It was easy to be skeptical about “Batman Arkham Origins,” considering a new development studio, new writers and even new voice actors were tasked to follow up two of the best licensed games ever made. “Batman Arkham Origins” stumbles in a few areas, but it largely succeeds in capturing all of the elements that made the previous Arkham games so compelling.
The one area where “Batman Arkham Origins” struggles the most is with its story. The strong premise of the game, where Black Mask has sent eight of the world’s deadliest assassins to hunt down Batman, is quickly forced to compete with an increasing number of other plot threads. The premise is also bizarrely defused in other ways from Batman immediately learning the identities of all eight assassins to the early entry and exit of the best assassin Deathstroke. The story increasingly feels lacking until Batman meets the Joker for the first time and the focus shifts to him.
I had reservations about there being new voice actors for both Batman and the Joker, especially since they were replacing Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill’s 21-year plus legacy. Roger Craig Smith does a good job emulating Conroy’s approach to Batman, though he does occasionally evoke Christian Bale’s silly yelling during interrogations. Troy Baker’s Joker however is virtually flawless and if you didn’t know Mark Hamill was replaced, it would be very difficult to tell. All of the other voice work is equally top notch, which really helps invest you in Batman’s world.
Nearly everything that worked in the previous Arkham games once again works well in “Batman Arkham Origins.” The Freeflow combat system is again present, and it is still fun to tackle and bounce between enemies. It is a little disappointing though that combat feels slightly less visceral and that it is often harder only because more and more enemies are thrown at you.
Boss fights once again deliver stand out moments and are generally really fun to play. I especially enjoyed the Deathstroke duel because it was sort of like having to fight yourself.
Another area that is less successful is the open world exploration. There is a new island and bridge to explore beyond the slightly altered grounds from “Arkham City.” Movement is largely fine, but the grappling hook and grapnel ability aren’t as effective as before which can occasionally kill momentum.
Fast travel is in the game now because the map is so big, but unfortunately it’s slow due to long load times. Bizarrely the fast travel and waypoint systems would sometimes refuse to work. Incidentally, the game completely crashed on me twice while I was exploring.
Once again, there are some really great side quests in the game that are centered on popular villains. The Mad Hatter story is particularly memorable since it forces Batman to confront a twisted Alice and Wonderland dreamscape. The Riddler is also back and is a greater presence this time since he relates to the central story.
Beyond the main campaign there is also a challenge mode and a strange, poorly implemented asymmetrical multiplayer mode that pits Batman and Robin against two teams of three armed gunmen. Both of these modes are really only there for the curious.
Despite all the odds against it, “Batman Arkham Origins” is impressively almost as good as the first two Arkham games. There are some obvious faults with the game, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that I really enjoyed playing through it.
RECOMMENDED: Though it isn’t as great as its predecessors, “Origins” is still a solid entry to the “Arkham” series.