|Developer:||WB Games Montréal|||||Release Date:||2013|||||Systems:||Win, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U|
This week on Super Adventures, a game about punching people at Christmas!
It's been ages since I've played a Batman game, in fact I think the last one on the site was probably Return of the Joker for the NES, back in April 2015. Though it still seems too soon to play Batman: Arkham Origins, because of how similar it is to the other two. In my Batman: Arkham City article I joked that I'd be able to copy/paste parts of my Arkham Asylum post and save myself some work, and here that's doubly true! But it's a Christmas game and I feel like playing it again, so I am.
I love these beautiful tableaux of frozen Batviolence behind the menu by the way. Batman's so gritty in this one with his tactical Bat-armour and his permanent bad mood, that I keep expecting the camera to pan across blood and displaced teeth flying through the air.
This used to be the black sheep of the franchise, due to it not being developed by Rocksteady, and the bugs, and the fact that they prioritised releasing paid DLC instead of fixing them all, but I think Arkham Knight's claimed that position now (at least on PC). There's still a bit of an issue with the multiplayer, seeing as it was switched off forever earlier this month, but I didn't even know it had multiplayer, so that shows how much I care about that.
(Click on the images to view my original full size screenshots. DX11 mode, all settings on full... resolution at 1280x720).
- There's a severe storm warning, so all Gotham residents are urged to stay indoors. This will drastically limit the number of muggings Batman will be able to stop, but it also means that players can't slip out of character and use his advanced combat techniques to cripple the innocent.
- Bruce Wayne's only been back in Gotham and dispensing vigilante justice for two years at this point, so this is a prequel!
- One of Gotham's worst serial killers, Calendar Man, is about to be executed.
CommissionerCaptain Gordon denies that he was apprehended by a Bat Man, or that there even is a Bat Man.
- Black Mask has broken into Blackgate Prison and is holding Commissioner Loeb hostage.
The only difference I can notice between the first two is the boots, but Origins takes place early in Batman's career so he's wearing a more primitive version of his Batsuit. This is long before he realised that superstitious criminals fear a man who wears his underwear on the outside of his tights.
Anyway, Batman flies his jet over to Blackgate Prison, jumps out, glides to the ground and gives control to me.
But when I approached the next room I was interrupted by a cutscene showing the warden getting beaten to death with a baseball bat by one of Black Mask's goons. He noticed Batman standing there and redirected the bat his way, and a button prompt suddenly flashed on screen for me to deal with!
It looks like a QTE sequence, but it's actually the next part of the tutorial, teaching me how counters works.
But waiting around isn't going to build my combo up, so I need to keep punching, countering, whipping my cape around, and doing flips over their head to chain together my moves and build up speed. There's no need to stand in the correct place or target the right enemy, Batman knows what he's doing, so it's all amazingly fluid and effortless... until I accidentally throw a punch at thin air or miss a counter, then I'm suddenly brought back down to earth. I need to build up my combo to access my special moves, so screwing up hurts.
Keeping my moves varied and my combos high gets me a better score, and getting hit doesn't. I'll get health back for winning either way, but ideally I'll want to walk away without losing any in the first place.
A FIGHT OR TWO LATER.
Reporter Vicki Vale's not actually in anyone's underpants by the way, and she's not reporting live either as they broke her camera. So the TV news is going to have to live without footage of me quick-firing a Batarang at that switch to open the door, then sliding in to take down four mobsters like a bat-eared boss.
Though I did have to bypass a security gate by crawling through a vent... inside Calendar Man's cell on Death Row. The security in this place is amazing.
I've been interrupted by couple of short cutscenes along the way, with Batman noticing a drone flying around, then collecting the memory card when he finds it smashed, but they've been very unobtrusive. There's a story going on, but it complements the gameplay instead of tripping it up all the time. And the cutscenes are skippable (when it's not secretly loading).
Anyway Black Mask puts Commissioner Loeb in the gas chamber in place of Calendar Man and murders him before Batman can get there. But the guy was a tool and a bent copper, so no one's going to be overly broken up about it.
Man, I've been really dreading these boss fights. They're the main reason I haven't replayed the game again since beating it back when it was new.
Here I have to quickfire a Batarang to detonate the fuel tank Killer Croc's about to lob at me, then get over there and fight both him and the goons that are dropped in by chopper simultaneously.
