The Batman Arkham series is truly something great. For me, it was the first time that a game adapted a comic book hero, and instead of some poor movie or kids show tie in game, British developer Rocksteady, took a grown up approach and created the gaming equivalent of a Graphic Novel Experience for fans of Batman. There is a lot of love and admiration for it as a series and for its original developer.
It was always going to be a difficult third game for this series. Following on from the success and acclaim from the industry and fans to Arkham City, especially with how the story was left at its conclusion, it was a real shock for Warner Brothers to announce that Rocksteady Studios was not going to be involved in development of the next game. Instead Warner Announced that their newest studio, WB Montreal, would be developing the third game, and instead of following on from Arkham City in story, it would be a prequel to the series, and called Arkham Origins. We would have new Voice actors in Troy Baker (joker) and Roger Craig Smith (Batman) as Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill chose not to continue and the original writers for the games also moved on. Topping off with the announcement of a newly added MP mode which Rocksteady made a public fact of not wanting to include, and what you had was a mixture for a series killing title…..oh dear.
So, this isnt a review, just a commentary on how the release has gone for Origins. As a game, it is essentially Arkham City 2.0, as Rocksteady gave all their tools for the game to WB Montreal to use, no doubt saved a whole bunch on development costs and time for WB Montreal. The Story mode now has two Game Plus modes, this means once you complete the story mode for the first time, you can replay it keeping your XP level, gadgets and skills from that first playthrough into the next but this time it will be much harder, such as the counter warning symbols are removed and boss fights much tougher. Very keen to try out the “I am the Night” mode!
The Story itself, is amazing. The Premis of having a young Batman, only into his second year of crime fighting is very much a “Year One” feeling of a story. Batman has yet to form the friendships we know he has and seen in the first two games, which means that pretty much everyone sees him as a danger and a bad guy, from the villains to the police to those he will later call friends. The tone is a darker one, Bruce Wayne is a much angrier aggressive Batman, all he sees is “the Mission” and for that the new voice actor choice of Roger Craig Smith works so well, does take some getting used to after knowing the voice of Conroy so well, but he makes the part his own and you do believe he is very much a young Bruce Wayne Batman.
The main story is well written and the game has enough side quests, like Arkham City to keep you with things outside of the main story to explore the world and some familiar activities have a new look to them such as The Riddler “trophies” which are now portions of files Edward Nigma plans to use to extort control from powerful people and control Gotham. Each one is locked away by puzzles which as before, requires Bats to work out using his intellect and gadgets to complete and recover the files.
So Origins has earned its place alongside Asylum and City, and instead of singing its praises as a satisfied Bat-Fanboy, sadly its release and my experience has been tainted by the multiple technical issues plaguing the game on release.
Its rare that any game gets released issue free, sadly its the norm to expect a game to have problems, especially if it has a Multiplayer mode, which origins does but more on that to come. But my experience with the story mode was severely hampered by the constant freezing issues many are now reporting across Xbox 360 and PS3. The following is what plagued me yesterday on my playthrough:
- When trying to go to a cutscene
- When coming out of a cutscene
- Bringing up the map
- Trying to Level up and select an upgrade
- Being notified you can level up
- going through a door from the outside
- When trying to verify WBID
- Middle of a fight with more then ten enemies
- When in the middle of a free flow using Shock Gauntlets
Each instance requires restarting the console and hoping that the save game has not been corrupted or damaged because of the freezing and at least that the most recent save checkpoint puts you near to where you were at the point the game froze but for me I had to redo some missions because of it. Once or twice can be forgiven but I had 5 freezes all in 15 mintues. That is just not acceptable for a game thats less then 72 hours old from release.
The silence from Warner Brothers on the issues is also annoying. They are still in the “just released game promotion” bit on social media so not really paying much attention to people reporting the issues but so many are all saying the same thing now. Its not about the “game” now but I have to question how it made it through the testing stage with so many issues breaking the experience like the freezing. It had a title update on day one, can only imagine how bad the game must have been in for the patch to leave the game in the unstable mess it currently is in.
As for the Multiplayer, each game requires 8 peopl for a 3 Vs 3 Vs 2 match mode where 6 people make up two teams of Joker and Bane’s gangs whilst two get to be Batman and Robin. But I couldnt find a game for over two hours of trying over the two days since launch. When I did eventually get in, it was a laggy mess full of the usual Eurotrash connections that plague the UK when regional net coding is used to group player of a region. My first game I was actually picked to be Batman, and it was indeed awesome fun stalking the other teams. Next I was in Banes Gang and I shot Robin, a strange feeling as I am a huge fan of the graphic novel “Death in the Family”.
If it was not for all the technical issues I would be having so much fun with this game but the frustration of the freezing has stopped me continuing to play it, and I wont attempt to try the New Game Plus modes until the freezing has been addressed as it will ruin the experience for me. It is a real shame these problems are plaguing the launch of this title, for it is to the credit of WB Montreal for doing such a great job on the story and the gameplay to let themselves down with all the technical problems now hampering its enjoyment for many fans.
I really hope a patch will be released to address them and quickly, I would hate this game to be added to the list of “released broken” games of 2013 while it could have stood out as one of its better titles of the year.