Friday, 25 October 2013

Batman: Arkham Origins - The First Impressions

So... the wait is finally over. Batman Arkham Origins has been released around the world. For once, being an Aussie really paid off for me and I was able to unlock the game on Steam on Thursday night (as opposed to Saturday for most of the world). I've played about 3 to 4 hours of it so far, and I have to say I'm impressed.

Hello old friend.
There was some trepidation from fans of the previous two Arkham games about the change in developer. Rocksteady Studios did an absolutely fantastic job of taking a licensed product and turning it into a game, so when it was announced that it would be Warner Bros. Games Montreal developing some people were unhappy with the change. Having played it now however, those fears are almost unfounded. The gameplay feels extremely similar to Arkham City and the stand out parts of the previous games (the combat and stealth mechanics) are intact and almost untouched.

Batman is different however. As Arkham Origins is set before the previous two games, you are dealing with a younger, more inexperienced but more raw and aggressive Batman. There is also a change of costume for the caped crusader, with him using his armoured suit rather than the more sleek suit that we have become used to from the previous games. The change makes sense considering the story line of the game, with Batman taking on assassins, regular criminals and the police. Oh yeah, I might have forgot to mention: because it is set before Gordon is commissioner, Batman is still wanted by the police and some corrupt parts of the force are actively hunting him for a payoff from the criminals.

The combat is still as visceral and flows as well as the previous games. The controls on PC still make sense, with one minor issue of not being able to bind anything to my side button on my mouse (as I usually change any middle mouse button binds to this). The addition of the new martial arts expert makes for some interesting new scenarios were you have to counter then counter again to do maximum damage. The "boss" battles that I have experienced so far have all been different enough that I feel satisfied with each of them when I beat them. The stealth side of the gameplay is also just as fun. Taking a criminal down from a vent feels very satisfying and pulling off the perfect combo of downing bad guys without being seen is still as rewarding as ever.

On a slightly different note, there are a few bugs that I have encountered in the game. The first time I launched the game it got to the point where you had to click to get into the menu and the game crashed. During the stealth tutorial all sound disappeared from the game world. And finally, keeping in mind I am playing on PC, I have had the game freeze for a good 30 seconds when changing zones. If you haven't already purchased the game, I'd consider waiting until the first patch to buy it if you feel you wouldn't like to experience these.

My only other gripe is some small things about the games world. The map is fantastic, with the top island containing a lot of familiar sights from Arkham City, including the steel factory that The Joker called his own. The south island is full of high rise buildings and dark alleys that suit Gotham perfectly. However because of the lack of civilians, I find myself wondering if I am back in Arkham City again, where the world is full of either cops, criminals and a handful of victims. Also I get the Christmas theme, but did we really need snow again?

All in all I think Warner Bros. Games Montreal have done a fantastic of emulating the amazing work of Rocksteady Games with the previous two Arkham games. The fears I had about changing too much of the formula that RS had established were completely unfounded, as WB seem to have adopted an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to the development of Arkham Origins. In my opinion, if you are a Batman fan you'll already own this game. If you haven't played Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, pick up Origins as it won't ruin any of the story of the previous two games. If for some reason you aren't a fan of the Dark Knight (the character, not the movie), but still want a fun game, pick it up and see what you think. The gameplay stands up well enough on its own that you will find yourself enjoying the game regardless of who you are playing.

For now though, I have to go back to beating criminals to a pulp. As always!
Please read in Christian Bales Batman voice.

Edit: Since playing 9 hours of the game, I would definitely recommend waiting for the first patch. There are parts of the game that have some bugs preventing you from continuing, specifically one of the radio towers locks you into a room with a vent you can climb up to but not enter. That being said, the game is still very good and the end of the main story is not what I expected, but perfect.

Edit #2: The patch to fix the issues with the radio tower has been released for PC.

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