Review

Batman: Arkham Origins

The Knight Shift

Batman: Arkham Origins is as bland as a bowl of Rice Krispies, and that’s a good thing.

By Anthony John Agnello • October 30, 2013

Rice Krispies are terrible at being food. They’re devoid of meaningful nutritional value, so of course you need to down the bushel of fruit, glass of orange juice, and toast that made up the rest of the “complete breakfast” that used to show up in old cereal commercials. Rice Krispies are at best filler, the texture completing a marshmallow treat. Sometimes, though, a big bowl of noisy, almost flavorless toasted rice and sugar bubbles are exactly what you want. They don’t enrich or nourish, but they satisfy, even after they disintegrate into a milky mush at the bottom of the bowl. They’re familiar, pleasant, and even filling. Batman: Arkham Origins is the video game equivalent—it’s not enriching, but it gets the job done in an agreeable enough way.

There are even similarities between how this Dark Knight tale from WB Games Montreal—Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developer Rocksteady sat this one out—and the breakfast cereal approach character. Like good old Snap, Crackle, and Pop, Batman is more of a mascot than a person here. The story in this prequel is colorful and amusing, but it reduces the 74-year-old character and his supporting cast to brand essentials. Batman fights crime supported by his trusty butler Alfred. He fights the Joker, the Penguin, Bane, and others. Law enforcement officer Jim Gordon backs him up—yadda yadda yadda. Even Arkham Origins’ premise as a prequel, with Batman still hunted by a corrupt Gotham City Police force, is well trod territory. By the time Batman gets drugged—of course he gets drugged—and starts hallucinating disapproving parental figures in the middle of a crime scene, Arkham Origins fully feels like a bullet-pointed product pitch rather than a story.

Batman: Arkham Origins

What’s surprising is that this isn’t a detriment to Arkham Origins. The overwhelming familiarity of everything in the game, cribbed from movies, comics, cartoons, and especially the previous Arkham titles, makes it much easier to just slide into Arkham Origins. Part of what made the sprawling Arkham City so disappointing as a follow-up to the more constrained Arkham Asylum was that its stakes felt almost too high. The ridiculous burning city run by psychos, the super-villain plot to swap out the blood supply of Gotham hospitals with The Joker’s terminal disease-infected blood—the crime fighting billionaire in a cape is already pretty over the top. Arkham City’s theatrics finally made the whole fantasy too top heavy to hold up.

By contrast, Arkham Origins feels pretty staid. After failing to stop the crime lord Black Mask from escaping Gotham’s Black Gate prison, Batman hits the streets on Christmas Eve to try and catch him. A winter storm is the excuse for those streets being deserted save for hundreds of armed thugs looking for a fight. The snow never stops falling while you play, and while it doesn’t pile up into the sorts of drifts that would cripple a city, it does make for a more hushed scene while you gleefully grappling hook from building to building, gliding between boroughs to do one of the game’s many side quests on the way to the big benchmark missions.

Batman: Arkham Origins

The initial threat facing Batman is the bounty placed on his head by Black Mask, which draws out eight super assassins intent on collecting. This evolves into a citywide threat, but most of the time with Origins is spent outside the game’s main arc. Glide here to disarm a high-tech weapons shipment. Glide there to save a kidnapping victim from the Mad Hatter—beating up scores upon scores of ne’er-do-wells along the way. WB Games Montreal kept the meaty fisticuffs of the previous games intact. Batman still flips around racking up combos while fighting crowds of thugs, and the key to success is to avoid taking damage by countering attacks at precise moments. The longer you go without getting hit, the more acrobatic and brutal your moves become. It’s still great, and it’s even benefited from the mildest tweaks. Batman feels a bit faster on his feet, and there are some foes that force you to dip into the dim edges of his expansive martial arts arsenal. The changes aren’t dramatic, but they’re also not unwelcome.

All these aspects, from the quiet winter storm-stricken city to the fact that nothing in the main storyline feels more urgent than any of the secondary tasks you’ll come across, give Arkham Origins a flavor distinct from City and Asylum. The whole game just feels like another day in the life of Batman, like he’s just out there taking care of business. Ninja ladies have kidnapped a police officer and strung him up in a devious death trap at a mall? Penguin’s dealing weapons out of a derelict battleship? Here we go again! And on Christmas no less.

Batman: Arkham Origins

There’s an object lesson in Arkham Origins for video game studios caught inside of ceaseless sequel machines, like those churning out Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, or other games released on an annual or bi-annual basis: Blandness can be a virtue. It doesn’t mean the game can’t be quality. WB Games Montreal may have inherited this series, but it does a yeoman’s job. Everything in Origins just works, for better or worse. It doesn’t have much flavor and it won’t help with that vitamin deficiency, but it’s a satisfying bowl of something pleasant and familiar.

Batman: Arkham Origins
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Publisher: WB Interactive
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
Played On: PlayStation 3
Price: $60
Rating: T

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  • Enkidum

    I am confuse. Why does this site still exist?

    Anyways, uh… I haven’t played the first two so I have no opinion about this, but Batman is cool.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      “Gameological, don’t you remember? You didn’t… you didn’t survive that car crash. It’s time to rest now. It’s time for you to rest.”

      *Gameological ascends into column of heavenly light as Demi Moore sheds single, glycerin tear.*

      • SisterMaryFrancis

        “I see dead websites. They’re everywhere. And they don’t know they’re dead.”

        • The Guilty Party

          They live in the towns of Geocities and Angelfire.

          They’re building a new one, you know.

          They call it Myspace.

        • SamPlays

          I met a traveller from an antique land
          Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
          Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
          Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
          And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
          Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
          Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
          The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
          And on the pedestal these words appear:
          “My name is Gameological, king of games:
          Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
          Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
          Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
          The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    • https://twitter.com/Gerardi Matt Gerardi

      Here’s the deal (in case you were being serious): We will be merging with The A.V. Club sometime next month. Until then, Gameological will continue to exist right here, albeit with a reduced publication schedule (which has already been in effect).

      • Enkidum

        Ah, thanks, for some reason I hadn’t processed that.

        • DrFlimFlam

          (I was also mildly confused)

          • Enkidum

            I am still mildly confused. This has nothing to do with this website, it’s more just a feature of daily life.

  • Tyrannorabbit

    Arkham City disappointing? God…damn, I cannot contain the bafflement on this one.

    Report to the moat monsters immediately

    • double_hawk

      Man I’ve played through that so many times. I regret not being able to,get 100% though (one trophy just pissed me off to no end and wasn’t able to do all the physical challenges)

    • needlehacksaw

      I know where he comes from. I loved “Arkham Asylum” because it felt so… right, and, what’s more important: tight. It was perfectly paced, in a way, and the hours just flew by.

      While “Arkham City” still felt right (in the way of it understanding what the Batman is, and what it should be like playing as him), the tightness seemed altogether lost. After the prologue, the game opens up, and it just felt… shrill, in a way, with you being bombed with objectives, wherever you turn. You could not run, and you could not hide (even though you could glide, I guess.) It just did not stop. I felt like an old man at a children’s birthday party, way after the mini-men had been given the ultra-sugary treats. After the first game, that just felt too much like feature bloat.

      A more gradual opening of the structure might have helped, but to be honest, I did not want simply MORE Batman. I wanted more of the focus the first game had.

      This is, of course, not necessarily the game’s fault, but mine.

      • DrFlimFlam

        I agree with this. Not to mention how many times I think of things about City that annoy me, like floating on ice cubes over a poison/sewage river. Whose idea WAS that?

      • Zack Handlen

        I picked up Akrham City again last night (Best Buy didn’t have a copy of Origins, what the _hell_ Best Buy), and while I don’t _hate_ the game, I’ve never been on board with treating it as a superior follow up to Asylum, mainly for the reasons you mentioned. The way the stuff is piled on top of other stuff means the story never really gets going; it’s a lot of fits and starts between distractions, and when you finally get to the end of it, the whole thing seems weirdly anti-climactic, like I was reading a book and inadvertently skipped half the chapters. The pieces are cool, if, as you say, a bit more shrill than they need to be (getting a used copy of the game means I’d have to pay to play the Catwoman missions again, which is sort of a relief; the mission designs were fine, but I hated what they did to the character), but there’s so many of them it’s hard to focus on anything for long. I much preferred Asylum’s more streamlined approach, and it’s cool to hear Origins has some of that back. (This is, I think, the most positive review of Origins I’ve read.)