There's different enemy types in this that require different techniques to evade and take down. Croc here is kind of like an armoured type, so I can't simply go over there and hit him, I have to swirl my cape in front of his face to daze him first. That opens him up for my beatdown move, where I just keep tapping punch until he recovers his balance. Good for building up combos that move.
Oh by the way, check out all the footprints in the snow! If there's one new feature that justifies this game's existence to me, it's that one.
Oh right, I forgot to mention that after the button mashing beatdown I get a button mashing escape sequence, where I have to stop Killer Croc from biting Batman's face off. I've never been a fan of having to tap a button in games like this. Sure it means I have to struggle along with the character and share his exhaustion, but I don't really want to! That's why I'm playing a video game and not fighting a giant crocodile man in real life.
The fight cycles through these three stages a few times before his health bar's fully depleted, but I think I've got him now. So that wasn't so bad.
Batman wants to know where Black Mask went so he tries to win Croc over with lines like "You want teeth, I want answers," but he's not forthcoming. Though he does let slip that Black Mask has hired assassins to kill him, so that's handy to know.
He knocks him out and drags him to somewhere safer, but Gordon and his cops interrupt with guns drawn. So Batman pulls a 'Back to the Future 2' and drops backwards off the cliff... onto his waiting Batwing!
"No such thing as a Bat Man, huh?" asks a cop I'm guessing to be Harvey Bullock. So the cops really didn't know he was real either then?
These two have different voice actors this time by the way, as they're supposed to sound younger. Roger Craig Smith portrays Batman, and he's missing a lot of the warmth that Kevin Conroy brought to the role, but that's probably deliberate considering how much of an asshole he is in this. I think he does well though; he's very Batman.
Alfred on the other hand is played by a guy called Jarvis, and I hope that someday Iron Man's butler Jarvis is played by a guy called Alfred for the sake of balance. He does a good job as well. Everyone's doing good jobs all over, no one's doing bad jobs.
There's three separate pages of these upgrade trees, but one page fills in by itself as I progress through the game and complete challenges, so that means I've just got this page of combat upgrades and a separate screen of gadget improvements to pick from.
Though I've got even less choice than it seems, as both the 'combat armour' and 'ballistic armour' paths have to be completed before I can move further down this tree, and then after that I get blocked by a story progress only upgrade! The game really wants me to upgrade my armour, but that's fine with me as I know what's coming and I know that I need to get these maxed out ASAP.
Then the cutscene shows stylish clips of the eight assassins kicking ass from a variety of camera angles, which is presumably footage already on the Batcomputer's hard drive, but I dunno! It might have been drone guy who filmed that too, sneakily hovering around fight scenes and into an interrogation room to get good shots of them all.
The bad news is that Batman still doesn't know where Black Mask few off to, but he's pretty sure that this drone belongs to the Penguin, and if he finds him he can find Black Mask and maybe stop all those hired killers he hired from killing him.
Alfred points out that since they're the only two who know Batman's true identity, the assassins will all fail if he just takes the night off and enjoys his reheated Christmas dinner. But Bruce knows that they'll put innocents in danger to lure him out. Plus Batman's greatest weapon (after his fists) is his legend, and if he demonstrates any fear then he'll be a bloke in a costume instead of an unstoppable force of nature, and that's less likely to make hardened criminals fill their pants at the sight of him or stay home instead.
I was annoyed at first that I couldn't run or grapple around the place, especially as it takes ages to walk around, but that last cutscene unlocked his full agility and now I'm happy. Plus I can also go fight in the combat simulator!
Alright, I'm getting in my jet and flying to Gotham City. The drone was programmed to fly to Jezebel Plaza, so I'm going to go there, punch some of Penguin's men, find out where Penguin is, punch him, and turn the game off. I think I'll have seen enough by then.
Turns out that the folks who came over to repair the tower have been held hostage by mobsters, so I have to do something about that. Fortunately this bit is still basically part of the tutorial, so it's set up to give me an example of all the ways I can silently take a guy out with one move. For instance, here the game's indicating that I can tap the 'Takedown' button to punch them through a thin wall.
THREE TAKEDOWNS LATER.
