Gotham City, the home of Batman and the birth of a legend.
For several years DC Comics have enthralled comic book readers with a series of detective stories depicting the ordinary and the extraordinary. In a world rife with murder, theft and various other crimes that put the dark city by the sea on the map. The Dark Knight himself had been born as a result of one night in an alley, where his parents were violently ripped from his life. Years later he donned the Batsuit for the first time to battle that which had made him into the man that he is today. A vigilante for justice.
In The Bat Man’s early years he was a myth, swooping in to save the day and mysteriously disappearing again, leaving only the legend of a demon terrorizing the criminal underworld of Gotham. People only spoke of him in whispers, fearing this creature of the night. Others dismissed him as fiction, claiming his existence to be impossible. One thing however was evident, the crime-rate in the streets of Gotham had started to drop since he appeared on the scene. He had become so notorious that the criminal mastermind known as Black Mask convened, in secret, with eight assassins and put a bounty of $50 Million Dollars on the vigilante’s head. Deathstroke, Bane, Lady Shiva, Killer Croc, Copperhead, Electrocutioner, Deadshot and FireFly. Each assassin brings a unique approach to the table in their quest to kill The Bat! The setting of course is the snow-covered streets of Gotham on Christmas Eve and everyone has either locked themselves in their home because they are expecting Santa Clause or they fear the violent outbursts of the criminals roaming the streets. My bet is on the latter.
Nothing prepares the player for the attention to detail that has been put into the massive world that is Gotham City. Every section found in Arkham City has been restored to its initial glory in the heyday of this great city. Add to that the other districts and you have a massive sandbox playground that will give the player endless hours of fun and exploration in the home of Batman. Gameplay remains largely unchanged from previous games in the Arkham series, with the exception of a few new gadgets, namely the Glue Grenade (which serves a similar function to the Freeze Grenade from the previous games), and the Shock Gloves, which enables the player to punch even through the toughest obstacles including shields, shock batons and even Venom-infused baddies. The free-flow combat shines as it usually does in Batman Arkham games, and the fact that Warner Brothers Montreal decided to stick to its predecessor’s gameplay style, is more welcome than anything. The old adage “Why fix it if it ain’t broke” comes to mind. There were a few technical glitches ranging from clipping during the Predator-mode encounters, especially when using the grappling hook, it didn’t repeat itself enough times to warrant a serious complaining session, these are after all issues that can and probably will be sorted out in future patches.
Graphically, Arkham Origins is one the best looking games in the series. With environmental effects such as snow coming down from the night sky, to dust settling after a large explosion, the team at Warner Brothers Montreal has really gone out of their way to make this title the best it can be. Each and every character in Arkham Origins has been created with intricate love and detail and seeing them move and interact with the environment around them was quite an awe inspiring feat. Each and every Arkham game just looks better and better, and despite what some nay-sayers said leading in to the release of this title, I think a fresh studio’s take on this beloved franchise did it a world of good. I would definitely be open to Warner Brothers Montreal creating another Arkham game or even another one set in the DC Universe.
Another thing Batman Arkham games are known for is the astounding sound effects and of course the voice acting par excellence. Origins is no difference. It does mix things up a bit with giving new voice actors the chance to don the proverbial cowl and the maniacal face-paint. In stark contrast to previous Arkham games, the voice actors for Batman and The Joker has been replaced with new ones. Long time fans of the series will know that Kevin Conroy voiced The Bat and Star Wars’ Mark Hamill provided the voice of the devious yet playful Joker. This is however not the case in the latest installment. Voice acting duties fell to Roger Craig Smith (better known to some of you as Ezio Auditore De Firenze of the Assassin’s Creed series of games) along with Troy Baker (better known as Booker De Witt for you Bioshock Infinite fans) as The Joker. Other prominent voices in Origins are Nolan North (Uncharted 3), Peter MacNicol (yes the quirky guy from Alley McBeal) and Brian Bloom (Kane from Kane & Lynch: Dead Men). Batman wouldn’t be Batman without an outstanding score and the hauntingly beautiful music of Origins is no different. It adds an emersive quality to this title that just makes you feel like you are being taken on this emotional thrill-ride that will have your heart thumping in fear or in exhilaration as Batman thwarts yet more of his would-be foes. Contrary to what you might think, this score was not done by Ron Fish as the previous Arkham games were, but instead scoring duty fell on the shoulders of Christopher Drake who spun his web of musical illusion.
Batman Arkham Origins is definitely a game to check out, whether you are a Batman/DC fan or not. It has an intricately told story, fantastic gameplay and visuals that strikes awe into the heart of the beholder with an audio experience to match. For long time fans of the story and the overarching narrative, you will definitely feel at home when playing this title.