        • Ah_good_the_sea

          AC felt incredibly cluttered and overstuffed to me; like you, I found AA to be a much more streamlined and well paced experience. AC adopted some of the worst aspects of sandbox games while also retaining AA’s very linear narrative, so that I found myself accidentally activating augmented reality challenges and sidequests while being dragged by the hand between story objectives. It got to the point where I was actively trying to avoid game content just to try and get a sense of the overarching narrative, which is never a good sign.

          It also didn’t help that the controls were much more suited to AA’s smaller maps, which Rocksteady seemed to acknowledge by arbitrarily locking the player into enclosed areas so that they could rehash the stealthy room clearing segments from AA, instead of trying to incorporate them into the city sandbox iteself. And the sheer amount of gadgets, mostly with really prescribed, context sensitive uses, made me think of Adam West era Batman, with it’s Batshields and shark repellant spray. Which would’ve been fine, inspired even, if the tone had been tongue in cheek rather than super serious and gritty.

        • conditionals

          Wow, I totally agree. Could Origins possibly be a return to the streamlined Asylum experience? All the middling reviews I’ve read point to no. But then again, pretty sure none of those other reviewers felt the same way about City.

          Plus, nothing sways me like Gameological.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            It doesn’t have as much mandatory backtracking, and a lot of the game takes place in relatively linear indoor environments. From what I’ve seen, though, there’s a lot of interconnectedness, especially in the sewers, that is probably important for the Riddler sidequest.

      • CrabNaga

        I think Arkham City, while still being a great game, suffers from the “when everything is large and epic, nothing is” pitfall of most big sequels that we’ve seen discussed on this site many times in the past. It’s just like “hey here’s a big huge cool battle/cutscene” over and over and over and there’s just no time for the player to take it all in because they’re constantly being pushed forward and forward at this breakneck pace.

        Also the bosses (aside from Mr. Freeze) kind of sucked.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          Ra’s al Ghul, while exactly the kind of QTE-heavy bossfight that we’re all supposed to hate, was so well presented–especially the music–that I can’t help but find it to be a blast.

          Also, I love the whole Penguin sequence. Think of how much shit he introduces to the game! Disruptors, thermal sensors, knives, not to mention the absurd variety of odds and ends he throws out like a friggin’ shark and a giant electro-zombie. Even the final bit is a brief but madcap evasion of a flurry of missiles before finally getting to pummel the little bastard. Of everything these games have featured, I think he came across the most like an eccentric comic-book villain.

          • Zack Handlen

            You just reminded me how much I sucked at the Penguin fight. One section in particular, I think I went through fifty times before I finally beat it.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        I agree with you, though I like City more than Asylum overall. For me the game’s problem was that it worked extremely hard to create a web of connections and parallels within the backstory (amazing how so many things lead back to Strange; the Riddler challenge did a great job fleshing out the narrative), but it didn’t stick the landing. What the hell are we supposed to feel in the ending? Why was Strange shown to be sympathetic towards Two-Face (Riddler challenge again) but so cartoonishly evil everywhere else? Did Batman know about Lazarus Pits prior to the game or not (it’s ambiguous to me as it’s presented)?

      • Matheus Mafra

        My opinion exactly.

    • KM

      “AO is a boring game, so it’s good. AC was sprawling, so it was bad. You remember how everyone was always saying how AC was a bad game, don’t you? And oh yeah: AA was staid. You know, like cereal! Anyway: keep making sequels, as long as they’re bland”
      I’m finding it really difficult to interpret reviews lately. Is it sincere and am I just too stupid, or is it sarcasm? Why can’t reviewers, be it for film, tv, games or whatever, just say stuff like: here’s what it looks like, this is what you can do with it, i liked it, buy it. Why does everything have to resemble some grad student’s obscure thesis. Reviewers, your job is not to put the game in a historical context, nor is to make us yearn for the day you finally finish that novel you know you have inside you. Just help me shift through the never-ending flood of new releases please so I can make a wise consumer-decision as to what product to spend my money on.

      • DrFlimFlam

        I think the flavor of your preferred review might be elsewhere. This is not matter of superiority or judgment or as a critique; but it sounds like a Gameological review may not be the kind of review that fits what you’re looking for. A more traditional site, like GameSpot or IGN, might give you more of the rundown style you prefer.

        For whatever it’s worth, this is one of the more positive reviews of the game I’ve seen. Most agree with the general thrust of AJA’s review, but the spin is more negative.

        • MrTusks

          If he wanted a number rating, how did he even end up here? I’m also surprised to hear other sites liked it less–I’m used to IGN shilling hard on the big releases. I expect Assassin’s Creed IV to get a 17 out of 10.

          • Carlton_Hungus

            Yeah, breaking their code of only giving AAA games 8+ ratings. GameSpot giving it a 6 may as well have taken a dump on Batman’s armored chest.

          • MrTusks

            They lost legitimacy for me when they gave FFXIII an 8.9. Yeah, sure, if you never leave the title screen maybe.

        • Cloks

          Eh, I don’t really understand this review either. It seems to be making a lot of excuses for what is, by most accounts, a crap game.

          • DrFlimFlam

            I get the review enough to know it’s not for me. I have two good Batman games, and that’s enough for now. I don’t need some mild comfort food in the form of a very similar sequel.

          • Carlton_Hungus

            Definitely agree it’s comfort food, in that it’s more of the same. With the one exception of the bossfights being far more badass it’s sort of just really big Arkham City DLC.

      • SaoirseRonanTheAccuser

        Yeah… that’s not the job of a good critic. That’s the job of IGN.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          I know it’s fun to bash IGN, but honestly, the text that accompanies their review scores is usually thoughtful and well-written.

          • SaoirseRonanTheAccuser

            I’m more familiar with their comic book reviews, which (as is typical for comic reviews) slobber over nearly everything without any real examination of the content. What few IGN game reviews I’ve read have been a little too focused on what’s ‘cool’, which is useless.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Interesting that you bring that up. I wonder why comics have this problem. I’ve always found that I’m unable to enjoy individual comic issues because they are so slight I can read them in about ten minutes or less. Instead I can only get into collections, which usually take about an hour and generally tell more complete stories.
            I wonder if individual issues just aren’t substantial enough for consistent, in-depth reviews.

          • SamPlays

            I agree. While Gameological is clearly more esoteric in how it approaches games, IGN has a group of knowledgeable, thoughtful staff, too. They recently had a roundtable on the meaning of the term “gamer”, what it implies, where it applies, etc., which seemed like a riff on the article by Rowan Kaiser published at RogerEbert.com (re: sexism and gamers) a couple weeks ago. I’m also a bit of a fan of Keza MacDonald’s contributions lately. Honestly, if you strip away the IGN packaging, I think the biggest difference today can be observed in the quality of the reader comments. Generally speaking, the comments on Gameological articles are typically more interesting and entertaining than the article itself. It’s one of the main reasons why this site is so much more rewarding to visit than other game sites.

          • MyNameIsRick

            Same (i.e., the quality of the comments) can be said of the AV Club.

      • huge_jacked_man

        *smokes a huge bowl * Duude I just had the best idea ever. You know how bland is usually a bad thing yeah? Like in movies and games and stuff. Well check this out: what if bland was actually good? Mind Fucking Blown. Where’s my macbook air. ok whats the game today

    • jerkassimo

      one of the few things i found disappointing with arkham city was having to schlep around the center compound pretty much the entire game, but when i finally get in there and ascend the giant tower – I HAVE TO TAKE THE FUCKING ELEVATOR BACK DOWN!

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      AC certainly controlled better on AA (at least on PC, where the AA port was a shambling mess). But one of the things that got lost in the move to a larger, more open map was tighter, more focused storytelling. AA had a creepy, compelling narrative. AC was just fucknuts crazy.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        Strange, AA ran like a dream on my PC while AC was a disaster.

        And while AA was more focused, it was a bog-standard supersoldier plot. The presentation of the villains was better, but the actual plot and the Joker’s motives never really grabbed me.

