“I am vengeance…I am the night…I AM THE BEST FREAKIN’ BATMAN FRANCHISE EVER!”
It’s hard to imagine just how awful Batman games used to be. I still play the original movie-licensed game on the NES from time to time (circa ’89), but just about every major current-gen release since then has been pretty bad. Batman Begins was actually one of the first titles that gave us hope that a game based on the Dark Knight could be done the right way, but even it was just OK.
Then came the Arkham series. I can honestly tell you that some of the most fun times I’ve had in gaming over the last 10 years have happened while playing the Arkham franchise. Now, we get the latest entry into the series with Batman: Arkham Origins . This is a prequel to the original story and is what many of us are considering somewhat of a diversion–a side adventure until Rocksteady retakes the reins and continues the story from where we left off in the last game (with the Joker seemingly dead and Batman being none too happy about that fact).
So strap on your utility belts as I count down my top 10 things I can’t wait to see in the new Origins games (in no particular order).
Bust Some Baddies as the Bat
The great thing about the games in the Arkham series is they actually let you experience what it would be like to BE the Batman. Of course, you have your primary objectives, but that doesn’t mean that while you’re off busting the major crimes in the city, the low-level scum take a night off. You’ll be notifieid of crimes in progress as you zip around Gotham (such as people getting mugged in an alley). At any time, you can swoop down and save the day, earning precious XP in the process.
One nice part of the game design is how the leveling system allows you to purchase new skills a la carte. You’re not forced to acquire things in a pre-set order; thus, if you find a combo or power-up isn’t working for your play style, you can unlock new ones in order to take on multiple assailants. After all, the extensive combat training Bruce Wayne receives is touched on in the upcoming DLC, so it’s important to feel as if you have multiple combat skills at your disposal as Batman.
Fly Little Bat…Fly Fly…
The cape mechanic that allows Batman to glide around the map in previous games is something you may remember as an absolute necessity. It was introduced in Arkham Asylum , but was limited. Even though it came in handy in getting around the island, the map was a bit more enclosed. In Arkham City (and subsequently Arkham Origins ), gliding around the huge open map with your grappling hook and leap frogging from building to building is where you’ll get the real feeling of freedom. I’ve had to restart more than one mission in the past because I got distracted with my cape and didn’t make it in time. Totally worth it though.
Gallery of Rogues
One of the most intriguing elements of the new Origins game is that we get to see a year-two Batman face off against some of his most famous adversaries for the very first time. As Black Mask puts a bounty on the head of the Bat, we see some of the fiercest assassins descend on Gotham to collect. Foes like Deathstroke and Bane will no doubt be fun, but the lesser-known villains such as Firefly look awesome as well. Also, lest we forget, the wild “Joker” card will play into things. (Ha…see what I did there?) It will also be interesting to face off against Captain Gordon (not yet Commissioner), who still sees the Batman as a vigilante.
The Detective Mode in the franchise is one of those little gems that really sets it apart (and makes you feel like an actual detective). Examining crime scenes and tracking bullet trajectories are just snippets of the awesome detective work you’ll do. Also, when stuck in areas I can’t seem to progress in, it’s nice to simply switch over to Detective Mode and get hints on how to traverse obstacles using my grappling hook or explosive gel. I gotta admit, I feel kind of smart when I figure these things out on my own, but the Detective Mode is a sweet piece of bat-tech.
Riddle Me This
For a guy who is rarely seen in the game, The Riddler really makes his mark. The Riddler Trophies return as one of the most frustrating yet addictive aspects of the game. The side-missions have always been a blast and are really entertaining. Arkham City has its own subplot running in tandem with the main story mode, which often times sets up future events for other games (like the “Hush” plot for example). However, the Riddler Trophies are notorious for being difficult to acquire, yet fun enough where you want to “catch ‘em all.”
The City That Never Sleeps
Arkham Asylum was fairly expansive, and Arkahm City opened the world up even more. Now, with Batman being free to roam more of Gotham City, I can only imagine the hours upon hours I’ll spend (as no doubt many of you will) simply exploring the map. You can also traverse into the areas that are considered “Old Gotham,” also known as the future site of Arkham City . Not to mention, we finally get a full-fledged Batcave (not just the dumbed-down version featured in the first game).
The Suit Makes the (Bat)Man
This is one of those little features that has absolutely zero bearing on the outcome of the overall progression of the game, but I LOVE the skins you can acquire! I zipped around Arkham City in the Batman Beyond suit for most of the game, and I visited the spot of my parents’ murder wearing the classic grey/blue Batsuit from the 70’s comics. Origins will also feature a wide variety of Batman (and Robin) skins. Already announced is the Adam West skin (exclusive for the PlayStation version) as well as an Infinite Earths pack (among others).
The More the Merrier
In a new addition to the franchise, we get a 3v3v2 mode (I may have just made that name up, but it seems to make sense). The multiplayer mode will feature players battling it out in Blackgate prison as a member of one of three teams under the flag of Bane, the Joker, or the Dynamic Duo. Much like you’d see in traditional shooters, players can control their loadouts of weapons and gadgets, and they can even earn unlockable skins that are exclusive to this mode (like the Batsuit from the Animated Series). Did I mention how much I love new skins?
To Be Continued…
As a huge Bat-fan, I’ve always felt one of the most well done aspects of the Arkham franchise is the story. The developers have managed to craft a tale rooted in the mythos (in many ways I feel like I’m watching a mature version of the classic cartoon), yet everything is done in a fresh way. I know these characters inside and out; I’m familiar with many of the storylines, yet I feel like I’m seeing plots unfold for the very first time. That’s no easy task for source material that’s well over 70-years old.
I really don’t have to sell you on this game, as you probably will have either played or plan to play it by the time you read this. Now, I’ve not gotten a chance to test run Origins yet, which is being developed by a different studio than the previous two. However, based on what I’ve seen, I have to imagine you owe it to yourself as a gamer to try it out (even if you’re not a Batman fan).
But that’s just crazy talk…of course you’re a Batman fan. Who isn’t?