I’M BATMAN!* Soon it’ll be back to beating up thugs and solving puzzles as the worlds’ greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes Batman. I personally am very excited for the latest game in the Arkham universe, Batman: Arkham Origins and have had it pre-ordered ever since it was available. Collectors’ edition naturally. I’m sure that all of you lovely people taking time to read this are equally filled with anticipation, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock or have suffered emotional trauma at the hands of a caped crusader, let’s have a look back at the games this sequel is a prequel to.
Back in mid-2008,Edios Interactive and Warner Brothers Entertainment announced Batman: Arkham Asylum was in development under British studio Rock steady. Upon release in 2009 it was universally praised as not only the best batman game ever made but the best superhero game entirely. It even nabbed a Guinness World Record for “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever” with it receiving an average metacritic score of 91.6. It was a superb game with a brilliant story, fantastic voice acting and fluid, satisfy combat which many regard as one of the best free flowing video game fighting systems in recent memory. The plot centred around the player trying to get to the bottom of what the joker planned to do after his escape from the asylum and subsequent capture of Arkham Island. The world was full of things to discover, be it Easter eggs for comic fans, information on villains from the universe or the riddler trophies scattered around for you to collect, courtesy of Edward Nigma. Its unfortunate short coming came in the shape of the “boss fights” which tended to centre around tedious patterns of kill time or henchmen, wait for weak spot, attack weak spot, rinse and repeat. Or in some cases, i.e. Bane, using exactly the same tactics used against henchmen enemies earlier in the game. I also could have lived without the challenge maps, but I guess in this day and age you can’t just release a game with only the story mode.
Then mid 2010 came the announcement for the sequel, Batman: Arkham City, again under development with Rocksteady. This game expanded the game world, giving players the now walled off slum district of Gotham City where as many super villains as could be captured have been thrown to fight it out amongst themselves. The story was also more complex; with several villains being at odds over their motivations this time, rather than blatantly being used by another or purely for diversity. And to the joy of many fans, myself included, the riddler was a much more active villain, rather than being a motivation only to collect for completion, lives where now on the line. The combat was again fantastic, with little tweaks to the system (mostly counters and gadget use) that if anything made it slightly better than its predecessors. However, with the expanded world came issues. There wasn’t really a lot to do in the city itself, giving it the feeling that its “free exploration” aspect was kind of redundant. Sure there were thugs to beat to a pulp and riddles to solve, but after that there was no motivation, no hidden gems to find, so most of the time it was a case of thinking “wow, this is a big game world… time to travel across the entire thing for my objective”.
All in all, Arkham Origins has a lot to live up to. It will be interesting to see if it can meet expectation, given it has moved from Rocksteady to WB Montreal and has lost the voice talents of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy, who brought so much of the personality to the previous games in the series. It also now boasts a multiplayer mode developed by Splash Damage, the guys behind Brink, so make of that what you will. Only time will tell if Origins can live up to its predecessor’s lofty heritage and that time will be here all too soon. Pop on back in a couple of weeks for my review of Batman: Arkham Origins.
*Disclaimer – I am NOT Batman… course that’s exactly what someone who was Batman would say, but I’m not… OR AM I!? **