        AC was bloated, but damned if the backstory wasn’t fantastic. I love how so many villains intertwine with each other and how many parallels they established with Bruce Wayne (the Penguin is setup as a sort of an inversion of Bruce, for example). It seemed like they really felt they were given free reign to make a continuity that worked for them and really took advantage of it.

        • Keuric

          I had issues with AA on PC, without question. Could I finish the game? Yes. Did it crash? Some. Did my relatively high-end system struggle with it? Surprisingly so.

          AC came out, I downloaded it the week of, and it was unplayable. I assume a patch was released to Steam, I waited a few more weeks, fuming and enraged that for the first time I’d bought the game the week of, and now it played great. Not sure what happened, but my FPS alone doubled (if not more).

          I’m waiting a bit on AO, but have no doubt I’ll be picking it up in a month.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Strange. I never had a bit of trouble with AA, but I picked up AC months after it was released (I got the PS3 version for Christmas) solely to see if it looked better than the PS3 version, only to find that not only did it look the same, it had a constant stutter and slowdown.

            Word of warning about AO: apparently the PC version has some serious issues, including one that’s extremely common and prevents you from completing the Riddler challenge (and which is apparently not present in the console versions). I’m playing the PS3 version, and after downloading a patch its problems have mostly vanished, though I’ve avoided fast travel–which is apparently the big problem–just in case.

      • Bakken Hood

        I know I’m in the minority, but I actually thought AC was more focused despite the much larger cast of characters. AA’s padding felt like padding (in particular the left-field interlude in the Botanical Gardens), whereas AC’s digressions mostly made sense in the grand scheme of things. Or maybe it’s just that they tightened up the combat so I wasn’t annoyed enough to pick the story apart for flaws.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          Poison Ivy was the nadir of the game. She’s let out by Harley, fine, but why in God’s name would Batman just leave her in the greenhouse instead of taking five minutes to haul her back to her cell? She’s like 1000 times more dangerous than any other prisoner on the island! Why doesn’t he run back when he hears on the intercom that A) Joker is injecting her with Titan and B) Logically this means the Joker is in the same building like 30 seconds away with no hidden passages or anything.

          The irritating plant monsters and poor boss fight are just icing on the tedious cake.

          • Derek_Noakes

            Tedious is exactly the word for Arkham Asylum. I thought this was greatly improved with City. And I’m not that far in to Origins yet, but if they continue in that vein I’ll at least be compelled to finish the story. Something I only did in Asylum once, and only because it felt obligatory. City I have played and enjoyed more times than I can remember at this point.

    • GaryX

      Yeah, I’m confused by both that and the general thesis. I mean, I understand what is being said, but it just doesn’t compute.

    • Goon Diapers

      Just because of mechanics alone I found City superior. I had a hard time going backwards to Asylum because the fighting I once found enjoyable had become a tiny little bit clunky. I think I played City through three times straight, back to back—as well as doing all the challenge rooms. Not many games I can say that about. Maybe the original Metroid.

  • double_hawk

    While I’m disappointed it’s not dramatically improved I still love City enough (I’ve played through it like 4 times) that I’m sure I’ll love this too. C’mon, who doesn’t want to fight Deathstroke as batman?!

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Me!

      • Fluka
        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          I beat him in one go, though it was a close thing. It seemed you have to wait for him to make the first attack and then counter the shit out of him. A cape swipe will let you get in a few punches, but it’s a war of attrition as he pummels you with high-damage strikes. You can also use the quick-claw to knock him off balance.

          I thought it was a pretty good fight, frankly, as it really seemed like he posed a threat. Surprised people are having such a hard time with him.

          Now Deadshot can go to Hell. Took me three tries; you’ve gotta be patient and you have to remember that he can spot you from anywhere in the room and will check on his goons (making it hard to sneak up on them). Don’t bother with ground takedowns as they don’t work; use a knockout smash and get the hell off the ground.

          • Fluka

            Well, like they say, different Deathstrokes for different folks, whaa-hey!

    • JokersNuts

      The negative reviews are confusing. If you like City you will definitely like this one.

      • Derek_Noakes

        But if you loved City, you will merely enjoy this one. It adds nothing and is in several ways inferior. I honestly think the negative reviews are spot on.

        • JokersNuts

          I don’t think it is inferior, I am enjoying it or loving it just as much as I did city (which I played through multiple times). It’s a harder game and actually has better boss encounters. There are tons to do in the game. I don’t know, I just don’t get the negativity. It’s really fun. Meanwhile rocksteady is likely making the follow up the has all the changes you are looking for (arkham world most likely with a fuller dc universe). Personally I am having more fun playing this than I was gta 5 a couple weeks ago, but that’s probably just cause I like punching out bad guys as batman.

    • Smilner

      That was easily a harder fight than anything in AA or AC.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        The whole game seems tougher. Deadshot is basically just the Two-Face v. Catwoman fight from City, but it’s so much tougher. You really have to be patient or he will fuck you up.

    • Carlton_Hungus

      Yeah, it’s just more City with better bossfights.

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons

      I haven’t tried it yet, but the PS3 version lets you play as Deathstroke on challenge maps, similar to how you could play as the Joker on PS3 in Asylum.

  • The Guilty Party

    Damnit, I thought this was a review for Arkham Horror, the boardgame.

    Stupid unoriginal naming … people.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      That also annoyed me with Project Gotham racing. Where’s the Batmobile?!

      • The Guilty Party

        Oh man, was that the one with Kudos? If so, I loved that game. Not enough to remember its name, but still. I loved that you got points for driving well, not for just finishing first. It made it more immersive, which is odd to look for in a racing game, but I am odd.

        • DrFlimFlam

          I believe it had a locally accurate day/night cycle and a DRIVER inside the car, too.

    • boardgameguy

      Arkham Horror the boardgame review: D&D light. If you want to spend several hours moving around a map and rolling dice to fight monsters, you’ll love it! I don’t feel the variety and depth of player strategies and options justifies the length of the game. However, balancing character attributes (speed/stealth) along a spectrum is a fun idea. So, your mileage may vary. I’m not a fan but I know people who say it is their favorite game because of how you get drawn in thematically.

      • The Guilty Party

        Interesting. Any opinions on its little sibling, Elder Sign? I like cooperative things, I like lovecraft, it seems a nice fit.

        • DrFlimFlam

          Elder Sign is like Occult Yahtzee. It took me one good play-through to “get” it and now it’s a go-to for board game night. Even got my friend to buy his own copy.

          It doesn’t come off nearly as nerdy as I thought because of how much like Yahtzee it often feels.

        • boardgameguy

          I’ve not had a chance to play it, although it definitely intrigues me more. I’ve heard the length is better given the decision you get to make, but it’s not as immersive an experience.

          I’ve also heard there is a pretty slick iOS app for Elder Sign, although I have a dumb phone and no tablet and cannot vouch for its quality.

          The Lovecraftian themed game I’m most interested in is a recent Kickstarter game by Martin Wallace (Brass, Steam) that is based on Neil Gaiman’s awesome short story A Study in Emerald. Not sure when I’d get to play it as it looks like supplies are limited for now and it will be pricey.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        I’ve never played Arkham Horror, but it sounds like peak ameritrash, where stuff just sort of happens and your choices are hardly meaningful at all. Theme generally doesn’t go a long way for me. I’m apparently really picky and snobby about boardgames, despite just getting into the hobby recently.

        • boardgameguy

          It fits the bill of Ameritrash – lots of luck and chance with dice rolls. Not as many plastic pieces as one might assume. I don’t know if having preferences makes you a snob. It sounds like this game isn’t for either of us, and that’s ok.

          If I’m going to play a game like this, I’d much rather have exploration and intrigue in the form of something like Betrayal at House on the Hill.

          • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

            I think me dismissing games before playing them might categorize me as a snob. Not that I mind. Gotta be picky with a limited budget for games and no real way to try before I buy in most cases. I don’t want to end up with a game that I really hate to play.

          • boardgameguy

            I feel the same way, although the thriving trade market that one can find on boardgamegeek helps to soften the blow of a purchase or gift that didn’t work out.

    • Chum Joely

      And I thought this was the new Batman/Rayman crossover platformer, where you collect Lums in order to drive the darkness out of Gotham. Major disappointment.

