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Batman: Arkham Origins PC Review

The third instalment of the Arkham Series lacks the polish that defined its predecessors

by Ben Ingber Nov 19, 2013


Gaming review

37

SRP: £39.99
It's been a long night. Batman stands atop Pioneer Bridge, all scuffed armour and torn cape. Arkham stretches out into the horizon. No-one on the streets is innocent: criminals loiter in small gangs, the patrolling police are universally corrupt.

Down below, half a dozen men are chatting about the balance of power in Arkham's criminal underworld. One of them carries a gun. The Dark Knight singles him out, swooping and soaring steadily through the night sky before landing a double-footed kick square in his target's back. Barely pausing for breath, he leaps ten feet and plants his palm forcefully in the face of a second adversary. A third thug attempts to blindside him, but Batman blocks the punch without so much as turning his head, and floors the attacker with a flick of his forearm.

Of course, all this will be familiar to anyone who's played either of Arkham Origins' predecessors. Rocksteady's combat system is a simple but bewitching blend of rhythm gameplay and QTEs. The mechanics are arguably one of the biggest successes of the outgoing generation.

However, unlike Asylum and City, Arkham Origins isn't a Rocksteady game. WB Games Montreal have taken the reins and unfortunately for bat-fans, they prove themselves incapable of delivering anywhere near the same level of polish.


In the Arkham titles anything other than a fluid, flawless victory feels like failure.

The developer’s lack of attention to detail is exemplified under Pioneer Bridge, where three enemies are down and three are left standing. Rather than launching himself at the fourth, Batman inexplicably swings at thin air. Of course, he recovers soon enough and despatches the remaining baddies, but in the Arkham titles anything other than a fluid, flawless victory feels like failure.

Un-origin-al?

Arkham Origins' story and characterisation is similarly unrefined. Contrary to what you may infer from the title, Origins is actually set a couple of years after Batman's first appearance. If the plot is to be thought of as an origin story at all, it is perhaps the origin of the Arkham series, or the origin of the relationship between Batman and The Joker.

In the opening scenes it is revealed that Black Mask has put a $50m bounty on Batman's head, which has attracted eight assassins. This opens the door for an array of lesser enemies from the DC franchise to make an appearance but Origins only really comes to life when Batman and The Joker share the stage.

For this outing, voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are replaced by Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker, who deliver solid performances despite the mediocre script. Troy Baker's Joker is particularly menacing, and a couple of extreme close-ups of the character's face are up there with the most crazed and sinister portrayals of The Joker ever seen.

The city itself is disappointing. The map is small and poorly designed. Grappling and swinging through the city is awkward, with far too many inaccessible ledges. Buildings are spaced at unintuitive distances from one another, and frequently interrupt Batman's rhythm.

The streets are oddly deserted, populated only with enemies. The developers attempt to justify this by setting the game on Christmas Eve, and every now and then reminding us that residents have been asked to stay in their homes, but it feels wrong. And with no civilians in sight, who is Batman protecting? If anything, Arkham feels like a city without its hero, a city already lost to criminals and crooked cops.

The opportunity to show us a young Batman learning his trade is wasted. In fact, the portrayal of the Dark Knight here differs very little from the other Arkham games. There's a CBBC-level character arc overlaid on the narrative that amounts to little more than a broody loner having to learn to trust his friends, but little else of interest.

RPG elements return in the form of inscrutable skill trees that offer an overwhelming number of undesirable rewards. I would have happily ignored the shambles all together if it wasn't for the regular 'Level Up!' message plastered across the screen that could only be dismissed by upgrading something, which towards the end I mostly did at random.

Holy gameplay Batman!

The gameplay is still broadly split into combat, predator and detective sections. There’s a new spin on the latter element that makes use of Batman’s Detective Vision to reconstruct crime scenes. Batman can move time forwards and back, watching events unfold as they happened. It’s superficially interesting but in practice it amounts to little more than clicking on red markers in the environment.

This by-the-numbers approach pervades the Origins experience. Both the predator and combat areas carried forward from the previous games suffer from inferior environments. Later in the game, the number of enemies thrown at Batman is ramped up ridiculously, but that doesn't make it any more fun - especially when more often than not there’s some misplaced obstacle or glitch to disrupt the flow of the action.

Exploring the city reveals a range of side-quests and Enigma puzzles, but I found it hard to maintain an interest as the game progressed, and my enthusiasm was chipped away by the title’s many issues.

The third game in the Arkham franchise represents a significant step back for the series.

The occasional moment of imprecision in a third person action game would be entirely forgivable, but in Origins barely minutes will pass without some immersion-breaking glitch or oddity. The camera is a mess, collision detection is often wonky and the Deathstroke boss fight is one of the worst I've ever played. Worse still, the game crashed on multiple occasions and suffered from frequent frame rate drops. It’s really not good enough.

