is a prequel. So does the third iteration raise the bar set by its predecessor, or does it fail to live up to the hype like many of the sequels that are meant to be prequels? Read on… Also Read - Sony PS3 users unable to download game updates ahead of store shutdown
We start with the title, and Batman Arkham Origins is, to be honest, highly misleading. This game is not the retelling of the famous story of how billionaire Bruce Wayne became the caped crusader. Origins is based in a timeline where Wayne is already the Batman and his utility belt already carries some of the gadgets seen in the first two games. It actually tells the story of how Batman meets his allies and encounters some of his most famous villains for the first time. Also Read - Sony confirms PlayStation Store shutdown for PS3, PS Vita: Check details
The game starts on a Christmas night, when Roman Sionis aka Black Mask has put a bounty of $50 million on Batman’s head and hired eight of the deadliest assassins including the likes of Deathstroke, Copperhead, Firefly, Lady Shiva and Electrocutioner among others to claim that prize money. The city is grittier and darker than Arkham City and much like in John McTiernan’s Die Hard, the long Christmas night is anything but a joyful holiday.
Right at the onset though, there is a sense of déjà vu and the game feels the same as its predecessor. Sadly, as you progress through the game the feeling doesn’t change. Where Arkham City was a huge evolution from Arkham Asylum, Origins feels exactly the same. The city, the thugs, the gliding, the combat and even the gadgets feel the same. The city is no doubt bigger and there are fast-travel ports where you can call Batwing to transport you to another section of the map, but they are few and far between. I personally felt as if I was playing a DLC, rather than a completely new game.
The 8-12 hour long single-player campaign has plenty of story missions and side quests, but the feeling of “I’ve done this all before” persists throughout the game. Some of the missions too feel like complete knock-offs of the missions in the previous game. For example escaping Mad Hatter’s dream world feels similar to Scarecrow’s missions and Enigma’s data packs seem to have replaced Riddler’s question marks.
There are plenty of gadgets at our disposal with new additions like Shock Gloves, Concussion bombs, and a remote claw to build high tensile wires across rooms. The rest though are same as what we used in the previous games, which raises the question— if Batman already had all these gadgets before, then why did we have to toil so much in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City to earn them again?
The city hasn’t improved either. Where games like GTA V and Infamous, or for that matter older games like Spiderman 2 and Incredible Hulk had such vibrant cities, Gotham is completely devoid of any civilian life. All you see are thugs and the Police on the streets and hence there is no satisfaction of saving someone from the criminals. Design-wise too there are a lot of issues— the prime example being the long bridge joining the Northern-part of the city to the Southern-part. With only a grapple gun to travel, the bridge is very frustrating to cross and I found myself using Batwing after unlocking all the fast travel ports. There’s also the case of the building themselves, wherein for some odd reason you cannot grapple onto all the buildings. So if you miss a grapple-able building and are gliding too low, be prepared to land on unsuspecting thugs on the street below.
The development of the game also seems to have been rushed to meet the deadline. Bugs are aplenty, some of which are simply unforgivable. Playing for long hours saw frame rates dropping frequently especially when gliding over specific sections of the city, audio/video synchronization going haywire especially during the Batwing cut scenes and the game also crashed a couple of times.
Despite all the above mentioned problems, the game is not a lost cause. It has its moments and at the core lays the fact that it is a Batman game, which means that however bad it may be, it’s still a lot of fun being the Dark Knight. The combat system is fluid as ever and taking out the thugs from atop a gargoyle like a ninja is truly satisfying. One welcome addition is the Detective Mode, which is much more refined than before and befitting one of the best detectives out there. With eight assassins out for your head, the game also offers a lot of boss battles and each is unique in its execution.
The franchise also gets multiplayer mode for the first time, wherein you take the role of a gang member fighting rival gangs, while two players are randomly chosen as Batman and Robin. The objective is to take control of the territory, while the two heroes try to clean up the mess. Though it is a good attempt, it still needs refinement and it actually gives a glimpse at what we can expect in the future games.
Arkham Origins then is a mixed bag of sorts. It has a long list of issues like the frustrating similarity to Arkham City, not enough new things, mediocre story line, disconnect with the other titles in the franchise, a whole lot of bugs and a major design gaffe putting a long bridge connecting two parts of the city.
That said, as we mentioned, it is still a Batman game at its core and playing as the caped crusader will never get old. The best parts of the previous games have been retained and the first draft of a multiplayer gives a glimpse at something exciting in future iterations.
To sum up the game, as Jim Gordon would probably say, “Arkham Origins is a game we might need, but not the game we deserve.”
Batman Arkham Origins is available for PC for Rs 1,499 and for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for Rs 2,999.