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For two consecutive games developer RockSteady has been responsible for delivering the excellent “Arkham” games. This time around however developer WB Games Montreal has attempted to live up to RockSteady’s amazing record by making an “Arkham” prequel.
“Batman: Arkham Origins” follows Batman in year two of his crime fighting career as he tried to clean up Gotham city. At this point in Batman’s history, he has managed to remain more myth to the people and criminals of the city, than reality. The police are an enemy of Batman as just about every officer is corrupt save for Gordon, who is not yet commissioner.
“Origins” begins when the criminal Black Mask places a bounty on Batman’s head. Several bounty hunters step forward to try to kill Batman before the night is over. Batman will have to face the Electrocutioner, Shiva, Bane, Firefly, Killer Croc, Dead Shot, Copperhead and a new criminal to Gotham City, the Joker. Fans of the RockSteady games will see familiar enemies from the first installments make their appearances as well.
The gameplay of “Arkham Origins” is similar to RockSteady’s “Arkham” games. There is still free flow action with combos the Batman can unleash upon opponents. However, the major difference is in terms of Batman’s gadgets. He has access to new gadgets such as the glue grenade, and shock gloves.
The glue bomb can be used in combat to hinder an enemy’s attack and outside of combat in water to allow Batman to cross waterways. The glue bomb really makes no sense in terms of, why it can allow Batman to cross waterways. It makes a huge chunk of glue that Batman can walk on but never becomes stuck to. WB Games Monteal should have stuck with the freeze blast that created ice blocks to walk across. In combat the glue bomb stops enemies just long enough for you to gain the upper hand in a fight.
The shock gloves can be used against any opponent whether they are armored, wielding an electric baton, gun or knife. The shock gloves are meant to give Batman a fair advantage against these enemies as they usually attack in heavily numbered groups which can easily overwhelm even Batman. The gloves however are only useful for a short amount of time. When they run out of power you have to wait until they power up in order to use them again. While useful for opening doors, the gloves do not give you a huge advantage. They are just a flashy gadget to trick you into thinking the gameplay has been reinvented.
Two new objects in Batman’s arsenal include a military aircraft and the ability to reconstruct a whole crime scene just from analyzing evidence. In RockSteady’s games, Batman could also analyze evidence but not to the extent that he can in “Arkham Origins.” This time Batman can actually see how the crime was carried out and piece together evidence in a more efficient way.
Gadgets from the RockSteady games will also be in Batman’s repertoire for you to use such as the remote control batarang, line launcher, remote hacking device and smoke pellets.
In terms of story, “Arkham Origins” does not really shock or amaze. There is a twist in the middle of the game but you can easily see it coming whereas in the RockSteady games, every surprise was unexpected. The story takes the same route “Arkham City” takes but instead of being a thrilling twist, it is a letdown and the game becomes bland thereafter.
Voice acting wise, clearly Roger Craig Smith (Batman) is no Kevin Conroy. However, Smith does convey the hardness of an unseasoned vigilante who is doing everything in his power to not let the city fall apart. Smith really shines when his Batman is exchanging dialogue with Alfred who is voiced by Martin Jarvis. Together Smith and Jarvis show how strong the bond is between Alfred and Bruce Wayne.
Troy Baker plays the Joker in “Arkham Origins” and adds his take to a very chaotic character. Again, Baker is no Mark Hamill but he does a superb job at any rate. He does not take anything away from Hamill’s Joker but adds a younger spin on it.
Rating: 3.9/5 - “Arkham Origins” is WB Montreal’s crack at RockSteady’s “Arkham” franchise. When everything is said and done, “Origins” is a well-made game and respects the work that came before it. It is a solid game with decent gameplay but it’s missing the flare and gritty nature that made RockSteady’s games instant classics.
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