Written By: Christopher Colon

Batman: Arkham Origins (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, PC-DVD) – A spoiler-free review
By Christopher Colon

Full Disclosure: I will try to keep my obvious bias in check. I have a Batman symbol tattoo, I’ve found all 440 Riddler trophies in Batman Arkham City and happily pre-ordered this game over a month ago.

As in any trilogy, Batman: Arkham Origins has the benefit of having two games worth of narrative to work with, but also has the pressure of keeping the momentum of it’s predecessors and is still expected to deliver even more to the table. Add in the fact that, a newbie studio, Warner Brothers Montreal has tackled this project after getting the reigns from Rocksteady (a British subsidiary of Warner Brothers) that had established it’s unique take of the Batman universe. Back in 2009, Rocksteady was the dark horse studio, with just one game under their belt, and yet produced the fan and critically acclaimed, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman Arkham City. This isn’t Warner Brothers Montreal’s first foray with the Caped Crusader, they had ported over Arkham City to the Nintendo Wii U. So they had a little bit of practice.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Warner Brothers Montreal doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it just makes the wheel bigger and puts spinners on that bad boy. There was a huge leap in quality and size between Asylum and City. Origins does double the size of City, and only replaces 3 of the 13 weapons. Ice grenades are now replaced with Glue grenades. When in the past two games, you searched for cleverly hidden Riddler Trophies, the contraptions are still as tricky but now you are looking for Hard Drives filled with scandalous info the Riddler plans to to use to blackmail politicians. Now instead of tracking down the Zsasz murders you are trying to locate and diffuse bombs set by a bubble-jacketed Anarky (doing his version of the Occupy Wall Street thing in Gotham). Before, the constant snowing was attributed to a Mr. Freeze device, now it’s because it’s Christmas Eve.

If the name didn’t tip you off, Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel. My first knee-jerk reaction was that this was just lazy writing, but now that I’ve played the game, I can see that the writers wanted to delve a bit deeper (and relevantly) into the first time Batman meets the Joker, Bane, The Penguin, Deadshot, Commissioner Gordon, Barbara Gordon and Black Mask. Seeing that the bad guys survive to see the sequels, I think is safe to say they aren’t truly defeated. Unfortunately, comic fans, this game isn’t based on the “Batman: Year One” comic and technically, this Batman has been doing his vigilante act for about two years now. There are references to “Knightfall” “The Killing Joke” and “Mad Love.”

You will be familiar to navigating Gotham City, if you have already fought crime in it’s future incarnation Arkham City. Some of the landmarks have moved, but part of the fun is finding out why. But without the retrofitted prison walls up, you can now head south on the Pioneers Bridge towards the other half of New Gotham. Now the streets are lined with corrupt cops, and gang inductees instead of felons and political prisoners. Where are all the women? No wonder Gotham is such a craphole, even before the walls went up. Of course, the six women that DO exist in this universe are drop dead gorgeous.

Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have not returned as the voices of the Batman and The Joker, respectively. I tried to Google a solid answer for this and came up empty handed. Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker are now the new Dark Knight and Clown Prince of Crime. Roger and Troy do a good job, although they had HUGE shoes to fill. Christopher Drake, composer for many recent DC Universe animated movies, arranges the music for Origins (although I have to say that the main theme sounds very similar to John Murphy’s “In the House, In a Heartbeat” aka the theme from 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later) Also a bit of the score seems to be public domain Christmas music. Budgetary reasons? It appears all the returning voices from City have reprised their roles.

Is this more like Arkham City 2.5? Batman gets poisoned, fights in hallucinations, he can’t swim and he still can’t punch people off of rooftops. Most of the game needs to be played in detective mode to give you any idea where to go next. One nagging complaint I have, is that the important fighting mechanic “counter” seems a bit unresponsive, I keep getting sucker punched by thugs after clearly hitting the button. Was this done on purpose? Is this a lesser trained Batman that gets hit more? Is the triangle button on my PS3 controller not working? Whatever the answer is, I don’t like it.

I’m going to gloss over the fact that this game now has online play. Only because I’m not into that kind of thing and I grow tired of having a 12 year old from Missouri kicking my ass on a daily basis.

Final Results: BUY IT, if you are into anything from the DC universe, (there are references to Soder Cola, Big Belly Burger and Queen Industries) BUY IT, if you liked the previous two games. BUY IT if you like action games that aren’t totally nonstop violence. BUY IT, because it has handled the mythos with respect, although it wasn’t much, but a repackaging of Batman: Arkham City. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

My Score: 9.5 out of 10

Contributing writer, Christopher Colon is co-host of TWO STRANGERS ONE PODCAST ( http://www.2s1p.com ) and his book DOUBLE JACKPOT can be purchased at ( http://www.DoubleJackpot.us )

BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS software © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. developed by WB Games Montréal and Splash Damage. BATMAN and all characters, their distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics © 2013. All Rights Reserved. WB GAMES LOGO, WB GAMES MONTREAL, WB SHIELD: ™ & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.(s13) “All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners. All rights reserved.