Christmas is usually a time of year to spend with your loved ones, to exchange gifts and to consume incredible amounts of food before passing out in front of the television. But what happens when you don’t have any family to spend it with? Would you forgo the holiday altogether? Or would you don a mask and cape and prowl the rooftops dealing out your own brand of vigilante justice to the many criminals who plague the streets? If you answered the latter, I’ve got a video game you’ll probably want to check out.
Batman: Arkham Origins is the newest iteration of the Batman franchise in which you take on the role of the Darkness himself to dole out beatdowns to the supervillains and their thugs who run rampant among the darkened streets of Gotham, all the while grappling from rooftop to rooftop and employing the use of a large array of awesome gadgets to help in your crusade. If you’ve ever played one of the games in the series before, you already know what to expect. A roster of iconic supervillains who need a good whoopin’ set against the backdrop of the infamous Gotham streets, a slew of fun toys to play with, and more than enough 20-man brawls to sate your appetite for broken bones and severe concussions. The game doesn’t disappoint. As a prequel, you take on the role of the caped crusader a paltry two years after first donning the cowl- before Arkham Asylum was set up, and before the Joker was even on the scene. The Black Mask, the most powerful mobster in all of Gotham has put a fifty-million dollar bounty on your head, and has called in eight of the nastiest assassins from far and wide to aid him in claiming his trophy. You’ll spend the entirety of Christmas Eve brawling and sneaking your way through many familiar locations, with a good deal of new territory to cover, and with a few new bat-gadgets to help you along your way.
While I really enjoyed the game, I was a bit worried at first, as WB Games Montreal took the lead on the project instead of Rocksteady Studios, and had some pretty big shoes to fill. I say they succeeded in spades. While it’s much the same as the rest of the series, I wouldn’t say that’s exactly a bad thing. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Arkham Origins manages to improve upon the formula by introducing a bunch of cool new combat feats, a greatly implemented quick-gadget system which allows you to easily integrate the use of all your cool new toys into battle, and a much smoother feel from the earlier iterations.
Everything looks absolutely beautiful, right down to the flutter of your tattered cape, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sickening crunches as I left the thugs of Gotham with permanent limps and eating through straws. I also really enjoyed the new crime scene investigation mechanic, where you collect clues and recreate a crime as you fast forward and rewind the scene to try and piece together the puzzle. It’s a great addition, as I felt the older games focused almost entirely on the fact that Batman is a professional ass-whooper, and barely touched on the fact that he is the world’s greatest detective.
There do seem to be a few rough spots to iron out, however. While trying to disable a communications tower during the first half of the game, I ran into a glitch where I got trapped inside of a room for all of eternity. I was able to google my way out of the problem and found a video of a guy breaking the game a bit to glitch over a wall and bypass the death room altogether. While it’s not necessary to disable the tower for the main story, it is part of the massive “Enigma” (hint: it’s the goddamn Riddler) sidequest. The only other complaint I have is that every now and then in the heat of battle, Batman would punch or kick in a random direction and completely destroy my combo. It didn’t happen enough to affect my gameplay too much, but when you’re trying to get all those sweet, sweet cheevos, it’s enough to make you want to punch an Alfred.
With a massive amounts of collectibles, unlocks, and trophies to collect, you could easily spend 25-30 hours if you are a completionist like myself. Otherwise the main story will run you anywhere from 15-20 hours of play, and you just won’t be able to put it down. The boss fights are actually tough and extremely satisfying, and I never felt bored. There’s also a New Game + feature which allows you to go through the game again with tougher enemies and no attack indicators, for those who are gluttons for punishment.
Overall, I’d highly recommend the game to anyone who is already a fan of the series, and anyone who wants to take a break from the oversaturated FPS market and play a solid brawler. I’m willing to bet it’ll be the most action-packed Christmas eve you’ve ever had.