Now, when I first saw previews for this game, I wasn’t all that excited. The track record for Origin stories is bad. Let’s all be willing to admit that. But, as I got to learn more and more about it, I became more interested. Ironically, it was the reverse of what happened with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. That game, I was interested until I got to learn about it. That and after the shitty ending to III, I kind of got AC out of my system. But, with that said, let’s talk about this game. First thing you should know – it is a very different kind of game from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. However, that’s not a bad thing, in this case. This game is still very fun. Is it as good as Arkham City (the best in the franchise thus far, I don’t care if you agree with me or not)? No. It is more like Arkham Asylum, with a much bigger space to roam around in. In fact, it is the game with the most space thus far.
So, following my formula, let’s first look at the plot. One of my little nitpicks is involved with this. Unlike its predecessors, this game gives you a very short introduction and just throws you into it. While the other two kind of did that, they both had a premise that was one that you were able to latch onto. Part of the reason that Arkham City is the best of the series is that it has an amazing opening that gets your blood pumping. This game doesn’t have that. In fact, the acts of this game are a little hard to follow. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Up front, they say that this game takes place about five years before the events of Arkham Asylum. I am going to call bullshit on that right now. Given what I saw in the previous games, along with what characters talked about and how they looked and sounded, this game is, at the very least, ten years prior. For me, I thought it was 15 or 20, but that’s neither here nor there. The plot goes that Batman stops Black Mask at Blackgate Prison, only to find out that there are eight assassins who are after him. He has one night stop them all, and they have one night to kill him. Meanwhile, there are lots of other of his typical guests who have come to the party. Since this is an Origin story, they treat it like they are first meeting, and it is handled well. The scenes where Batman is talking to “Enigma” (before he was The Riddler) were just hilarious. The clock is ticking while the city is coming apart at the hands of the very worst of those that Batman has had to deal with. There is one party-crasher, however, who makes things go from bad to worse. I probably don’t have to tell you who that is.
So, I want to say again that I think that this game is fun. I have enjoyed it a great deal and having a new studio to work on it didn’t do that much damage. But, there are a few things that I want to bring issue to that kind of got under my skin. With open world games, the biggest thing that can work against them is that they don’t feel lived in. The previous games in the Arkham franchise never suffered from this. The world was always incredibly detailed and there were lots of conversations with thugs that you could hear, making it so that you were always in-the-know about what was going on. This game, on the other hand, doesn’t have that. How they cover it is pretty smart. They have a really bad blizzard going on, so the people are staying indoors and the detail isn’t that big an issue because the world is covered in white. It works okay, but it is a bit of an annoyance.
The second major issue I have is that this is supposed to be an Origin story, and yet you have the same gadgets that you did in previous games. In fact, it feels like most of your toys got an upgrade. I kept hoping that I would have to really dig into a crime scene and dissect it, to do the detective angle more raw. It is still cool in this game, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that the toys that were in development in the last game, which takes place (to me) about 15-20 years later, are something you immediately have, it’s kind of a button-issue.
Those are the biggest of my gripes. So, let’s talk about what I like. While the over-world environments are not especially detailed, the interior locations are awesome! Since the game is set on Christmas Eve, the way they use colored lights is just awesome. The use of color in this game definitely pops. Since I have it on console, there are sometimes texture pop-in issues, but it isn’t so bad that it got in the way. The characters all look great too.
Now, another nitpick of mine is that I don’t like the guy they got to replace Kevin Conroy in this game. With that said, I cannot tell you how much I love Troy Baker’s interpretation of the Joker. This is a man who has shown his voice-acting chops in three amazing games this year (including this one). It is clear that he doesn’t just do a role. He gets into it. He clearly took some cues from Mark Hamill’s portrayal, because he is faithful to it. The look of the new character is nice too, but true to its roots. I cannot tell you how much I like that character. I also loved the guy they had doing Enigma’s (Riddler’s) voice. They got the same guy they had in Arkham City, and his snide wit was just too much. He owns that role, and I hope they keep in for what I feel will be the final installment in this franchise (the sequel to Arkham City).
I also love the boss fights. Since you are fighting assassin’s in this game, it makes sense that you can’t make many mistakes. On Hard level difficulty, you have only one or two mistakes you can make, and after that, you’re done! Let me tell you, the Deadshot final confrontation on Hard was the most nerve-wracking thing that I have ever done. But my personal favorite boss fight in this game was Copperhead. How they animated her flexibility was awesome, and they even had some fun with a toxin that she uses on people and having it fuck with Batman. It is intense! So much fun.
So, what rating do I give this game? I didn’t cover half the little nitpicks that I have with it, because I know that that would bore you to tears, but there are some issues. It is fun, but it is not what its predecessors were. I know that I shouldn’t judge it next to them, but it can’t be helped. Arkham City raised the pedestal for a superhero game so high that a prequel could never reach those heights. But for fans of the franchise, have no fear. It is a good game and very worth your time. I think that I have come up with a fair rating to give it.
8 out of 10