  • http://caspiancomic.com/gametheory caspiancomic

    The Arkham series is a bit of a funny one to me. The first two entries didn’t feel very franchisey, and I got the sense that the development team was really trying to do something exciting and refreshing with the characters and setting, and I think they by and large succeeded. But even though I don’t think those games were designed with a franchise in mind, they still feel a little bit… I don’t know, impermanent? I liked Arkham Asylum a lot, and Arkham City well enough, but I have basically no desire to return to them, and I’m a borderline compulsive re-player of my favourite games. To me the Arkham franchise is like the Bourne series- well made and compelling in the moment, but without enough substance to be truly memorable or merit revisiting.

    AJA makes Arkham Origins sound like one of the vaguely prestigey films that tends to come out around this time. The ones that are really technically accomplished and well received critically, but which have a vanishingly brief shelf life. Not by design, or anything, they just tend to have a very short cultural longevity, regardless of how objectively “good” they are. Like, Argo was pretty good and whatever, but is anybody going to watch it again in five years? Arkham Origins sounds like Argo: The Game. Undeniably good, but ephemeral.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. The Arkham series is broadly well regarded, maybe I’ve just got my wires crossed. Maybe I’m wrong about the Bourne franchise and Argo while I’m at it. Maybe Argo will go on to have all the permanence and cultural resonance of Gone With The Wind, and will be beloved for generations to come. All I know is I saw Zero Dark Thirty and Argo in theatres and that single viewing was all I ever needed from them, but I’ve watched other movies from around the same time- say, ParaNorman or Looper- like a half dozen times at least and don’t intend to stop.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      It’s shallow, but I can’t get over the fact that these games have, bar none, the ugliest art direction I’ve ever seen in a game. Everyone is a desaturated mound of sinew covered in grime, and the character designs are all kind of verly busy and ‘dark’ in an embarrassingly adolescent way (even for a superhero property). I can’t even bring myself to give the games a shot because every screenshot makes my aesthetic sensibilities bleed out through my eyesockets.

      • Thirsty

        It’s not shallow. Design matters.

        Glad to see someone complain about how little these games have to offer, be it as games or visually.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I’d be among the first to recognize that design isn’t purely a matter of visual aesthetics, though, especially when it comes to games. I’m even aware of the possibility that. were I to pick up a controller the mechanics would be so amazing that I’d be fully engrossed despite the fact that I was staring at a hideous visual abortion.

          But the chances of that are super-low, and my time and money is finite, and I don’t really feel like buying and trying a game in a genre I don’t really like, featuring a character I can’t take seriously, with an aesthetic that makes me want to barf.

      • DrFlimFlam

        The character design certainly leaves something to be desired, though The Joker’s lanky frame and caricature face is appropriate, and appropriately disgusting in Arkham City.

        I think Arkham Asylum is an astoundingly well-made game; I don’t usually go too much for action/adventure, but I stuck with this one long enough to play it on PC to completion, something not many games have managed to extract from me. I was super excited for Arkham City, and while it’s nice, the game feels too loose for me, and some of the in-game sequences are strange at best.

      • CrabNaga

        Don’t forget the preeminently shiny people and nauseating shades of red, green, and/or blue you’ll see filtered over every single area in the games. These colored filters are this generation’s bloom. The mood of this area doesn’t feel sinister enough? Put a filter on it!

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          Or the high contrast. That gives me migraines something fierce, and the only video games that are worse for me than Arkham City are 3DS titles played with 3D on for more than about 20 minutes.

        • http://caspiancomic.com/gametheory caspiancomic

          The ‘shiny people’ thing was especially distracting in Arkham Asylum. In cutscenes everybody looked like action figures.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Oh man, and don’t get me started on Commissioner Gordon’s design in Asylum. He was barely in City but he had a total overhaul and a new voice actor.

      • Fluka

        Also also also. The Arkham design tradition of female villain + gritty = put em all in stripper outfits. A tradition they appear to have continued.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          I didn’t think Copperhead was handled too badly. She’s very freaky in a feral kind of way, and I suspect that a male design of the same character would have been very similar in terms of skin exposure and litheness.

          I noticed that the game has gone out of it’s way to avoid using the word “bitch,” even going so far as to have Batman drop a guy off a roof just as he’s about to say it. Seemed like pointed commentary to me.

          • Fluka

            It does look a bit more Pris-in-Blade-Runner than flat out sexy, at least. Would hard to be worse in the previous two games in that regard. How did the other female assassins turn out?

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            There’s only one other, Shiva, and I haven’t encountered her yet. In the setup she seems like a classy femme fatale type: sexy, but not in a revealing way. She also seems to be more like Batman in the use of precision martial arts than the animalistic lashing, darting, and crawling of Copperhead.

            I’m kind of glad they didn’t use any of Batman’s more well-known female villains, though. Catwoman’s relationship with Batman (and just about any male character, it seems) is predicated almost entirely on sexualization, and in City I thought she didn’t really come into her own until removed from interacting with male characters. Meanwhile, it’s telling that most of Poison Ivy’s appearance involve some form of vagina dentata.

          • Fluka

            Not perfect, but that sounds at least a little better. At the very least it sounds like there’s a nominal bit of variety beyond the revealing-massive-cleavage design of the last two games.

          • TaumpyTearrs

            They also gave Penguin to sluttily dressed assistant girls (one of whom has an appalling mockney accent). And you get to see Penguin slap one of them on the ass, so… One step forward and two steps back?

          • Smilner

            I remember when discussing City, someone raised the possibility that the general ugliness of female portrayals in the Arkham games might be more of a window into Batman’s view on women. I mean, it’s pretty clear he’s a total sociopath, so it wouldn’t be hard to read the game as though it’s through the narrative lens of Batman’s own perception. Of course, that doesn’t really explain away why it’s like that during Catwoman’s solo stuff away from Batman, unless you regard Batman as a sort of narrator on the story as a whole. Furthermore, just having an explanation for something does not necessarily make it more palatable.

          • Patrick Batman

            Shiva is dressed like a normal person, if a bit flamboyantly. Her only exposed skin is her face and her hands.

        • Ah_good_the_sea

          I know the Arkham series is not the first, nor the worst abuser of the ‘unzipped cleavage revealing catwoman catsuit’ trope, but that doesn’t make it any less skeezy.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        No love for the Scarecrow? That was a great version of the character and I’m shocked that he doesn’t get more praise for his design.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          ::Google image searches “Arkham games scarecrow”::

          ::Sees a design that looks like a reject from a Korn or Slipknot album cover, with fucking hypodermic needles sticking out of his fingers::

          Nope, I’m going to stick with my assessment of “‘dark’ in an embarrassingly adolescent way.”

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            So what would make Scarecrow work for you? Seriously, he’s a man dressed like a scarecroow and he’s supposed to be frightening. At least the Arkham version evokes a common fear.

          • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

            The fear of crummy, Hot-Topicy design? Based on Arkham’s popularity, and the financial success of Nu Metal and even the most execrable Tim Burton fears, I don’t think that fear is especially common. (And, for the record, I have never seen a scarecrow with a gasmask or hypodermic needles with hands or a noose around its neck…).

            As for designs which worked, I’d suggest that, in line with that show’s impeccable design sensibility, the versions in the animated series generally worked quite well. While I don’t enjoy Nolan’s ‘gritty, realistic’ take on Batman, the Scarecrow from his films was a decently creepy ‘horror film realistic’ take on the character.

            The Arkham version looks like, well, like a fucking video game character. I could imagine him scrawled on the back of an angsty 13-year-old with decorative clothespins in his black t-shirt. Basically, he exemplifies almost everything I find hideous and dumb about those games (if he was in a bustier with his tits hanging out, he’d exhibit everything I find hideous and dumb…).

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            I meant the fear of needles.

            I just think that the Scarecrow is a tough character to portray. The show didn’t get him right until the redesign (and he only got to appear in two episodes at that point). Scarecrows aren’t especially frightening, and the Nolan version is just a guy with a sack on his head.

            I think this is where I just have to admit my aesthetic tastes are juvenile. I also liked the art in Darksiders 1 and 2.

          • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

            Well, there we go. I almost invoked ‘Madureira’ as a pejorative in my description of Scarecrow’s design. Different strokes, I guess.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            I’m a really detail-oriented person, so it doesn’t particularly bother me to see “busy” designs. When I see War, I don’t see an over-designed character because I’m too busy checking out the dog heads on the armor and how that might relate to the “Dogs of War” and the relationship the character might have to his masters and the relationship he most certainly has with the demon-thing keeping him in line.

            When people complain about over-designed characters it seems to me that what they are saying is they don’t want information communicated visually. They want characters to be visually distinct yet minimalist (and I have an issue with the contention that these necessarily go together).

            Another game I’d point to is the recent DmC, which is clearly the work of artists gone wild. They don’t seem to have anything in that game which doesn’t visually signify something, and I’ve heard people complain that it is “over-designed.”

            So that’s my take on the issue.

          • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

            I’m a total maximalist myself – I love the visual cacophony of Russian Orthodox churches painted from floor to rafter in golden saints far more than, say, the austerity of a modern Protestant church, I enjoy the dense, detailed visual storyscapes of Chris Ware, or the riotous visual busyness of Cactus’s games.

            However, I have very little patience for aesthetic choices that have no more thought behind them than “this looks totally cool!” especially when the sensibility of cool is kind of embarrassingly adolescent. I don’t think Joe Madureira or Rob Liefield are “communicating” anything visually by strapping patches to every surface, or adding weird arbitrary angular creases to facial anatomy, or covering their characters with numerous belts with increasingly large and unweildy buckles, or drawing insanely huge forearms…except maybe communicating that “This is so totally badass – wouldn’t it look cool on the side of a van, or on a dorm room poster?”

            It’s not so much a matter of busyness vs. austerity as it is one of taste.

      • Derek_Noakes

        And to make it worse, they managed to ruin Bruce Timm’s design with the Animated Batman, Catwoman, and Robin skins for Arkham City. Just awful. The aesthetic was there, but it just doesn’t translate to 3D.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    Having played it for a few hours tonight:

    It is extremely samey, relative to Arkham City- maybe new stuff opens up later on, but it certainly doesn’t feel like they went out of their way to change as much as Arkham to Arkham City did. Batman’s voice is wrong, and Batman comes off as basically just a jerk with it- he’s never well characterized in these games, but there’s nothing particularly likable about him here. And the spaces seem a bit more confusing to navigate, it’s less clear where you want to be and how to get there when you’re gliding around.

    I dunno, I liked City a lot but didn’t enjoy it much when I tried playing it again recently. Might just be a game design that doesn’t work for me anymore.

    • Thirsty

      I think you, like so many others, were cheated a little by getting a chance to be Batman. Replaying shows just how little fun this franchise actually is.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        I’ve played AA and AC so many times it’s kind of sad. I find them to be extremely fun!

        • Carlton_Hungus

          Agreed, perhaps it’s just my game OCD nature and competitiveness but I find it’s the perfect type of game for replay since I can always try and get longer, or more varied combos, or interesting ways to clear predator rooms. I know pretty much every game can be replayed to “beat your own score,” but for whatever reason the gameplay of the Arkham games, more so than most others, keeps me coming back to do so.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Granted, I’ve only ever played these games at a friends house, and never to completion, but the exploration aspect was pretty cool and vaguely metroid-y which is one of my favorite things in games. I never thought the combat was fun at all though. The game essentially plays itself during those parts, and beating up room after room of goons got old quick.

        Make more metroid-like games, people!

    • indy2003

      Honestly, the thing which is most preventing me from picking up this game is that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill aren’t doing voice work. They pretty much perfected those roles over the course of two decades, and it’s a shame that they were set aside this time around.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        Hamill retired from the role, but I don’t know why Conroy wasn’t involved. His replacement is eerily close for the most part, though.

        • indy2003

          Ah. I didn’t realize Hamill had set the role aside. His Joker voice (while still brilliant) had certainly gotten raspier in recent years.

      • Patrick Batman

        I am probably alone in my assessment that I think the new guys (Troy Baker especially) do better-quality voicework in Origins than Conroy and Hamill did in City.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          I think the writing is what’s better. Conroy always seemed a little stiff in the games, but what are you going to do with dialogue like, “He’s up to something. I’m not sure I can stop him this time,” without any evidence of that. Hamill was great as always, though I can’t think of any line that really stood out as memorable.

          Now Harley in Arkham Asylum was pretty poor. All you had to do was listen to her backstory–which as almost line-for-line from Mad Love–to realize how poorly she was doing compared to the show.

          • Patrick Batman

            You definitely have a point there. I don’t think any of the games has really portrayed Harley satisfactorily.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            The bit where she was tied up in City was pitch perfect, but they’ve generally made her either too “sexy” or too stupid to really do her right. Which is a shame, because I think everyone who is familiar with her from the cartoons loves Harley.

          • DrFlimFlam

            I don’t get why she’s so dumb; wasn’t she a doctor?

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            That’s a long-standing problem with her characterization, actually, and I don’t know that it ever comes up. They probably should have written her as a nurse or something that wouldn’t require the kind of deep academic mindset implied by the field of psychiatry.

            She is smarter than she appears, though. The episode Mad Love has her getting Batman dead to rights through a remarkably simple plan that, in an unusual twist, only works because of his established sympathy for her and belief that maybe there’s hope for reform. It’s also interesting in that he isn’t able to escape it through physical effort or the use of gadgets.

          • His_Space_Holiness

            The original Mad Love comic that established her backstory implied that she cheated and/or slept her way through her academic career as a fast-track to being a celebrity shrink, so she was never all that brilliant to being with. She also plays up the ditz persona on purpose.

          • indy2003

            The main problem I had with the Batman in the games is that he’s forced to talk too often. Conroy was always chatty as Bruce Wayne in the animated series, but was permitted a decent amount of appropriate silence while wearing the cape and cowl. It feels strange to hear Batman commenting on so many things when his actual reaction would probably be a silent scowl.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Yes, yes, and yes. It’s especially bad early on in Asylum.

            “I eat punks like these for breakfast.”

            Did you really just say that, Batman? Did you?

            Admittedly a lot of his dialogue is mental narration (notice how often his lips don’t move) but he still speaks way too much.

      • https://twitter.com/Gerardi Matt Gerardi

        The guy playing Batman this time around does one hell of a Conroy impression at least.

        • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

          I think that’s why his voice seems wrong- it feels like it’s a synthetic Conroy, almost but not quite the same.

        • indy2003

          I’m glad to hear he does a good job, though I’m still baffled as to why they wouldn’t go for Conroy himself – especially given that he’s apparently working on a different Arkham title at the moment. Surely he can’t be that expensive and/or busy?

          • https://twitter.com/Gerardi Matt Gerardi

            Yeah, I haven’t heard a definitive answer. There was a funny moment a while back where Conroy actually said at a panel that he was doing work on “the new Arkham game.” As it turns out, it wasn’t this new Arkham game. A lot of people assume he was talking about whatever next-gen Arkham game Rocksteady is working on.

          • Derek_Noakes

            My guess was actually exactly that, that he was too busy working on the next Rocksteady game. After hearing that the GTA voice actors worked on the game for 3-5 years, it’s not surprising to me that he wouldn’t be available for 2 games that were being developed concurrently.

  • flowsthead

    This perfectly describes how I felt about Assassins Creed II and Brotherhood. Assassins Creed I had an interesting premise, with the best explanation for the walls blocking you from exploring things I’ve ever seen, and yet some of the most boring NPC and enemy designs, boring sidequests, and the most annoyingly long rides to the next cities. It felt like they saw how awesome riding Epona was in Ocarina of Time, and did that in the worst way possible.

    I have no idea why I played II, but it was the same game with all of those flaws fixed. The enemies were a lot better, and even when they sucked at least they were colorful to look at. The controls were better, the sidequests were varied and more fun (I love buying buildings and filling up my hometown with better art), and the trips to different cities could be skipped easily. They just decided to do the same game, only fix all of the flaws. And then Brotherhood just smoothed out edges. There was nothing revolutionary, they were just focused on making a better, more fun game.