I like the idea of these challenges, as they're basically achievements with the occasional reward attached, but there's one big problem with them: I have to achieve them in order. Sure I've got separate sets for combat, stealth and general Batman behaviour, but that's still only 3 out of 45 challenges that are available to me at any time.
What's doubly annoying is I've only got limited opportunities to get some of them, so I can run out of indoor predator rooms before I've done all of the stealth challenges. What's triply annoying is that some of the later challenges are things that I've already done, but I have to complete some much harder challenges and then do them again before they count.
I'm pretty much just pointing at areas of interest and holding the A button here, but it's cool to be able to rewind and scrub through a 3D hologram of the guy's death that I can walk around and examine from different angles to find clues. Like that red line over on the left is the flight path of something that flew out of his hand... and at the end of it is something access card shaped lying in a vent.
Turns out that the guy was killed by an exploding access panel that sent him flying backwards with enough force to smash through a wall...
I dunno how it controls on mouse and keyboard, but with a controller this is really simple. I just tilt the analogue sticks until I reach the place with one of them that makes half a word appear. When both sticks are in the right place the entire passkey is spelled out and the door unlocks. Then I can disable the jamming and make this into a friendly tower again.
Before I was done though I got a called from a guy called Enigma, who is basically the Riddler except... except he's not called the Riddler yet. So he's going to be in charge of giving me side puzzles to solve around the city for this game.
More importantly, it's given me a fast travel point that I can instantly return to with a Batwing cutscene. Unfortunately it's down on the south island, and Jezebel Plaza's up in the Bowery on the north island, so if I want to go see Penguin's men I'll have to get there the hard way.
The top island is very similar to Arkham City's map (as it's the same place), but the bottom island and the bridge are all new, so this place has to be at least twice the size. It's more of an open world, less of a Batman theme park. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.
I can hear when crimes are reported by the police dispatcher on my radio and I even get a red arrow pointing the way, but they're optional and I all I get for stopping them is XP, so I could swing right on by and leave them to it. But that blue bat-symbol on the guy's head is way too tempting. It means that I'm in range for a glide kick, which lets me sail down using my cape as a glider, and plant my boots into his head. 'Batman Begins' did the character a real favour by adding 'cape gliding' to his bag of tricks.
Knocking him on his ass won't be a takedown, as enemies keep picking themselves back up until their invisible health bars are empty, but it'll make me happy. It's nice to play a game where I'm distracted by random fights because I enjoy the gameplay instead of because I need the XP.
Hey, I recognise that ACE Chemicals sign from Arkham City! Also you can hardly see it, but those blue smudges in the sky above his pointy ears lead up to the Batsignal shining on the clouds. It points down to my next destination, which is cool. I like my objective markers.
Arkham Origins definitely has a different atmosphere to it, with a bit less colour and a bit more realism. It's set in a time before his insane rogue's gallery came out to play, so he's been fighting more mundane opponents in a more down to earth setting. It's still a real craphole though; I can hear criminals on my scanner talking between themselves about how cold and hungry they are, and how impossible it is to get out of their life of crime. It surprising how much the game's trying to get me to sympathise with folks I have to hit to make progress.
Also a problem I'm having is that Arkham Origins seems to have less targets to shoot my grapnel gun at than Arkham City, and I need them so that I can build up airspeed for my gliding! I find myself flinging myself into the air and then tapping the button over and over hoping that he'll fire his grapnel and latch onto something before he falls softly to the pavement. Plus some buildings are so tall that I can't grapnel up to the top of them at all, and that's just wrong!
A SHORT FLIGHT LATER.
I've reached Jezebel Plaza at last, and my reward is a short cutscene of Batman spying on an arms deal going down from a gargoyle. Apparently the Penguin's men were planning to sell assault rifles and collect their drone at the same place.
So I jumped down, had a bit of fight, and then Batman took over again to apply the old 'throw them off a building with a rope around their feet' interrogation technique in another cutscene. The guy finally offered to talk, but Batman took his phone and used that instead, dropping him into a Christmas tree! The guy's a real bastard in this game.
Now I've got to go find some more groups of Penguin's men to triangulate Penguin's position. And by 'find' I mean 'follow the waypoints on my compass'.
The problem I'm faced with here is a door with three huge bolts sticking into it from the floor, keeping it shut. I'm sure that if I break that fuse box on the other side of the fence the lock will automatically open, but it's on the other side of a fence!
