After Arkham City was done, Rocksteady Games was ready for something new. They were ready to be done with Batman, and they earned the right to pick their next project. Warner Bros., on the other hand, wasn't about to put their stud out to pasture, so they handed the Arkham franchise to WB Montreal and Splash Damage to create Batman: Arkham Origins. What those two developers came back with is basically the last thing anyone wants to see happen to their favorite games.
At its core, Arkham Origins is not a bad game. People who liked the first two Arkhams will find something they can enjoy in Batman’s prequel. The caped crusader is still zipping around town, fighting a who’s who of eventually old foes and meeting eventual allies for the first time. Eight assassins are chasing the one-night-only bounty placed on his head by Black Mask, and rather than just stay in and have Christmas dinner, Bruce Wayne heads out into the cold to see what’s going on. Aside from the main story, the Riddler still has plenty for players to do while Anarky sends you racing across the Gotham skyline to make one masked vigilante stop another masked vigilante from taking justice into their own hands. There are several more characters offering side missions and random encounters that make Gotham feel like the lively city it’s supposed to be.
The combat feels as good as it ever has, as jumping into the middle of a crowd and taking them all out still rewards you with high scores, and eventually points, to upgrade skills or weapons. In the fashion of "why does the hero have better tools in the prequel than they did in the main games?" Batman gets a hold of a remote claw that can create paths to new places or send explosive canisters into opposing faces. Batman is now also a one man CSI unit with his Crime Scene setting ability. Like Detective Mode on steroids, you can now essentially recreate the crime, watch it happen, and find everything you need to figure where to go next. While this looks cool, it holds players’ hands more than it should as the next clue usually resides under a very obvious red arrow, making these moments very linear.
Now, while remote claws and crime scene analyzing is cool, neither of them are real game changers. Neither packs the punch that makes you go tell your friends they absolutely have to play Arkham Origins. WB Montreal didn’t really bring anything new to the table. If making games is like baking, then Rocksteady made a badass cake, but WB Montreal made the same badass cake and put tiny sprinkles on it. Splash Damage, on the other hand, was given a recipe for a great cake, but they messed up because their cake did not bake. Invisible Predator mode is a neat concept of a 3v3v2 deathmatch where two three-man teams of henchmen fight it out while Batman and Robin dispense justice. The last goon squad standing takes the win unless Batman and Robin strike enough fear into their hearts and the two sides scram. There’s the usual leveling of characters and their gear, and special supplies can be acquired around the map that are supposed to liven things up.
About halfway through matches, players can race to a door and whichever side gets there first gets their leader as a special unit. Even with these attempts at game changers, Arkham Origins multiplayer matches never feel like they go anywhere. There’s no excitement, no tension. If the wheel of destiny should pick you to be Batman or Robin, you at least get to keep playing Arkham Origins. But if you remain a henchman, you get to play an incredibly average third person shooter multiplayer that feels out of place in the Arkham series. Those twenty minute wait times for “quick matches” were very telling of the level of quality players found within, and their desire to keep playing.
Truthfully, the money that went to Splash Damage to waste their time on a four map, one mode multiplayer experience should have gone to fixing up all of Arkham Origin’s glitches and game ruining experiences. While lucky enough to avoid the clipping issues or missing action cues others have reported, I was not safe from having to make sure I was offline before even trying to start Arkham Origins. After I stopped trying to wrap my head around why a game was allowed to ship with that and not have a day one patch, I was eventually met with a corrupted save file, bringing an abrupt end to my time in Arkham.
As mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t necessarily call Batman: Arkham Origins a bad game. What I would call this unfortunate thing a deplorable display of blatantly attempting to cash in on a hot commodity. It was kicked out into the world well before it was ready or really had something to share, carrying the burden of trying to appeal to a wider audience by adding multiplayer, which did it no favors. The A in their name might as well be a scarlet letter for what they’ve done. If it ever gets patched up, Arkham fans will have an enjoyable rental, and that’s about all Batman: Arkham Origins should be.