Review: Batman: Arkham Origins

The caped crusader returns to our consoles two years on from Arkham City's world wide release and one year on from the Wii U's very own "Armoured Edition" of that game which was released on the consoles launch day. Rather than being developed by British studio Rocksteady, who were responsible for Arkham Asylum and the aforementioned City, Warner Brothers have handed the reins to last years Wii U edition curators, Warner Brothers Montreal. What this means is that Batman: Arkham Origins is by and large an excellent game, made with real passion and clearly by Batman enthusiasts. But the main problem I have here is that this game is essentially City dressed as Origins. By which I mean it doesn't take the worlds greatest detective to work out that WB Montreal have done a copy and paste job and taken all they learned from handling the City enhancement and basically decided to copy it all into this entry in the Arkham series.

This puts the player in a really weird situation. Because I absolutely loved Asylum and City, and enjoyed the progression from the first to the second game. Origins however, feels like it should be downloadable content, even though there is a full new story to be had here. The game is really good and, had I never played City (or if City never existed) I would say this is one of the best games I've played all year and the best game based on the Dark Knight ever made. But I have played City, and frankly WB Montreal haven't been able to step out of the shadow of Rocksteady and create their own game, instead seemingly embracing said shadow and giving us more of the same that has been so well received in the past, admittedly to great effect. But this is the Arkham series, of which we have become to expect better things. To paraphrase one of the films, it's the game we needed, but not the one we deserved.

batmanorigins2Well, that was a fairly negative start, wasn't it? Perhaps I am being too harsh, as there are some great moments to be had here and, as I have said, it is tremendous fun if you're after more of the same. One of the main positives is the story line, which, as the title suggests, is an origins story. It's not Batman Begins origins however. Here we find Bruce Wayne already as the Bat man, fancy equipment in tow and fighting abilities ready to go with no flash back structure to muddy the waters. Progression here is centered around Batman meeting friends and foes for the first time, building relationships which will define him and possibly break him too. The most interesting of which I found was with James Gordon, later in the series to be Commissioner Gordon to me and you. Frankly I wanted more of this burgeoning and often grudging respect that built up, but what I did get was satisfying none the less.

I won't touch on any of the villains or story line in detail as, much like the films or graphic novels, it's best enjoyed unspoilt. Suffice to say there are plenty of familiar faces and more obscure ones as well along the way, wrapped around an interesting and plausible story thread which runs through the game. Plenty of set pieces which are thrilling and it story sets up Asylum nicely. There was one point where I thought a huge question mark shaped hole had been left open in terms of the three games over arching story, however those fears were swiftly allayed towards the end of the game. And, much like its predecessors (or should that be sequels, as this is Origins...) some after credit easter eggs hint at what's to come without being overly explicit.

I would say that the main game, on normal mode, took about ten to twelve hours to complete, excluding any side quests, which is about fair if you're just trying to get through to find out what happens next. For those who want more challenge after the credits have rolled, new game plus returns from City, which allows you to start again on hard mode, but with all your weapon upgrade and side quest hard work carried over into the new game. It immediately gives you an edge against opponents, however they are much harder. WB Montreal, to their credit, have put in a new mode here as well once new game plus is completed, called "I am the Night". Superb idea this, as it's hard mode with a twist. When you die, you're dead. Save file deleted, you have to start all over again from the beginning of the game, much like ZombiU's survivor mode. You could be at the final boss having had the perfect run through, only to find yourself killed and watch in horror as all that hard work evaporates in one swish of the cape. Only one for the hardcore and possibly sadistic gamers, it's a worthwhile and exciting challenge none the less.

The side missions supplement the game well, fleshing out your play time by at least a solid five hours. batmanorigins4However one of my main gripes with the game is that, as I made clear in the opening paragraphs, there is far too much copy and pasting going on here, and these missions are exactly that. In my opinion it's about time the Riddler became a main protagonist, rather than chief of side quests like in the first two games. Sadly WB Montreal take the easy route here and again you are tasked with finding Riddler items to track down his whereabouts and apprehend him, all while using similar pressure pad games like in City. One bad guy uses projector images of himself to get his message to Batman, like Joker and again Riddler in City, while another tasks you with hunting down illegal chemical containers that is such a blatant copy of the Bane missions in City I wouldn't have been surprised to see a Titan container image left on the side of a container by mistake. The thing is, these are fun and very immersive, but when you've played Arkham City to death and start with these, it just smacks of a lazy job like a KAPOW! to the chops.