Fortunately Batman's brought with him an infinite supply of special remote controlled Batarangs, and once this thing is airborne I'll be able to fly it through the arcing electricity to charge it, and then steer it directly into the fuse box. You'd think having electricity crackling through it would break the delicate mechanism or cut off my radio signal, but nah it's fine.
I opened the door, hacked the thing and annoyed Enigma some more. Job done! What am I meant to be doing again? Oh right, I'm tracking down the Penguin's goons.
SOME GOONS LATER.
I can't hide the bodies afterwards, but that's fine as Batman wants them to be found. He wants criminals to know he's there, and that he's coming after them, so that they'll freak out and make dumb mistakes.
By the way, you can see here just how crowded these streets are with criminals, with blue and orange skeletons all over the place in the distance. Hey that's one of Enigma's network relays up there! Maybe I'll tap the Batarang button and send one automatically arcing towards it... nah, I'd better not. Even if it lands on target and doesn't fly over to hit the other dude instead, an exploding bit of network hardware might cause suspicion.
Right, I've gotten what I've needed from these guys so now I'm ready to pay Penguin a visit, find out where Black Mask is, and then turn the game off.
This one requires me to do an AR gliding challenge that looks a little too much like the flying through rings levels in Superman 64. Also those rings are pointing straight down into a solid block of ice! What, am I supposed dive bomb head-first and hit it hard enough to bounce off or something?
At least resetting the challenge is painless enough. By the way, Batman can't swim in this so I should try to avoid dunking him in the icy Gotham River if I can help it.
So now I'm dealing with a proper stealth encounter on a boat... it's so Metal Gear Solid 2. I've already taken out two snipers keeping watch from above, but by my count there's still seven armed enemies patrolling the deck and it's really hard to tell where they're facing. I'm lucky if I can even tell if there's a wall in the way when I'm using Detective Vision like this.
Okay, I'm a bit nervous about doing absolutely anything here as keeping track of seven enemies is a bit overwhelming, but I think I've figure out my next move. I'm going to jump off the boat.
Unfortunately it never occurred to me that people might make a loud yelling noise when they're dragged off a boat and hung upside down on a rope, so I wasn't ready for the other enemies to start hunting for me. I improvised though, popping back up and using my ledge takedown on a third one.
After hiding in a vent for approximately forever trying to figure out what I was going to do about four freaked out guards patrolling the deck above my head, I eventually found a stealthy way to sort them out and entered the boat.
This seems like a good time to mention that sometimes I'll need certain specific gadgets to get past a certain part of a level. This bit's no trouble as I start off with the Batclaw, but a bit further on I came across a passage blocked by a steam vent. If I want to see what's in there I'm going to have to come back later when I have the right tool.
I got in a very satisfying fight against the first of Black Mask's assassins here, but I can't screenshot satisfaction so I grabbed a picture of Tracey the fight announcer instead. I'm fairly sure that she's supposed to be English, like the Penguin is in these games, and some of the lines she's been coming out with are making it very hard to keep my stoic humourless Batman face on.
Man I never realised how much I want a Guy Ritchie Batman movie until now. I'm sure I'm in the minority on that one though. And Jason Statham could never do Batman's accent.
This seemed like the perfect time to do the Dark Knight Challenge where I take them out without being spotted, but I didn't realise that dropping down from a perch and stringing someone up would make so much noise. People are always yelling out in this game!
I immediately started swinging from perch to perch to lose them, and now they're patrolling for me in a group. If I remember right later in the game they even start shooting my perches out so I can't use them any more, which obviously isn't great for me.
The game's all about vents and vantage points when I'm in place like this. I need to get to where they can't see me, but I can keep an eye on them. Then I pick off one of the strays and vanish again. I should try rigging places with remote detonated explosive gel as well, to drop them through floors and the like, but I haven't been doing my proper Batman preparation.
A FEW FIGHTS AND A TALK WITH PENGUIN LATER.
This is an absolute bastard of a boss fight, as Deathstroke is skilled enough to counter my moves. If' I'd come into this without upgrading my armour I would've had no chance. Not that I seem to have much of a chance as it is.