Origins features a spectacularly appalling tacked-on multiplayer. Eight players are split into three teams: three fighting for the Joker, three for Bane and Batman and Robin trying to take them all down. If you’re one of Joker or Bane’s men, the game plays as a really, really clunky shooter. Playing as one of the dynamic duo is more fun, but as you’ve only a one in four chance of being drawn as either of them, so most of the time you’re stuck with a thug. To be perfectly honest, I barely lasted an hour on Origins’ multiplayer and I have no intention of ever going back.

Conclusion

4
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent portrayal of the Joker
  • The combat is still great, when it works

Cons

  • A glitchy, buggy mess
  • Lazy storytelling
  • Terrible multiplayer

I own this 5
I want this 0
I had this 0

Batman: Arkham Origins PC Review

The opportunity to build on the foundations of its predecessors and make use of 70-odd years of lore was thrown away by WB Games Montreal. Instead, the third game in the Arkham franchise represents a significant step back for the series. The new additions are mostly ill-conceived, the multiplayer is truly awful, and the experience is plagued by glitches and crashes.

In short, Origins plays more like a cheap knock-off than the latest entry into one of the finest series of the generation. One to miss.


The Rundown

Gameplay

4

Story

5

Graphics

6

Audio

5

Single Player

4

Multiplayer

2

Longevity

6

Overall

4

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    1. Steve Withers

      Steve Withers Assistant Editor

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    2. Chox1988

      Chox1988 Well-Known Member

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      Pretty brutal review :eek:
      • Agree Agree x 4
    3. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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    4. Nexus43

      Nexus43 Member

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      I listened to your comments on the Games podcast and thought they were a bit harsh, but that is one scathing review, it does not play as badly as you are saying, IMHO, in fact im enjoying it. (I have played the previous two games to completion)
    5. Sam Crow

      Sam Crow Well-Known Member

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      graphics 6 ? really
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    6. kav

      kav Well-Known Member

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      I've been playing and enjoying this, and while I agree it's the weakest entry in the series, the graphical effects are often spectacular and the combat is actually a little more refined than its predecessors IMO - they've especially improved combat against knife-wielding thugs, which was quite hit and miss in previous games. I know there are some issues but this is never a 4/10 game IMO - more like a 7.5ish.
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    7. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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      I'm really not trying to rain on anyone's parade. If you're getting something out of it, that's great. For me, it annoyed me from the off and went downhill from there.

      The thing is, Rocksteady had done all the hard work - the mechanics, the world, it was all there. Yet somehow we end up with a game that was broken at launch with a needlessly tacked-on multiplayer. Seriously, why does the MP exist other than to tick a box? Is anyone really enjoying it?

      The story has none of the great moments of the previous games. The boss fights are mediocre, and the Deathstroke fight is essentially glitched (when he attacks, Bats blocks a couple of hits automatically - if you try to parry you get hit).

      I found the combat significantly more buggy than in previous outings, with the flow often ruined by something inexplicable happening. The predator rooms were less interesting too, and those new Crime Scene sections were basically glorified interactive cutscenes (they should have been awesome, like in that show Continuum).

      Basically, I think WB have seen the opportunity for a cash grab. Think about the great foundation laid out by Arkham City and all those cool moments (the end credits, for example). How can anyone justify this being worse? Being broken? We are entitled to expect more than this annual regurgitation for our hard earned £40.

      Viva la revolution etc.
    8. Sam Crow

      Sam Crow Well-Known Member

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      you paid £40 ? oh dear ben

      and maybe you didnt enjoy the game .. but as i said a 6 for graphics ? nahh .. ;)
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    9. cylonwarrior

      cylonwarrior Member

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      Asylum 2009 - City 2011 - Origins 2013

      The Batman games are not an annual regurgitation (not yet anyway).

      What platform did you play it on? A 6 is understandable if this is a PS3/Xbox review. On PC it looks stunning.
    10. Foster

      Foster Well-Known Member

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      This game looks fantastic on PC not sure how it is a 6!
    11. Sam Crow

      Sam Crow Well-Known Member

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    12. majnu

      majnu Well-Known Member

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      For a PC review I expected to see what the game was run on, or at the very least what graphical settings are available in game and were used to justify the 6 rating.

