There’s an old expression: “You can never have too much of a good thing.” Whoever came up with that didn’t play Batman: Arkham Origins. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Batman: Arkham Origins is a bad game. It’s just that you’ve played it – and a better version of it – already.
Batman: Arkham Origins takes place in the second year of the Caped Crusader‘s career, as a younger, more brash and possibly angrier Batman has to fight off a combination of the police, eight assassins hired to exterminate him, and battle the Joker for the very first time. This brings me to my first gripe/praise: while Troy Baker’s version of the Joker is amazing and actually does sound like a younger version of Mark Hamill’s legendary take on the character, Roger Craig Smith’s Batman keeps sounding too much like the animated version of Wolverine, and consistently throws me off. When you’ve got two prior games with stellar voice acting, you need to keep up the pedigree. While Smith is a capable voice actor, his voice just didn’t say “Batman” to me.
Gameplay is fine, when it works. If you’ve played Batman: Arkham City, you’ll feel right at home in this version of Gotham City, which offers more real estate to explore, more Riddler (sorry, Enigma (ugh)) collectibles to grab, and a few new additions that are actually kind of cool. Now you can work crime scenes in depth, using your Detective Vision to pause, rewind, and play through scenarios as you try to solve who killed who, why, and so on. The addition of casefiles to follow up on — from a battle with the Mad Hatter to teaming up with a teenage Barbara Gordon to destroy weapons caches – add some nice variety to what otherwise feels like a “been there, done that” adventure. And while I admit there’s not much new here from a gameplay and exploration perspective, that’s not my main problem with the game. After all, Arkham City was great, so who doesn’t want more of that?
No, my biggest problem is the glitches. While I can confirm that apparently the Wii U version of the game actually runs the best (will wonders never cease), it still suffers from what every other version suffers from: slowdown, framerate drops, and some stupid issues that keep you from progressing. I had to hard-reset my Wii U five times getting through this game due to freezes that refused to let me proceed, usually happening when I would progress from an outdoor area to an indoor one. That’s four freezes too many, in my book. Also, you’re likely to encounter the occasional glitch, ranging from Batman getting stuck in the ground (literally up to his waist) to doors that should be open after triggering a switch never actually unlocking without a restart. WB Games Montreal had big shoes to fill after Rocksteady passed the franchise on, and they stumbled.
Batman: Arkham Origins also offers a multiplayer mode, and similar to Mass Effect 3, it’s surprisingly deep and addictive. You play as either a thug working for the Joker, a thug working for Bane, or either Batman or Robin in a three-way battle to the top. The Wii U version doesn’t feature this mode, so you’ll need to pick up the game on PC, PS3, or Xbox 360 if you want to test the waters. I ran through a few rounds on PC and can confirm that it works smoothly and is very fun.
As a sum of its parts, Batman: Arkham Origins isn’t necessarily a bad game; it just feels like a rushed one. It’s definitely the weakest of the Arkham trilogy, but you could do a lot worse. Here’s hoping WB Games Montreal spends more time with the next iteration of the franchise.