I've been trying to jump over his head, the fire off the Batclaw to send him off balance so that I can get a few hits in without being punished for them. It's barely taken off any of his health, but it's gotten me to the part of his routine where he does a beatdown attack on me! Now I have to hit 'counter' at the right moment for every time he swings his stick at me. Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y YYYYYYYY.
Deathstroke's a bit like Killer Croc in that his battle cycles through different stages of combat, using a gadget, countering and then button mashing. If I complete all the stages I knock off a bit of his armour or a weapon, and then I have to go through the whole process again. But I don't have to inflict a lot of damage on him to move past the combat stage, so I'm going to try being patient and wait to counter his attacks.
A LONG STRESSFUL FIGHT LATER.
AND DEATHSTROKE IS DOWN! Hey Ben Affleck, here's some advice for your new movie script: turns out that Batman can kick Deathstroke's ass. It was all worth it just to hear a shocked Deathstroke ask "What are you?" Though he didn't reply with "I'm Batman"! What the fuck, Bruce?
Taking down assassin #2 has gotten me a new toy to play with: a different kind of grappling hook that'll let me reach different places and connect things to other things. Like criminals to exploding fuel tanks for instance. Non-lethal exploding fuel tanks though of course.
Man, that's a lot of words I just typed. Writing a whole conclusion for this suddenly feels really daunting... so I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote about Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.
"I found the gameplay to be fantastic, the game looks and sounds like it cost a fortune to make (in the best way), and even the story didn't make me roll my eyes. It stands well above the average franchise tie-in."
"The game isn't just good... if you're a Batman fan, or good... for a licensed game, this seems like a top tier video game in general, for all the same reasons that Arkham Asylum was. Well okay to be honest I think I preferred the focused Metroid-style progression of the first game to this game's open world city, but it's no less polished (or linear) because of it."
"The game doesn't even have one single QTE sequence as far as I can tell! How am I supposed to get invested in the action if I'm not being continually harassed to glance down at my pad and key in the sequence of buttons flashing up on the screen, huh? Oh wait, forget that bullshit, I've thought of another genuine flaw: having to hammer the A button to open vents is kind of annoying. It'd be nice if I never had to do that again."In fact I can't decide which I like more, Arkham Origins or Arkham City. I originally played this before City, so I've got more of a fondness for it than people who would've seen it as a retread. Plus it helps that I haven't run into any of those game breaking bugs that have bothered other players, or any bugs in general really. Once a guy got knocked off a rooftop and slid back on again, that's as bad as it ever got for me.
Oh wait, I've just remembered another bug I got later when I was trying to complete my Dark Knight Challenges by stopping in crime in every district in the city: one of the districts never has any crime in it! I had to lure crime over to it in the end, which is very un-Batmanly behaviour.
The fighting feels slightly different to the earlier games, but I'm finding it hard to put my finger on why. It's less forgiving maybe; all the games punish you for button mashing instead of getting the timing right, but this seemed more keen to instruct me on the error of my ways. You're not invulnerable during a lot of the longer moves, so I kept getting interrupted while I was doing stuff. Though I guess the new grading system could be part of the reason I was more aware of my mistakes. I was never satisfied with just winning fights, I had to win them well.
The story's got a different feel to it as well, but I liked it. It's a very bleak version of Gotham and Batman's a real asshole in it, but it's not without humour. I can't remember if there's any pay-off at the end to all the people constantly pointing out that high-tech Bat-themed vigilantism isn't solving the economic and societal problems that are filling the streets with freezing, starving criminals, but it at least explains why he has to knock out about a thousand people in one night.
There is one part though, where Batman stumbles across what seems like all the explosives in the world, all rigged to blow up something pretty important... then pretty much steps over them to collect a clue to a murder and then leaves. I understand that he's gotten a bit jaded and he's not the most heroic interpretation of the Caped Crusader, but his complete lack of concern there was a bit hilarious.
My biggest problem with the game is that it has 'Origins' in the title, though if I judged it for that I'd have to judge Condemned: Criminal Origins and Dragon Age: Origins as well. So consider Arkham Origins to be highly recommended... but only if you're a third person action fan who hasn't played one of the other games in a while.
Next on Super Adventures: Screenshots of the Year 2016!
I appreciate you reading my words, thanks in advance if you decide to leave a comment, and Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it!