Another baffling decision is to keep the main user inter face from Arkham City. Chronologically it's a mess in this regards, as is the included ability to double counter enemy attacks which wasn't present in Arkham Asylum. Did he forget these moves when confined to the Asylum complex? Did he down grade the Bat Computer for a few months after this adventure, make do with Windows 95 while in Asylum then upgrade his subscription again after? Little things like this just confused and annoyed this reviewer. I can understand why you would want to keep quality elements in and many gamers may not be happy with a step backwards in some regards. But this is a step backwards in the timeline and I feel this should have been reflected appropriately in Origins.

batmanorigins6Gameplay wise it is as you would expect from the previous two titles, with the main bulk of missions either being in predator or combat scenarios. Each are identical to the previous games, including the harder difficulties of proximity mine rigged vantage points and shield wearing or knife holding bad guys appearing the further you get into the game. The boss battles have some stand out moments however, one a game of counter attacking your foe and another clambering through the carnage on Pioneers Bridge particular stand outs. Combat is smooth and seamless, the intuitive system created by Rocksteady faithfully ported across here, and the thrill of getting a combo of fifty or more is still very much in place. Being stealthy still has its 'win' button with detective mode again providing the opportunity to see through walls and take down enemies with relative ease. Still, it can be tense and is terrifically fun taking down a room full of them without so much as them knowing you were there.

Graphically the game is solid if unspectacular. It all looks lovely and the Christmas setting really does the game a favour, with the snow and Christmas melodies adding to the atmosphere. However too many times I found the game had failed to render a building properly, including once mid mission at the GCPD where, if I put detective mode on I could see all the enemies and vantage points, however in real time all I saw was a building that looked like it had mud dripping down the sides and out of the windows, and edges that looked like earlier Nintendo 64 efforts in their sharpness and lack of detail. I have also come across an inability to interrogate suspects when needed, which has forced me to restart sections, and currently I have part of a side quest which I have done but is still showing as active, which as far as I am aware means I won't be able to complete this mission as it's vital to finishing the quest. It's sloppy parts like this which can let the game down, and isn't of the polish usually expected from the Arkham series.

Origins does use the Wii U features very well though, especially the gamepad. Always displaying your map of Gotham City, you can navigate and set way points for yourself on the fly (quite literally while flying at certain times) which eradicates the need to stop start the whole time to work out where you are going next, much like Armoured Edition introduced last year. It would have been nice to delve into the case files and character profiles as well with the gamepad, but it's not a deal breaker, and it is used in the crime set pieces as a view finder to scan for clues, which is a nice touch. Any communications Batman receives from Alfred or conversations he picks up from thugs lining the streets come through the gamepad's speakers. Sadly the volume wasn't adjustable as far as I could tell as while a great idea and another great atmosphere creating device, it was just slightly too quiet for my tastes and I missed too much dialogue for it not to be noticeable. An accomplishment system is also built into the game and, at your choice, is automatically uploaded to Miiverse much like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. So although Nintendo haven't embraced the idea of Achievements/Trophies with Wii U, the developers have found a way around this that makes smart use of the console.


There are some really nice touches in the game, and one thing I won't be critical of is the atmosphere created and the obvious passion for the Batman franchise WB Montreal have put into Origins. Messing about trying to do some Riddler bits and bobs away from the main game, I heard the church bells ring out for midnight. After a few seconds Alfred came over the comms and wished me a Merry Christmas. After beating some villains, rather than have a long cutscene with them airing their grievances, you're free to go. However if you stick around they start talking and talking, especially one who went through a full range of emotions of wanting Batman to be on his side before screaming and shouting at him to leave. And, obviously for a game set in Gotham, half of the map is set in the locale of what will become the Arkham City complex. So you get to revisit (technically just visit I guess) Sionis Industries, Amusement Mile and see Wonder Tower all before the events of City. While in many respects this falls in with my issues of the series repeating itself, this does make sense in the context of the game while also providing an opportunity to explore these areas before later events.

It's interesting as well seeing this younger Batman dealing with criminals and his own rage in a different, unrefined way. Although physically he may be on a par with the later games, here he gets it wrong when interrogating villains, knocking them unconscious too soon or becoming so aggressive he doesn't give himself any room for manoeuvre other than assault. It's nice to see him becoming the (Bat) man we know and growing into that, rather than psychologically being the finished article already. Plenty of references are made to him causing all the freaks and villains in the first place, and some times the lines are definitely blurred.

Batman: Arkham Origins is, on the one hand, a really great game. Full of detail and clear passion, any Arkham series fan will surely enjoy themselves and revel in another adventure behind the cape and cowl. However for me this is just too similar to Arkham City not to be concerned and, frankly, disappointed with the final product. I have and will continue to enjoy playing through the game, but the feeling of déjà vu and done this before nature holds it back from being a truly great game in the Arkham series. The Dark Knight will rise, but not this time sadly.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Batman: Arkham Origins plays like downloadable content for Arkham City. A brilliant game let down by an almost copy and paste job from said title. A new story and plenty of passion can't mask the fact that this feels somewhat rushed and not quite what it could have been. Arkham fans will enjoy this, but anyone else would be recommended to pick up the much cheaper Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition on Wii U and wait for a similar price reduction on this.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability3
  • Visuals3
  • Audio3
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



The Bat is back!
Fun, engaging story
Solid stealth and action game play
Clearly created by batman fans
Immersive, atmospheric world


It's the same game as Arkham City
Some real graphical issues
Game spoiling glitches
Copy and paste job feels like a step back for the series

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