Batman: Arkham Origins
- Henry Northmore
- 5 November 2013
The third Arkham game plays smoothly and has a gripping storyline, but doesn't break new ground
Marvel might be winning the war at the cinema box-office with their onslaught of interrelated Avengers movies, but DC have been slowly winning the console war. Over the last few years Lego Batman and Injustice: Gods Among Us have proved superheroes and videogames can be work in perfect synergy; however probably the most impressive series has been Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) followed by Batman: Arkham City (2011) and now Batman: Arkham Origins, an action adventure trilogy complete with a slick combat system and a fantastically agile protagonist. The opportunity to take control of Bruce Wayne's alter ego has been vividly and thrillingly brought to life by developers Rocksteady Studios.
Arkham Origins is a prequel, taking us back to the Dark Knight's early days and his first encounters with many of his villainous rogue's gallery of adversaries. Criminal mastermind the Black Mask has unleashed a series of assassins – including Killer Croc, Firefly, Deadshot and Deathstroke – all gunning for the Bat on Christmas Eve. It's a huge open world with loads of side missions but it's the dynamic main story that keeps the action flowing.
It's also the first instalment to be developed by Warner Bros Games Montreal, who capitalise on Rocksteady's fine work but never really expand upon the last two instalments. It is admittedly a larger gameworld but when it comes to a sequel you expect more than a few tweaks. Nothing really pushes the series forward – it's more a carbon copy of everything that has come before.
It's also the first Batman: Arkham title not scripted by comics writer Paul Dini, and unfortunately it shows. Corey May and Dooma Wendschuh are great videogame writers – with Assassins Creed, Prince of Persia and more under their belts – but they don't have quite the same grasp of character as Dini. A more minor criticism is to do with changes in the voice cast, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (as in Luke Skywalker!) being replaced by Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker (as Batman and The Joker respectively), but this is just a minor niggle when it comes to the sense of continuity through the series.
It feels impossibly harsh to complain about a game of as high a standard as Arkham Origins: it plays so smoothly, looks fantastic, has a fairly gripping storyline – plus just the sheer thrill of donning the cape as the masked vigilante is hard to beat – but the previous two games set such a high bench mark it's disappointing that this prequel seems content to tread water rather than take things to the next level.