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'Arkham Origins' fun but not ground-breaking

Nov 20, 2013

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Batman: Arkham OriginsI have failed Gotham City. As cops needed back-up, I swung on by. As innocent citizens pleaded for help, I swung on by. As Anarky planted bombs across the city to further his maniacal agenda, I swung on by. For the first time in the 'Arkham' series, I wasn't much of a hero. It is hard to be when you don't have a Batmobile and spend most of your time swinging around Gotham City trying to get from place to place.

'Batman: Arkham Origins', the third installment in the acclaimed 'Arkham' series, has greatly expanded the Gotham City environment but in doing so has created a setting that is so aggravating to travel through even with the inclusion of the occasional new Fast Travel option. There are so many buildings and other structures you cannot swing or get around easily. Sometimes there are such great distances to traverse; you will spend more of your gameplay swinging, climbing and gliding than fighting or adventuring.

Batman: Arkham OriginsThere's nothing to do in Gotham anyhow except to engage in repetitive goon brawls you can grind through to snare experience points or participate in scavenger hunts for collectables. There's no NPC interaction or people going about their lives. There's no traffic and no locations to explore. The city just acts as an enormous void as you travel from one key location to the next in order to continue the campaign.

The layout of Gotham City itself is one of the problems preventing 'Arkham Origins' from being a great game rather than just a good one. Warner Bros. Games Montréal has done a fine job in following the 'Arkham' format fans have come to expect but they haven't addressed any of the flaws of the series and haven't been daring enough when it comes to the development.

Sorta like the video game version of 'Batman Begins', 'Origins' turns back the clock to a time when Bats was just finding his wings. He is a little younger, a little more hopeful but just as hard-nosed as ever. On the trail of the crimelord Black Mask, who like Bruce Wayne leads a double life, Bats runs afoul of The Penguin and a cadre of assassins who have been hired to exterminate him such as Deathstroke, Bane, Copperhead and Lady Shiva.

Batman: Arkham OriginsThe game though only pays lip service to rewinding the series. 'Origins' is supposed to be Batman's second year as a hero and yet there is not a whole lot to support or back-up that idea. Curiously enough, Batman ends up with even more weapons and gadgets. You would think Bats would be more of a rookie, his world and his foes more simplistic.

It is not like there's a shortage of inspiration either. Scott Snyder and James Tynion's sensational 'Batman: Zero Year' comic book series, Christopher Nolan's 'The Batman Begins' movie or even 'The Beware the Batman' or 'The Batman' animates series are perfect cornerstones to build a new 'Arkham' game around. It is a shame they were overlooked.

Even though he is the "World's Greatest Detective", Batman doesn't exercise his grey matter much either. The new crime-scene investigation mechanics are impressive. The ability to rewind the augmented reality scenarios will blow your mind, however, there is not much puzzling to be done. You just click here; follow the suggestions and all of the pieces fall into place without much real effort.

Batman: Arkham OriginsThe boss battles are the best part of 'Origins'. You cannot mash buttons to get through them. You have to use your head as well as your combat skills which captures what being the Caped Crusader is all about. The two battle which stand out though are Deathstroke and the Electrocutioner. Deathstroke because it is one of the more challenging combat exercises in the whole 'Arkham' series and Electrocutioner, because it is so darn hysterical.

There is a multiplayer element where heroes and villains work at cross purposes to achieve goals in the same setting. It is a good time-waster and viable distraction when you want to take a break from the challenges and the campaign.

'Batman: Arkham Origins' is a missed opportunity as it had potential to be so much more than it is. The premise of going back to Batman's beginnings had so much promise. Although 'Origins' is my least favourite 'Arkham' game, it still has everything that makes the series itself so great. Like a spaghetti dinner at your fiancé's place, it may not be the most creative meal but it is hard to mess it up and…spaghetti is good.

Batman: Arkham Origins Batman: Arkham Origins
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://marvelsuperheroes.lego.com/

Rating: 9 / 10

 
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