    • JamesJournal

      The thing is, the first Arkham game didn’t need any sequels to come along and fix it. I never felt the need to play more than just the demo of Arkham City, but I’ve bought Brotherhood, Revelations and AC3 on launch day, so what the fuck do I know?

      • DrFlimFlam

        I think Arkham city does have something to offer, but I don’t know if it has an entire game to offer over Arkham Asylum. I waited until it was $25 on Black Friday anyway, but to me it felt like some cool open world stuff but also frustrating snipers and, if I recall correctly, even more gadgets to fumble with.

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons

      On the “smoothing out the edges” idea, I think it’s worth mentioning that Origins is a harder game overall than
      Asylum or City and it feels like it’s more important to utilize combat
      gadgets than before. In City they felt almost superfluous, which made
      learning them a complicated luxury.

      In Origins you’ll quickly realize that being able to prioritize and incapacitate specific enemies, even just to get a momentary edge, is very important. It’s so important that they feel comfortable in subverting it with the addition of unusual enemy types, like the martial artists who require multiple rapid counters to block a single attack (!) and are immune to the instant KO special move (!!).

      Once I started using more of Batman’s tools, I found the game to feel less “off” than I had initially.

  • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

    The opening two lines of this article reminded me too much of this for some reason:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi5jjXTPtyY

    Then I read the word ‘prequel’ and I couldn’t finish the article. Damn you Agnello!

  • Thirsty

    I wonder how popular these games would be if they weren’t about Batman.

    That’s a bit odd maybe, they’re about Batman after all.

    But seeing as I found the collect a lot of collectables and fight some not so exciting fights (Ninja Gaiden it aint) while you’re being Batman in a big world (GTA it aint either) of the first two games, not that great, I can’t help but wonder.

    Not saying the first game wasn’t some okay fun at times, before the law of the diminishing returns, it was, just don’t see what the big deal is.

    Well, I do.

    It’s Batman.

    • JamesJournal

      Arkham City could have easily been a success (a la Assassins Creed and Dishonored, only more so because it’s more of a mainstream action game) if it were not related to Batman. It was a damn good game. But the Batman brand does make it more marketable.

    • CrabNaga

      I couldn’t give two craps about the Batman franchise and both AA and AC were great examples of the action/adventure genre.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Exactly. I have never read a Batman comic, watched a Batman movie, or owned any Batman merchandise*. My only prior exposure to Batman was a few reruns of the campy Adam West series. I still enjoyed the heck out of AA and AC, flaws and all.

        *aside from a reusable sticker play set that I got as a gift when I was 5

        • double_hawk

          Oh wow you should really watch Batman the Animated series at least. It’s where most of the voice actors for the games come from

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          +1 for you should watch the Animated Series. Hunt down the pilot to get a sense of what’s on offer; some of the early episodes are shaky, but the pilot is a great piece of work that sets the tone for the whole series and makes surprisingly good use out of what should be a stupid villain. Who, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m a little surprised didn’t turn up in the Arkham games.

          • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

            Was the pilot the one with MAN BAT?

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            One of two episodes with Man-Bat. And they were both pretty good!

            Most of the villains were done well on the show, with the Penguin being the weakest recurring character (though I love the one where he tries to reform).

        • Derek_Noakes

          I’m normally not judgmental of other people’s taste, but did you grow up on the same planet as the rest of us? Get some goddamn Batman in your life, man!

          But in all seriousness, I do agree that you should at least check out B:TAS. It’s certainly the definitive version of the character for an entire generation, and I’d venture to guess the voice actor parity is one of the reasons people (myself included) are so fond of these games.

  • DrGogol

    Comparing your subject to food as your lede is the laziest of all criticisms. “It’s like junk food compared to a whole meal,” or whatever. Boring.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      You’re mistaken. Sniping at a single analogy in the first sentence of a full-length review is the laziest of all criticisms.

      • snazzlenuts

        Girard, apparently your keyboard does +10 damage to trolls. Well handled.

      • DrGogol

        Actually, he opens with the food analogy and goes on with the “complete breakfast” tangent and closes the piece with his cereal analogy. Which makes it more like making a lazy sandwich with moldy bread, or some other such ridiculously lame analogy.

      • DrGogol

        Actually, he opens with the food analogy and goes on with the “complete breakfast” tangent and closes the piece with his cereal analogy. Which makes it more like making a lazy sandwich with moldy bread, or some other such ridiculously lame analogy.

    • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

      And here I thought it was just a callback to Anthony’s Digest appearance for Guacamelee! (from about 4:45 to 5:38).

    • Enkidum

      In general, there’s a lot of food stuff here. It cannot be changed.

  • JokersNuts

    I haven’t beat it yet but I’m finding it to be a lot of fun and often times the hardest of the series. I’m loving it.

  • Drinking_with_Skeletons

    I think the writing in this game is superior to the other two (granted I haven’t yet beaten it, so there’s time for a narrative collapse).

    The opening prison break is both exciting and serves to quickly establish the plot. The intro for the assassins is quick but very effective at establishing what each one brings to the table. I love the fact that the Electrocutioner, easily the stupidest-sounding of them, is treated like a joke. I like that Batman gets to quip at Croc. I like that they seem to understand how to show the characters as being younger (Croc is less monstrous, for example, which makes perfect sense if you know how his condition is supposed to be progressive). And the intro for the Joker is far creepier than any of his scenes in the earlier games (shame that Mark Hamill didn’t reprise the role).

    My impression is that this is a game that was made by a team without as much overall talent as Rocksteady–and/or perhaps locked into a too-short development window by WB to beat out the next-gen and meet the holiday shopping window–so that, while the writing is better, the game itself is noticeably (though not disastrously) buggier and not quite as good mechanically. Here’s hoping that the studio isn’t shut down and they get the chance to hone their abilities on another title.

    And here’s my thoughts on some of the most common complaints:

    1) Batman’s gadgets make no sense for a prequel. This goes all the way back to the first game, so it makes no sense to bring it up here. There’s no satisfying way to design a game in which you play Batman and have item progression, because logically why would Batman ever not carry everything with him from the start? City tried to address this with the quickly constructed charge emitter and Mr. Freeze’s tech, but all that did was have people complain about Batman using non-standard gadgets. A no-win situation for developers.

    2) The boss fights are just glorified quicktime events. So nobody remembers the Ra’s al Ghul fight from City? Dodge attacks then hit the weak spot, then mash triangle. The counter system in this franchise turns every encounter into something very close to a QTE to start with (as some reviewers have noticed). I do think the fights tend to be dragged out a bit too long, but none of them so far have been as bad as Poison Ivy in Asylum.

    3) It’s implausible that Batman would encounter all of these villains for the first time in one night. Everything about these games is implausible. Is it plausible that a major mental health institution just has a big room full of patients in straight jackets in bare, lifeless cells? Is it plausible that the only cure for the Titan poisoning is the Lazarus pit chemical, and there just so happens to be a Lazarus Pit (and Ra’s al Ghul himself!) beneath Arkham City? Is it plausible that a city government could be convinced to build a lawless prison gulag in the middle of a major metropolis?

    EDIT: I’d love to hear the opinion of someone who played the games for the first time in the following order: Origins, Asylum, City. I think there’d be a very different conversation going on.

    • Patrick Batman

      I beat the game on Monday night after playing it all weekend long. I agree with everything you’ve written here. You don’t have a narrative collapse in store for you–I think Origins is much better-written than City was. I wish there were a Spoiler Space for game reviews so I could speak more in-depth without being a jerk to everyone (although from most of the comments here I don’t imagine it’d matter, no one seems likely to play it).

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        Which is a shame, because flaws aside I think the studio really put a lot of effort into this. Reminds me of how nobody played DmC despite the fact that they really tried some interesting things instead of a bland rehash of the original.

        • conditionals

          It was obviously a passion project for the staff at WB. The development videos I watched had them basically wetting themselves over the chance (and stakes) of developing the game. I kind of feel like maybe it was the mandated management stuff like the development cycle that limited what the game became

    • Enkidum

      Why no Mark Hamill? Thought he loved doing this.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        He officially retired from the role after Arkham City (though he did do an Arkham City-related spot for an award show).

        Kevin Conroy also doesn’t reprise his role here, either. I’m not sure why; he had tweeted a while back that he was working on a new Arkham game, but this turned out to be Rocksteady’s upcoming Silver Age title and he wasn’t even aware of Origins at the time.

