Batman: Arkham Origins

PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
Developed by: Warner Bros. Games Montreal
By Matt Ross
Nov 05, 2013

You have to feel a modi-cum of sympathy for Warner Bros. Taking over development of the Arkham series from Rocksteady (the brains behind 2009’s Arkham Asylum and 2011’s Arkham City, the latter of which RS classed as the best game of that year) was always going to be a thankless task. Churn out a good game, and it’s expected. But fall short of expectations and you’re lumbered with a high-profile stinker.

The good news for Warner is that they haven’t completely dropped the ball. Arkham Origins, a prequel to the franchise’s two existing games, is a decent stealth-action title, artfully expanding on the Dark Knight’s backstory, his relationship with Captain James Gordon, and the beginnings of his antagonistic symbiosis with The Joker. Controlling Bruce Wayne, as it was in the previous games, is an intuitive delight. The free-flowing combat system remains largely unchanged, and there’s a sense of welcome familiarity as you utilize the various gadgets and gizmos to navigate the expansive open world.

But, there’s no getting around it. Something is not quite right. There’s a sense of being underwhelmed with Origins – but it’s not necessarily because the developers have done anything wrong. Arkham City built on the success of Arkham Asylum by taking Batman’s skills and gadgets from a cramped, claustrophobic mental institution, and giving you an entire city to play around in. That sense of freedom and power is City’s most enduring legacy. In Arkham Origins, you’ve still got a city to play around in. It’s bigger, sure, but there’s a sense that the environment is only larger because that’s what gamers would expect. There’s an unshakeable sense that we’ve been through all of this before. The story is well-written and engaging, and the rich source material is treated with appropriate reverence, but at its heart, Origins is basically Arkham City 2.0. It seems bizarre to lament what is basically a repeat of 2011’s best game, but because the Arkham series has innovated in such a smart way from the first installment to the second, it’s only natural to expect such a progression to continue. Not this time out.

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