Friday, August 15, 2014

Batman: Arkham Origins

  I don't often review games on my blog, mainly because I never finish them in a decent enough time frame... but I do from time to time. Seeing as how I was (am?) on a Batman tangent, and I just finished Arkham Origins, I figured, why the hell not do a review? I like a game that can garner strong reactions from me and leave me feeling very opinionated. I can pick apart Arkham Origins like a holiday ham. Let me start by saying... THANK GOD, THEY FIXED BATMAN'S SHOULDERS. I don't know about everyone else, but all throughout Arkham Asylum and Arkham City (two games which I thoroughly loved) it always looked to me like Batman's shoulders were so big, they looked freakish... and now I feel like they're fixed. In fact, I just like his look in this game a lot better. People might say something like that is superfluous, but if I'm going to spend countless hours playing as a character, I want him to look... well... cool. Not freakish.

  Granted, here's the tradeoff though... Asylum and City had amazing gameplay which overcame the oddly proportioned Batman model. Origins has some issues. After I started the game too many hours went by before I felt like I was even playing a new one. The control scheme is largely the same, and the game alternates between some very basic scenarios over and over. Predator room, angry mob, predator room, angry mob, etc etc etc... only about halfway through the game did I start to feel like Origins found it's footing and started infusing some new and interesting level design and puzzles for me to tackle. From that point on, the game was a veritable roller coaster. I couldn't and didn't want to put it down. As opposed to Asylum and City, which felt like that from the start.

  I do like the story in Arkham Origins, but I don't think it fully felt like an origin story. In the game, Batman has been doing his thing for two years already. You'd think that a lot of the conflict he goes through in the game, especially with Jim Gordon, would have already happened in the span of those two years. In fact, I would've preferred a game where Batman doesn't have his methods down. Where he slowly discovers the need for a cape, for a grappling hook, for brass knuckles in the gloves. I would've liked to have seen Bruce designing the Batsuit, assembling the Batcave, creating the batarangs and coming to the all-important revelation that everything Batman touches must have the "Bat" prefix. Otherwise it's not legit. Of course. I wonder if Alfred ever gets tired of that. After All, only he and Bruce know the proper names for all this stuff.
"Master Wayne, shall I fetch your boots?" "They're BAT-boots! Dammit Alfred!"

  Then my biggest problem is that the controls aren't as intuitive as they were in the previous two games. In Asylum and City, you really feel like you're in control of Batman, as opposed to being in control of a little computer generated character in a 3D environment. In Origins, there were countless times I had to fight the controls just to get Batman to do what I wanted him to. I press triangle... he's supposed to counter right then. Not stand there like a punching bag for a couple seconds too long. For comparison's sake, I booted up Arkham City to see if it was just me and I didn't remember exactly how the counter system worked. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. It works fine in Arkham City. It is Origins. The whole system has moments where it doesn't quite... work. Sure I can counter til my thumbs bleed, but after you've been playing these games for years, you start to notice when there's tiny flaws. Like a splinter in the back of your mind.

  There's tiny lags, moments when things are unresponsive, even if just for a split second. Though when you're playing as the goddamn Batman, a split second is too freaking long. Those split seconds start to add up too. If the game doesn't counter right when you tell it to, you get hurt. If this happens over and over and over... you die.  Thankfully an intuitive player won't have an issue with this. You'll adapt to these little inconsistencies after a while, predict them, and overcome the situation with relative ease. At worst, I got setback a checkpoint once or twice. Nothing I'd sell the game over though. The biggest problem with this is that sequels are supposed to get better, not have amateur little screw ups like this. Look at Assassin's Creed II, Borderlands 2, Uncharted 2, and hell, especially Batman: Arkham City. Games improve. This isn't rocket science folks. I'm not talking about story, acting, dialog, plot, or anything. I'm talking about basic controls.
At the third freaking game in the franchise, issues like this are inexcusable.

  Having said that, once you do finally get the hang of things, the game is still lots of fun. Predator rooms are still fun, and so is standard melee fights. Origins really shines when it thrusts you into unpredictable situations and boss battles. The game knows how to excite, especially when you're fighting series alums like Bane, and Joker. It also knows when to serve up new danger like a blockbuster fight with Firefly, or balls-to-bone fight with Deathstroke. Fun stuff. Overall, I can't say I would trip over myself to recommend Origins to people, but it is a fun game, and I'll probably still mess around Gotham City for a while. It's fun, but by no means a great game. It at least manages to edge out as a good one though.

1 comment:

  1. The Deathstroke fight was my favourite part of this game. Wish he'd been a recurring threat, with him adapting to Batman, like how Batman adapts to his enemy's.