      Previous Batman games have been awesome in the graphics department an in 3D.
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    13. Nexus43

      Nexus43 Member

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      I am playing this on a PS3 and I think it looks great 8/10 is where Id put it, obviously it is going to look better on PC. I was also rewatching Adam Sesslers Review of this and he praised it for the story saying it was the best story of the 3, he actually compared and he meant this in a good way to Scott Synders Writing in the Batman comics, he also commented on the boss battles saying they were the best of the 3 because things you learned in game made sense to how you would defeat them, i mean the Joker boss at the end of Asylum was very frustrating, its all opinions everyones got one.
    14. Nivek TT

      Nivek TT Active Member

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      Agreed with some of your points but very harsh! Like others have said, especially the graphics score, I thought it looked lovely! The PhysX stuff, like the fog and snow, looked fantastic in 3d!
    15. KhalJimbo

      KhalJimbo Active Member

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      Well I did want this, to be honest out of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City......Asylum is the better one.
    16. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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      In terms of technical competence sure, it was fine: his cape looked good etc etc. But the environments weren't interesting to me at all, there had been absolutely no progress since City in terms of developing an engaging setting. The city lacked spectacle, the indoor areas were dull too - considerably less interesting than City and Asylum IMO.

      Can you grab some sexy screenshots? Sure. Did the visuals suck me into the world and make me go WOW ARKHAM? No. I've seen it all before in the previous games.

      Put this game out of your mind for a moment and imagine being Batman, standing on top of that bridge and looking out at the city at night: brimming with life, people outside bars and restaurants, dark alleys like the one Bruce's parents were shot in - really picture it. Now put that against the choices made in Origins and the way it looks. It's flat, a dead city. It's visually unambitious in scope, even if the detail is pretty.

      It gets a 6 for being technically good but visually considerably less interesting to me than its predecessors.

      I did LOVE how the Joker looked close-up though, I have to say.

      Always glad for the debate but I don't think we're going to agree on this one ;)
    17. Foster

      Foster Well-Known Member

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      Gotham at this point is dead though...
    18. Sam Crow

      Sam Crow Well-Known Member

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      its xmas eve everyone is at home or down the pub ;)
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    19. Sam Crow

      Sam Crow Well-Known Member

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    20. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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      Ugh, the stuff explaining why there aren't people on the streets was crazily weak - a half arsed job of manipulating the plot to justify a lack of ambition.

      Reviewing PC games is my favourite - knowledgeable, opinionated, involved forum members. And if I couldn't take being given a hard time over what I've written I wouldn't do reviews - all good stuff. Also kept me thinking through today when I've been stuck at home recovering from an operation. :thumbsup:
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    21. Sam Crow

      Sam Crow Well-Known Member

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      hope you recover soon enough :)

      curious did you have full physx and dx11 ?
    22. Chox1988

      Chox1988 Well-Known Member

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      Nothing major i hope, hopefully they gave you some cool drugs :D
    23. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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    24. Sam Crow

      Sam Crow Well-Known Member

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      so all layed up ready for the x1 ;)
    25. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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      Haven't got either on pre-order. Planned to wait until early next year. Got myself an SSD to compensate! Been having a short game marathon today though: Dear Esther, Buried at Sea, To The Moon. Was hoping the Day Z standalone might appear this week - that would've kept me busy!
    26. Chox1988

      Chox1988 Well-Known Member

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      The loss of physx by going amd in the batman games is a bit of a killer,

      Have a hernia myself, although its not visually noticeable and physically cant feel it so have left it for the time being. I actually wouldnt be able to say exactly where it was so figure it wont affect me much.

      They knocked me out generally today as well :D, weird feeling isnt it.
    27. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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      Yeah it is. There was a surreal moment when they started it off and I thought, "The next thing I know, it'll be a couple of hours from now", and then everything went slippery for a bit and sure enough it was a couple of hours later.

      Hope you're doing okay with whatever you had done mate. And on the hernia - probably only worth doing if it's causing you a problem. Mine made my belly button look like a pregnant woman's and hurt like a bastard.

      Can't help but wonder - if Batman got a hernia, what would he do?
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    28. Nemesis X2

      Nemesis X2 Active Member

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      He'd make Alfred have the op for him.....
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    29. yoskiwoski

      yoskiwoski Member

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      I don't remember there being civilians wondering the streets en mass in the other games, occasionally you would rescue one of the staff in arkham city.. But generally it's hoodlums on the streets
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    30. Ben Ingber

      Ben Ingber Member

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      No there weren't but it wasn't the open city in Arkham City, if you recall. It was a kind of super-prison - so justified itself much better in that regard.
  • Production

    Game Media Type Digital Download
    Developer WB Games Montreal
    Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Platform PC
    Also On Xbox 360
    PS3
    Suggested Retail Price 39.99
    Release Date 25 October 2013
    PEGI Rating 16
    Maximum Number of Players 1~8
    Has Multiplayer Yes
    Genre Action-Adventure
    Action-Role Playing
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