Reviews by UnstableVoltage

92

Great game, but little improvement over Arkham City

UnstableVoltage | Nov. 3, 2013 | Review of Batman Arkham Origins

OK, so I've put a couple of hours into Arkham Origins (on PC), and I decided to share my initial thoughts.

I never played the original Arkham Asylum, but I've owned and completed Arkham City on the both the PS3 and the PC, put many hours into both formats and really enjoyed the game.

The first thing to note, is that Arkham Origins has been developed by WB Montreal, and not Rocksteady like the first two games.

A lot of people have reported a variety of bugs, from graphical glitches, crashes, failing to initialise and even some scripted events breaking to the point where they can't progress in the game. So far, I've not suffered from any of these bugs. The game has been running perfectly for me. Only one bug which stopped my progress in a side mission (which has now been fixed). I have had some performance issues. Frame drop in places (normally indoors), with some screen tearing (even with Vsync), and the occasional bit of clipping. I think it still needs some optimisation.

Gameplay wise, it seems very similar. The controls are pretty much identical, all/most of the moves that Batman could preform in the previous games are still there. It's very open world, still lots of Riddler secrets to be collected, only this time there's more of a story related reason for going around collecting/destroying them, other than the Riddler just put them there for a laugh when he was bored one Friday evening.

The combat system has been re-worked. It still controls in the same way that Arkham City did, only now it feels a lot slower. This made it very difficult at first to pull off the free-flow combos. Initially, I thought this was a step backwards - but after giving it some practice, I think it's a slight improvement. When Batman hits, it feels more solid with more weight behind it. Pulling off combo takedowns in the middle of free-flow becomes quite easy with some practice, and I've already been able to make more use of it than I even did in Arkham City. You can no longer accidentally knock out Riddler informants. If you do, they just stay on the ground whimpering until you clean everyone else up, then you can interrogate them - which is nice, as in City you'd often have to dodge around a lot in a fight to make sure you took them out last.

The ability to counter has been tightened up quite nicely. You can't just spam the counter button and get lucky any more. You have to time it just right (and with an upgrade, a perfectly timed counter results in a 2x damage critical hit). Pulling off a counter is now more satisfying, with the ability to counter multiple targets at once, and throw thugs into one another, without breaking your combo focus.

The game offers a number of challenges in four different categories (Combat / Stealth / Flight / Gadgets) - pulling off certain moves or combos in certain situations will earn you XP to level up. After each fight, XP is awarded on a grading system which takes into account the toughness of the fight, and how well you did. It's all completely transparent with a torrent of onscreen numbers to tell you how well you did. There's also a combat training mode (along with challenge maps) that can be accessed from the Batcave. Completing these and getting the medals for them results in a huge chunk of bonus XP to spend.

Levelling up is pretty much the same as it was in City. You have upgrades for combat, stealth and utility (gadgets), but unlike in City where you could spend them anywhere within those categories, Origins now has a tree system, where certain upgrades have to be purchased in order. Some are also unlocked via story progression, bonus objectives, and the previously mentioned challenges. At first I didn't like this new system. But under the surface it isn't that different, and it works quite well.

Moving onto gadgets, I don't know what has been kept/removed/added from the previous games. All the obvious starting ones still exist. The Baterang, Remote Baterang, Grapple hook, Cryptographic Sequencer, Batclaw, Smoke Pellets, Explosive Gel - all there so far. I know at least one new thing has been added - where you can use a remote Batclaw to attach two objects/people together. Haven't had a chance to see this yet - but there are lots of videos about it from before the release (but I digress).

Origins has a nice fast travel system to get around the map, though you have to undertake certain side missions to unlock the fast travel points in each are of the city (like taking camps in Farcry 3). From what I can tell (looking at the map and where I can travel), the game area seems to be only about twice the size of Arkham City (not including inside buildings and "off map" areas). The main map consists of an area which is basically identical to Arkham City, with another chunk of land approximately the same size connected to it via a bridge.

A new detective mode has been added, which allows you to analyse a crime scene, see it reconstructed virtually in the Batsuit's cowl, scrub the event backwards and forwards, follow and trace the trajectory of objects to lead to other clues. I've only had a chance to play with this once early on, and it was quite minor (mini tutorial for the mechanic), but I like it. It seems well thought out, and serves to give Batman his "World's Greatest Detective" status back.

The sound and visuals of the game are both very good. Voice acting is still top notch, despite an almost entirely new cast. Scripting is also done very well (though the lip sync is very hit and miss), and the music is great as always. I'm not completely sold on the visual style yet. A lot of people have been saying it doesn't look as good as City did, and looks more like Asylum. I think the visual style has changed a lot. It doesn't have that gritty, grimy look that Arkham City had, but everything looks like it has a plastic protective film over it. Though I have to admit, the game does look good (if you can find that balance between performance and fidelity).

I do have one or two little minor issues (that hopefully will get fixed). Firstly, I have no game pad, so I use mouse and keyboard. This served me very well in Arkham City. One issue is that Origins refuses to recognise any mouse button other than left, right and middle - a real pain as I have 2 thumb buttons, one of which I used to use for my grapple. Another issue is the map. In Arkham City, you could move the mouse around with the map to set waypoints (the target select is always a crosshair in the centre of the screen, and it's the map that moves). This worked well in City, and was precise with the mouse. However, in Origins you have to scroll the map with the WASD keys, which is very twitchy. Odd there's no mouse control for the map, given that the mouse wheel is still used to zoom in an out.

All in all, I've really enjoyed what I have played so far. If you played and enjoyed the first two, you might want to pick this up. But don't expect to be blown away. It doesn't really bring anything new to the table. It's mostly the same as Arkham City with a new coat of paint. Luckily they seem to have kept all of the great stuff that made Arkham City so much fun to play, but there's been no real innovation to take the game to a new level, and as a result it feels more like an expansion to Arkham City than a whole new sequel.

That said, there have been reports of bugs (even though so far I've been lucky enough to avoid them), and there clearly are some performance issues. So you might want to hold off until the game gets patched to make it run a little smoother, and eliminate the chances of any bugged scripted events from ruining your playthrough!