Batman: Arkham Origins Review: A younger Batman has growing pains
- Posted November 3rd, 2013 at 21:35 EDT by Garri Bagdasarov
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Batman: Arkham Origins has refinements the series deserves, but core elements are missing the imagination they need right now.
- Strong story explores villain origins
- Fantastic voice acting
- Excellent boss fights
- Tacked-on multiplayer
- Framerate drops
- Core assassins in side quests
Though Warner Bros. Montreal would have you believe that Batman is a rookie superhero in Arkham Origins, the gameplay doesn't do an effective job showing it. The only time I believed Batman was in his rookie years were in his communications with butler Alfred. Alfred provides tips and acts as a concerned father figure throughout the story, making Batman look more human than the act he puts on. As Batman takes on the expert assassins out for his bounty, his combat prowess--still based on the fluid counter system established by Rocksteady--belies an ability and stamina we're meant to believe he shouldn't have yet. And with Deathstroke being DC Comics' most dangerous mercenary and assassin, it was hard for me to believe Batman would be able to take on Deathstroke head-on, in hand-to-hand combat, with only two years of experience under his crusader belt.
Indeed, the combat of Arkham Origins remains mostly unchanged from its predecessor. Batman moves flawlessly across the battlefield, jumping from one enemy to another with the free-flow combat system of Rocksteady's design. Batman can strike, counter, dodge, evade, and use his gadgets to defeat his enemies. Though the combat remains mostly unchanged, the difficulty in enemy encounters has been increased, sometimes by substantial amounts. AI aggression is up, so no longer are players able to just strike and counter; at some point or another, all combat tools are required to survive. A couple of new enemy types mix up proceedings. One is a martial arts expert able to dodge, counter, counter your counters, and avoid all takedown abilities. Though these enemies are exciting to fight at first, they quickly grow tedious, especially when dealing with more than one. You'll have to adopt a defensive stance for almost the entire fight, which feels awkward and tiresome in the mix of Arkham's otherwise fast-paced, aggressive melee encounters.
One of the highlights of Arkham Origins are the boss fights. In past Arkham games, Batman was faced with bigger, stronger, and (sometimes) indestructible foes. Origins, on the other hand, deals with bosses on par with Batman's skills. The fight against Deathstroke is one of the most enjoyable of the series so far. The development team did an excellent job of pitting the two against each other in exciting, face-to-face combat that focuses on both mens' martial arts abilities. The fight comes across as a careful battle of rock-paper-scissors and carefully timed strikes and counters. It borders on becoming a over-long QTE session, but there's enough chance for error and decision to make the fight feel like your own. My only complaints about the boss fights in general are the reuse of many animations during important counters and phase shifts, along with the sheer difficulty of the final boss fight leaving me frustrated enough to take a break and come back later.