Arkham Reruns

Today I step outside of my usual genre for reviews to cover Batman: Arkham Origins.  I am not what most would consider a power gamer.  I tend to stick with games that I know I enjoy, and play them into the ground instead of constantly trying new things.  But I do care about story, and some of the better superhero stories to come out in the past few years has been Rocksteady and Detective Comics’ Batman games.  So when the latest addition to the trilogy came about I set my movie time aside and prepared to play a movie worth watching yet again.

Twenty-four hours later I am trying to shake off my disappointment.  Twice I had to restart my machine because Warner Brothers’ all-invasive log in options glitch and freeze the game before it even begins.

Warner Brothers has replaced Rocksteady, the game creators, for a larger corporate production team, and the results function much like handing one’s magnum opus over to the efficient and productive minds of the United States Post office.  Other experts can give reviews about mechanics, multiplayer levels, and character cameos.  I want to deal with story and gameplay, which is nothing more than the story as you experience it.

As a storyteller characteristic introductions are important to me, and the opening of this game says a lot.  Both of the game’s predecessors used interactive controls to make the player part of an unfolding storyline.  One literally walked through the walkthrough, as it were.  Now the player has nothing to do but sit back and watch graphics that are less finely defined than Arkham City‘s 3D rendering, while being completely passive.  That opening is in fact characteristic, in that the sequel to the excellent sandbox games has done away with much of the predecessor’s freedom.  The opening fight with Killer Croc does not just force you to use one tactic, it forces you into a specific corner to finish the tactic.  There and there only are you allowed to defeat your enemy.  I have already had to restart the entire game twice because if you make one wrong turn in the Penguin’s boat the doors you’ve opened re-lock and auto-save traps you below decks forever.  End of story: Batman dies of starvation in a barge with no sign warning “Don’t turn here.”  It is bad enough if it weren’t several hours into the game.  Leveling up has been put on rails as well, as I am only allowed four or so choices for what to enhance next, instead of the list of thirty from the previous games.  Achievements are also locked into sequence.  It doesn’t matter if you have performed the task a hundred times moving about the city, it only counts when it is that achievement’s turn.

The automatic controls for viewpoints when gliding aren’t as free as previous games.  Many times you have to just hit the grapple button with no way of seeing what you’re aiming at, or selecting a different target.  Counter-productive point of view pivots in action fighting can make you miss your target completely, and for the first time in a third-person point of view game, I find myself losing fights because the camera won’t show me who is hitting Batman in the back of the skull.

Arkham City was a wonderful exploring adventure.  If you have explored there, then you are prepared for Arkham Origins, which copies the last game’s map in nearly every detail.  There is no new world waiting for you after your sixty dollars, just new adventures to be had in a less-destroyed version of last game’s maps.

As an expansion pack to Arkham City, this game fairs pretty well.  It has the same map, same fight choreography, same moves, same tactics, and most of the same bad guys.  If you are looking for something new and exciting, may I suggest a good book or a nice walk instead.  It will be more bang for your buck.

[Edit]

This might be the worst review I’ve ever read. You talk about how the map is exactly the same without noting the fact that Origin’s map is double the size of City’s. And doesn’t the fact that the Origins map is similar to City map make sense? After all, it’s only been 5 years, last I checked, cities don’t undergo dramatic, landscape altering changes in 5 years. Also in this game we get Anarky, Deathstroke, Copperhead, and Firefly among others so there are plenty of new rogues to take on. This is a great game and a worthy addition to the Arkham franchise

Taking into consideration objections:
The map is 5x larger.  Yes.  But they saved a million dollars on concept art for original ideas.  And in the time since I wrote this first review I’ve discovered more game-ending glitches that require an X-Box reboot.  First, the Warner Brothers ID screen glitches and freezes before you get to the save game menu.  Five minutes of my life later I gave up and restarted the console.  As a special treat Batman clipped his way to the interior of a wall in the expanded map.  Back to the auto-save.  Just now the latest freeze-up involved running across a rooftop with enhanced vision on.  None of the Rocksteady games had these glitches.

The grapple gun glitch on the expanded map becomes even more aggravating later on in the game when travel plays a larger role.  The game auto-selected targets actually behind Batman to completely reverse his course while city traveling, which derails any time constraints, can ruin several puzzles, and severely limits the ease of travel.

The number of famous faces from before are nice, but the boss variety doesn’t undo the problem that the boss battles are on tighter rails than before.  Hit Y, pause, and mash A or B is the tactic to use, no matter which bad guy they have animated in front of you.  It is not only unoriginal, but it takes away from gamer choice.  If a video game is to be part of the story, interacting with it, then every quick-time event slapped into a fight takes away from gamer choice.  The fight does not become a question of whether or not you can figure out a path to victory, but whether you can twitch fast enough.  The thinking is done for you in a detective hero’s story.  Unimpressive.

Batman’s new magic sensor vision is over the top.  Now he does not need to put together ideas from clues.  His magic helmet can draw new information out of thin air.  Never mind that that the computer has no data about a key card to use to extrapolate from.  The computer can magically deduce that the card existed and show you where it landed on top of scanning it, analyzing it, and making Julian fries.  The logic falls apart here, and with it goes verisimilitude in story.  Sometimes this is less blatant than others, like Black Mask’s apartment.  But other times it is a deus ex machina that has to be seen to be believed.  In order to tell a good hero story, a hero needs limits, and the ability to recreate video of one room over from a smudge on the wall is beyond belief.  The Floyd Lawton storyline from Arkham City observed this limitation very well.  This power ranks up there with other epic DC hero movie and media fails, like the classic Batman Bat-shark-repellant, to Superman’s “rebuilding the great wall vision” in a Superman, a Quest for Peace.

The rogue’s gallery is interesting, but with more glitches and a few less options in every category of game play, the bonuses do not outweigh the irritations.

One thought on “Arkham Reruns

  1. This might be the worst review I’ve ever read. You talk about how the map is exactly the same without noting the fact that Origin’s map is double the size of City’s. And doesn’t the fact that the Origins map is similar to City map make sense? After all, it’s only been 5 years, last I checked, cities don’t undergo dramatic, landscape altering changes in 5 years. Also in this game we get Anarky, Deathstroke, Copperhead, and Firefly among others so there are plenty of new rogues to take on. This is a great game and a worthy addition to the Arkham franchise

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