        To be fair, both the new actors are good. The Batman replacement sounds a lot like Conroy, though whenever he gets threatening he veers sharply into Christian Bale territory. The Joker doesn’t really sound anything like Hamill, though he’s clearly trying to do something similar; following Mark Hamill in arguably his signature role–which is arguably the definitive version of the character–isn’t an enviable position. I don’t know about other voice actors, though Steve Blum is definitely back. I think Bane might be different, but if so it’s an improvement as he seems less over the top.

        • zgberg

          its definitely arguable the joker is his signature role

          • Patrick Batman

            I know, right? Have these people never seen The Big Red One?

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Luke Skywalker will always be more famous, but I really can’t imagine how you could defend it as being the superior performance. I don’t know of any other roles he’s played, though (outside of himself and the bodyguard trainer in the Simpsons, which was also a good performance).

          • huge_jacked_man

            An argument could be made that Mark Hamill as the Joker in Arkham City is the best voice acting ever featured in a videogame.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Eeeeeehhhhh….

            I think that’s a tougher claim to make.

          • huge_jacked_man

            Feel free to provide counterexamples, this is a medium where hacks like David Hayter and David Bateson strive because voice work is universally abysmal.

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Balthier in Final Fantasy XII.

            Pretty much anyone in Psychonauts.

            Manny Calavera in Grim Fandango.

            Marius from Diablo II (if you’ve never watched the cut-scenes for D2, I think they work great as a very short fantasy/horror film [except for the expansion's ending])

            A lot of characters in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, though I’m going to give props to Deb, the host of the in-game radio show The Deb of Night.

            Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic 2.

            Fallout New Vegas has quite a few: the Brains from Old World Blues, the whole cast of Dead Money, Mr. House, Mr. New Vegas, and the cowboy robot leap to mind.

            We could certainly do this for awhile, but I want to say that I think that these are at least as good as the performances in Arkham City, not necessarily better.

      • double_hawk

        I actually really like the jokers new voice actor after hearing this: http://youtu.be/v2eMk6EL53g

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          Again, it’s a good performance! It definitely owes a lot to Hamill, which can be distracting, but there’s no way you can do voicework for the Joker without aping Hamill to some degree. Not without a wildly different interpretation of the character.

  • Fluka

    So I don’t much give a fig about Batman, and I hate games involving drawn-out, frustrating boss fights. So this likely won’t make it on my play list.

    However, one thing about it does catch my eye: the whole Christmas and snow thing. Can I buy the game and just have Batman silently wander the rooftops, his footsteps muffled as he listens to the distant sound of carols, his heart heavy with melancholy? Without any of this silly punching and bataranging? He can keep using the grappling hook, but only to continue his snowy, solitary wanderings. Maybe, à la Proteus, he can chill out with an owl. *Continues to ruin the games industry.*

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons

      Sadly, the game is as devoid of citizens as Arkham City. I assume that they just couldn’t figure out a way to squeeze that kind of AI into the game without crippling performance (or didn’t have time) so the city is under curfew due to a blizzard (which never seems bad enough to justify that for a city that’s just a New York stand-in; here in the South, yeah, that amount of snow would shut everything down for days).

      It does make very good use of Christmas carols being played on radios and Christmas bells in the soundtrack, though, to create an evocative atmosphere.

      • losthero47

        I always thought Gotham was the Chicago stand-in and Metropolis was the NYC stand-in?

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

          A friend of mine has said that, and the emphasis on mob crime could go either way, but the name “Gotham” is also applied to New York City, and–at least in the cartoons–there was a Statue of Liberty stand-in in Gotham. I assumed that Bludhaven was New Jersey.

          But, I should mention, it’s the cartoons that have most influenced my view. They are why I think of Metropolis as being a Californian city.

        • His_Space_Holiness

          My personal favorite ordering of the two (I forget whose is is originally) is that Metropolis represents New York during the day, and Gotham represents New York at night.

    • Anthony John Agnello

      I would pay good money to play that game.

      My favorite part of Arkham Origins, hands down, is when I was swinging between buildings and Alfred chimed in just to say, “It’s after midnight, sir. Merry Christmas.” It was so close to being the Batman: Animated Series game of my dreams that I almost completely forgot about the hulking character designs.

      • Smilner

        You can actually feel a little, teeny bit of sadness in Batman’s voice when he says “you too.” I like those few moments in the game where Batman doesn’t seem quite comfortable yet being Batman. On the other end of the spectrum is right at the beginning, when he’s interrogating some thug and accidentally chokes him out. Rookie move.

    • Aaron Boyd

      I know you said you don’t give a fig, but I’m awfully famished and a fig sounds kind of delicious right now. Would you give a fig if I asked nicely and it did not involve Batman?

  • Chum Joely

    Hey all. the Gameological “Game Revue Club” on Steam is now voting on the game we’ll be playing for our 7th edition, so I’ll be continuing to spam various threads here with invitations to come and vote!

    The vote thread is here, and voting is open until midnight EDT on Thursday:

    http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gameological/discussions/2/792924952789854447

    Here are the 13 candidates (spoooooky) that are up for a vote:
    - Alpha Protocol
    - Antichamber
    - Bastion
    - Bientôt l’été
    - Cabela Big Game Hunter Trophy Bucks
    - Dark Souls
    - Euro Truck Simulator
    - Godus
    - Gone Home
    - Hotline Miami
    - Papers Please
    - Sir, You Are Being Hunted
    - Thomas Was Alone

    The current top 3 are Papers Please, Alpha Protocol, and Cabela/Trophy Bucks (!!!), but the whole field is still close enough that a few votes one way or another could totally change the game. Join us, won’t you?

    Also, a few of you nominated games and haven’t voted yet (@CrabNaga:disqus) or haven’t completed your voting process (@AuroraBoreanaz:disqus). HURRY!

    • Patrick Batman

      I don’t have Steam, but I’m submitting an amicus curiae to support Alpha Protocol.

      • Chum Joely

        Heh, well, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    • CrabNaga

      The only reason I can think of that Dark Souls isn’t running away with the vote is that you all actually ENJOY being unenlightened. I have seen the other side, people, and it is beautiful. I have left my physical form behind and exist in a plane purely devoted to eternal happiness and character builds. Praise the sun indeed!

      • Chum Joely

        I have come to see the light (or the Dark, as the case may be), in that Dark Souls is now firmly on my list of games to play in the near future. But honestly, I’m not sure if it would work so well for me as a Revue Club game, for the simple reason that I know I am going to struggle with the difficulty, and I would much rather struggle on my own time than try to keep up with a group discussion at the same time.

        Anyway, that’s just me. At any rate, if Dark Souls does pull out a victory, I’m still in.

        • CrabNaga

          Well one of the things about Dark Souls is that people CAN play it at their own pace and they will encounter different situations than other players (and other situations in different orders). People were complaining about XCOM not being the sort of game that lends itself well to discussion because everyone tends to end up seeing/doing the same things, and I feel like Dark Souls would lend itself well to that community discussion in an “oh I found this item here!” or an “oh I used this strategy to beat that boss!” or an “oh I had no idea that I was able to go in this direction!” fashion.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Dark Souls is hella popular around these parts. There was a time when every thread inevitably turned into a Dark Souls or Binding of Isaac thread. I think maybe people are just talked out about it.

        I only recently started playing it (and had to set it down months ago when school resumed – I’ll pick it back up in December, probably), so it might be nice to talk about it again, but I wouldn’t vote to do so right now…

  • duwease

    I wonder if this recent trend of rapid-fire game series releases isn’t going to prevent the current crop of gems from becoming long-term legacies like Mario, Zelda, Castlevania, and the ilk. I know that personally I absolutely loved AA, and enjoyed AC, but looking at this, all I can think is… More? Already?

    The same thing happened with Assassin’s Creed with me.. I enjoyed 1 and 2, and then when I got Brotherhood for Christmas, the thought of redoing exactly what I was doing 9 months prior already filled me with dread, and I returned it. Leave some time for familiarity to wear off and nostalgia to kick in, people!

