Batman: Arkham Origins is the first title developed outside series creators Rocksteady Games. The news that the third title in the critically acclaimed franchise would be developed by a newly minted Warner Bros. studio left a lot of fans skeptical of Arkham Origin's eventual quality. Unfortunately, their fears hold some merit, but not all is amiss with what is still a fun superhero romp.
Arkham Origins tells the story of a younger/angrier Batman on his quest to stop eight assassins from collecting a $50 million dollar bounty on his head. What follows is a strong story filled with many twists and turns. A showdown with Killer Croc at Blackgate prison leads Batman to discover that Black Mask has orchestrated a Christmas Eve of bounty hunting for the world's greatest assassins, so the Dark Knight sets out into a mostly deserted Gotham City to stop the parade of villains. But it is with these assassins that the story falters. Series mainstays like Deathstroke, Deadshot, and Bane may not come as a surprise to longtime DC Comics fans, but others, like Copperhead and Electrocutioner, may leave anyone but the most ardent Batman readers scratching their heads.
I commend Warner Bros. Montreal for trying to share the spotlight with lesser known characters in the DC lineup, but it's a shame they didn't take the time to flesh out any sort of back-story for these assassins. Suffice it to say, if you didn't know anything about Copperhead or Deathstroke before, Arkham Origins isn't going to teach you anything new about them. The story also explores Batman's relationship with James Gordon. While Gordon hunts Batman at first, the game does a good job of showing the mutual trust the two characters eventually come to. Thankfully, the story also moves away from the assassin subplot pretty quickly with the inclusion of the Joker--in this narrative decision, Arkham Origins shines. While delving deep into the psychology of both characters and witnessing the early throes of a relationship expunged in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, players are treated to a unique look at the Joker, which mirrors his personality from storylines like "The Killing Joke" and "Death in a Family." The Joker and Batman are brought to life in fantastic performances by Troy Baker and Roger Craig Smith, respectively, who effortlessly carry the mantle of younger versions of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy.