I really wanted Batman: Arkham Origins to be awesome. In fact, I spent more way time with this game than I did for my first impressions of Grand Theft Auto V and Bioshock Infinite just to give it a chance to open up and give me something, anything, besides the feeling of “This is it?” Which it didn’t. So before I start throwing Dickjoke-arangs at Chris Brown and rich people’s stupid Halloween costumes, let’s take a quick look at what I thought went wrong with Arkham Origins, a few things that went right, and why you absolutely cannot settle for good enough on the heels of a GTA release. *fires up Asshole-Opinionator*
What Arkham Origins Did Right:
Marketing: I’ll give WB Montreal this, they make some goddamn amazing trailers. Case in point: I already know exactly what Arkham Origins is like, yet I still watched this and went, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”
Cutscenes: The cutscenes are phenomenal at putting you right in the action, practically on Batman’s shoulder, and setting a tone, albeit one that completely evaporates as soon the gameplay returns. During the opening sequence, I sat there going, “Fuck yeah, Batman!” and then a minute later I’m going, “So I’m just hitting the square button then? Goddammit…”
Deathstroke: By the time I got to Deathstroke, I was already bored to tears with the combat which I’ll whine about later. Fortunately, this fight was perfectly executed before I packed it in. It expertly captures a raw, just-starting out Batman who’s over-compensating for inexperience with brutality, and has to learn on the fly to anticipate his enemy’s move. Apparently, some people hate this fight because “wah, it’s too hard,” but I honestly don’t consider myself a person with any type of serious gaming skills whatsoever, and I beat it within four tries on Normal. Shit, I had a harder time just getting on The Penguin’s boat without getting my bat-dick shot off.
The Setting: Not Gotham itself – Haha, hell no. – but the snowy, Christmas Eve backdrop was a well-planned move for a late October release. It doesn’t seem like much of a touch, especially if you live in a freakish, non-season-changing location, but it adds a sense of urgency as you’re battling the goddamn winter to monotonously button mash your way to Christmas morning.
What Arkham Origins Did Wrong
The Button Mashing: When I plunk $60 on a AAA video game title, I don’t want to be only two hours in and bored to shit of the combat already. Combat that’s repetitively served up over and over again with little variation and all over the goddamn map. As you first start to zip around Gotham, which is sizable yet also repetitive to travail, you’ll notice you have the ability to jump into crimes in progress, defuse Anarky bombs, or just land on different roofs. All of which are loaded with the same gaggle of thugs with the exact same combat. Button mash, button mash, counter, button mash, button mash, counter, slow motion shot of Batman taking out last thug. This is the setup for way too many scenarios, peppered with hanging from gargoyles and glide kicking down to take out a thug, then grappeling back up to rinse and repeat. Keep in mind, I’ve only played Arkham Asylum when it first came out four years ago, and completely skipped Arkham City (I actually have a copy, just got sidetracked.), yet I still felt like I wasn’t breaking any new ground here.
Gotham: Like I mentioned before, travailing around Gotham gets old real quick. You’re basically gliding, batclawing, gliding some more, all with some pretty boring animation. On top of that, there’s very little variation on the street except for gang of thugs after gang of thugs at every fucking turn. If Gotham was literally this loaded with criminals, Batman would be dead within five minutes. He couldn’t even stop to bat-whiz off a building without eight crooks throwing knives at his pee-pee. And you really can’t get this monotonous on the heels of a title like GTA V which is a years-in-the-making, open world where just when you think you’re doing the same old shit, the game waves its dick in your face, and on that dick is a tank that fires a rocket into your expectations. (Looking at you, The Paleto Score.) Whereas Arkham Origins is a boring gray soup with some fantastic cutscenes that dump you right back into that soup.
The Bioshock Comparisons: A lot of the atmosphere, music, and set designs are very reminiscent of Bioshock Infinite which is really something this game should’ve avoided at all costs. Because where Bioshock Infinite has a painstakingly crafted narrative where hunting down extras like the Voxophone immediately serves up well-written audio recordings that expands and pulls you deeper into a story with a cunniling-your-brain ending, Arkham Origins lacks almost all of that depth and has you hunting trinkets just to mark off a checkbox. (But did I start trying to find those trinkets? Yes, because I’m a gerbil.)
The Bottom Line
This whole write-up is why I’ll never get, or want to get, advance copies of games because I’d feel like I need to sugarcoat things to maintain that access. Which is why I can feel comfortable saying, point blank, Batman: Arkham Origins is not a great game. It’s not bad, per se, but again, releasing just weeks after GTA V did it absolutely zero favors because talk about a game where you felt like you’re getting your $60 worth thanks to an insanely rich experience. Then again, without GTA to compare it to, I would still be bored as balls with the repetitive nature of Arkham‘s combat, and I felt that way in under two hours before even finding out the open world is a buttload more of it. I liked the impetus behind the plot, and the younger Batman aspect, but there’s no way I could sit here and tell somebody this is a title they need to have today. Maybe at a much lower price? I don’t know. It all depends on how okay you are with spending your time slogging through non-inspiring gameplay to get some admittedly sweet cutscenes. That said, if you are looking for a decent Batman game with a surprisingly fun experience, definitely give Injustice Gods Among Us a whirl. It was allowed an insane amount of freedom to craft a world that pits Batman against a disenfranchised and twistedly-broken-by-the-Joker Superman. Plus Wonder Woman’s tits are just ridiculous. I almost needed a bigger television.
Photo: WB Montreal