Batman: Arkham Origins starring Roger Craig Smith as Batman and Troy Baker as the Joker.
I’ve finished Arkham Knight, but for the sake of completionism, here’s my review of the previous game in the series: Arkham Origins.
Arkham Origins takes place 5 years before Asylum when Batman (this time voiced by Roger Craig Smith) is beginning his crime fighting career – and features his first encounters with adversaries Bane, Penguin, Riddler, Killer Croc and the Joker. The plot is thus: crimelord Black Mask puts a bounty of 50 million on Batman’s head, leading to 8 assassins (Killer Croc, Electrocutioner, Deathstroke, Deadshot, Shiva, Firefly, Copperhead and Bane) arriving in Gotham trying to collect the prize. Herein lies one of Arkham Origins’ strengths – it has the best boss fights of any game in the series (Asylum’s were generally disappointing, City’s varied in quality a lot and Knight’s are equally variable). The battles with Firefly and Bane are two of the highlights in the series, and the fight with Deathstroke is easily the most difficult (a good reason to do your first playthrough on easy!). These may not be the most famous Batman villains, but they all add something to the game.
The game lacks the atmosphere of Asylum and the tension of City, but it’s storyline is gripping nonetheless. SPOILER WARNING (skip to next paragraph if you care – though the main twist is predictable). This is mainly due to the Joker plot. Black Mask is the main villain? No he isn’t (thank God, as he has no depth whatsoever and was wisely relegated to a side mission at the game’s halfway point) – instead it is revealed that he was being impersonated by Joker, who hired the assassins and then begins to become obsessed with Batman after the Bat saved his life. Troy Baker is great as Joker, playing him similar enough to Mark Hamill that the two characters are believably from the same series, but far enough away to leave his own mark on the character. The game is also the only game in the series (unless Knight has some DLC which changes this) to give us a great version of Bane. His Boss fight is great, and the character is the secondary villain and is fleshed out to an extent only the Dark Knight Rises has achieved (but with a traditional take on the brute).
The game also makes the best use of Batman’s ‘detective mode’, although that said some of the detective bits are slightly too long. The stealth predator sections have the exact same gameplay (barring one new gadget) as Arkham City, but it does improve the hand-to-hand combat sections, with new enemy types such as ninjas, who are immune to certain types of attacks, and Bane’s venom henchmen adding a bit more challenge to the combat sections. The predator maps are decent (better than Asylum’s, worse than City’s) so you can easily lose a few more hours on those. The Riddler sections are the least interesting of the four games, however, although it is worth doing them to unlock extra audio files on the games characters with a wealth of easter eggs for Batman fans. Penguin and Mad Hatter also have side missions that show Batman’s first encounters with them, but the majority of side missions are simply ways of killing time between main missions – the only one which leaves a lasting impression is newcomer Anarky, who has placed bombs around the city in an attempt to kill Gotham’s most corrupt (the bankers, the police the politicians etc.)This game, being larger than Asylum and City, also introduces fast travel, which can save you a lot of time.
The downloadable content, Cold, Cold Heart takes place a week later and focuses on Batman’s first encounter with Mr. Freeze, and is worth buying. Fans will recognise the comic-book storyline it is based on, and the final boss fight with Freeze is similarly challenging to the one in Arkham City, with Batman having to use multiple stealth takedowns to defeat the heavily armed Freeze.
Overall the gameplay is the best in the series with good boss fights and a gripping story. A lack of innovation and some by-the-numbers side missions are the two issues that prevent it surpassing City.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
DLC Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Next Time: My Review of Arkham Knight is finally here as the Batman’s story reaches its end…