    • duwease

      Immediately after posting this, I went back to look at the release schedules for some of the classics, and realized that they were almost as rapid-fire. Only 5 years between Super Mario Bros and Super Mario World? Really? Nostalgia is a tricky, tricky liar.

      • Aaron Boyd

        5 years. Jesus.

    • Carlton_Hungus

      I fear that could definitely be a problem so far the Batman games seem to be on the outer edge of the rapid-fire release trend. While three is a small sample size they seem to be running about two years between games.

      Assassin’s Creed, and COD I think are really the most egregious examples of this (outside of sports games but they don’t really count).

      Despite bunching up in the early aughts with III (2001), Vice City (2002), and San Andreas (2004), I think the GTA games generally have had decent pacing between their releases. Four years between San Andreas and IV, then five years between IV and V.

      I think the three-five year window for sequels is enough to make sure you’re staying in the public mind but also not seem like your churning out the same thing yearly in a different box (“Now with tower defense games!”).

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons

        What I want now is to see some of the other DC heroes filtered through Rocksteady’s continuity. The rumor is that the upcoming Silver Age game is going to jump right into that, but I would like some buildup and a chance to see some of the characters that I’m less familiar with, like The Flash or Wonder Woman.

        • JamesJournal

          Doing a similar Green Arrow or Wonder Woman game would have been a much better and less profitable idea than continuing the Batman Arkham line

          • Drinking_with_Skeletons

            Green Arrow sounds like he’d be pretty awesome to play as, and I know nothing about Green Arrow. But with the success of the CW’s Arrow–which is apparently really good and has actually started drawing from Batman’s lore!–I’d think it is more marketable than a lot of other titles.

      • JamesJournal

        I remember reading a quote from a Rockstar exec saying exactly that “We don’t churn out a GTA every year, which is why GTA is still popular.”

        I lost track of how many Tony Hawk games released been 1999 and 2008ish. The same goes for Rock Band/Guitar Hero and Call of Duty. We do not need a need COD every fucking year.

      • Derek_Noakes

        Rockstar really took advantage of the advent of DLC with this generation of games. Rather than crank out a new GTA every 1-2 years, they waited 4 years, released a major installment (the first to get a new number in nearly a decade), and supported it with story driven DLC that was on par (and in some ways, surpassed) the main story. That kept fans satisfied while they waited 5 years for the next numbered installment. I can only hope that V is given the same treatment, but I fear that online will get the DLC priority.

  • Smilner

    I’ve been playing the game since release, and I have to say that I am enjoying the game well enough. It’s worth my money and my time. The combat is smoothed out some and more complex, with the addition of new types of baddies. As I mentioned above, the Boss Fights are tougher as well, with Deathstroke having me ready to toss the controller a couple times (not always the worst thing). The new gadgets are alright, although I haven’t gotten the ones that from what I have read will break combat. Unless I’m mistaken, starting out with the Launcher seems anachronistic, but I’m not complaining.

    It took a little getting used to for Origins to take place seemingly 5 years ago, but also in 2013 (judging from some supporting cast mannerisms). The Riddler side quest makes more sense than Asylum, but less than City, which is just fine by me. I have mixed feelings about it being just Batman again, instead of splitting time with Catwoman. That whole dynamic has bee covered at length elsewhere though.

    I think the new crime-solving bit got way overhyped by the team: it’s longer and prettier, but it’s still pretty linear button-pushing, not real investigating like, say, Heavy Rain. You’ll get all the stuff, you’ll reach the conclusion. Done. However, I do like that Detective Mode itself seems a lot blurrier when there is not something close by worth looking at. In Asylum (and a lesser degree in City) I found myself in Detective Mode almost exclusively. In Origins, I think I’m now using it more the way it was intended.

    Overall, I’ll put it up there with City. I suppose I’ll agree with what the review was driving at, in that the game doesn’t push forward with grand innovations, but I didn’t really want it to. In the end, I get to be the goddamned Batman, and I think that’s enough for me.

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons

      I don’t mind cutting out Catwoman, since she’s given so little time in City. There’s maybe two hours of content if you include the Riddler and loot reclamation padding and getting from point A to point B for the required missions. If you aren’t going to do much with a second character, don’t bother to include him/her. The split was much better in Harley’s Revenge.

  • Goon Diapers

    Did you just throw out the statement that Arkham City was a disappointing follow-up to Arkham Asylum—as if that was the generally held consensus?

    • Alexander Knox

      It’s not a popular opinion, but it’s one I definitely share with the author. Arkham City is fun, but it feels very unfocused after the very tightly written and implemented Arkham Asylum.

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

      yeah, that’s pretty crazy, personally I think Arkham City totally blows Arkham Asylum out of the water

    • Guywhothinksstuff

      It’s certainly a held opinion by many, but there’s far from a consensus.

      What’s interesting now about video games is that there seems to be more criteria than any other medium for ‘quality’. People are after extremely different things from video games now, and each Arkham game has succeeded in a different area. Asylum had the tight story, City had the epic scale of the ideas, and Origins (what I’ve played of it so far) has a sprawling world with more action than ever before. Which are you after in a video game? Personally, I play video games to test my reflexes and train a lead character, and so I’m enjoying Origins perhaps even more than City (although I’d probably say that City is the best game).

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    now this is a much more reasonable review than Jim Sterling’s click bait trashing of it, I hate that fat fuck and I’m never reading another review of his again

    thanks for being there Gameological

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      I don’t know that I really get Sterling. Lately he seems to be pretty cool with regards to talking about women/minority issues in games, but I remember when he was a huge fucking shithead generically misogynist internet troll. I can only assume he’s motivated by making people angry and getting pageviews.

      I’d never say that someone gave a game a bad review to get clicks, because that’s kind of ridiculous, but that dude rubs me the wrong way. I can’t help but feel he isn’t genuine in most of his work, even though I tend to think he is ok in his opinions lately, it only takes some mild feminist leanings to make internet gamers get pissed.

      • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

        I doubt the dude’s heart is really in the whole women/minority issue in games, he’s just saying what he knows makes him look good and what he knows pisses the “nerds” off

        he seems to have a real love/hate relationship with video games and gamers as a whole, as if he’s actually embarrassed to be a part of it all, I mean why does he take so much glee in insulting and pissing off gamers? for example he used to take potshots at PC gamers before reluctantly finally admitting the benefits of PC gaming (because come on, you’d have to be a TOTAL shithead not to see any benefits at all), why would he feel the need take potshots at PC gamers other than the need to just be an asshole?

        I tell ya what, I really miss Anthony Burch, he was the heart and soul of Destructoid and ever since he left the site has been just a shadow of what it once that I only still visit out of pure force of habit

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I didn’t know who you were talking about, but a quick Google search indicates he’s that enormous human-fedora-style-alpha-nerd who hosts that Yahtzee-also-ran shitty video thing on the Escapist. He doesn’t even seem like someone worth getting worked up about. Just another obnoxious nerd on the internet with a webcam.

  • Derek_Noakes

    It’s kind of weird that calling this “the Rice Krispies of video games” is somehow a compliment. I can agree with the sentiment, though. Like Rice Krispies, I’m enjoying this game and yet I don’t really know why. I agree with nearly all of the negative press it’s received. It feels distinctly second-rate, from the voice acting to the somewhat looser-feeling combat.

    Additionally, the plot feels pretty flimsy in a number of ways. In the Arkham timeline this is only 5 years earlier. Why does everyone sound (and in some cases, look) significantly different? Are we really to believe that Batman encountered almost all of his rogue’s gallery for the first time on a SINGLE NIGHT?

    And lastly, can we have a good Batman game that isn’t about The Joker? This is the second time they’ve advertised a different major villain for one of these games, and *SPOILERS* it just turns out to be Joker, because he’s evidently the only interesting Batman villain.

    And yet despite all of these flaws, I am still enjoying it thoroughly, because Batman.

  • Krokamo

    Does this game have those annoying gliding obstacle courses?

    • Derek_Noakes

      Not that I can tell, so far. It’s kind of weird, because you start with the grappling boost, which was an “experimental technology” in AC that Alfred only reluctantly delivers to you after completing those obstacle courses.

  • German Tivo

    I desperately want a Spider-Man game to be made where it feels like a day in the life rather than a giant mega-ultra-threat-story.