Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel. Six words into the review and you’re probably already shifting uneasily in your seat, and I really don’t blame you – prequels don’t have the best reputation around. As a prequel, Arkham Origins has the monumental task of both following Batman: Arkham City, and leading to Batman: Arkham Asylum – two critically-acclaimed and very successful games. Warner Bros. Games Montreal, the studio that took the Batman reins from Rocksteady, has chosen a rather safe approach in order to accomplish said task; maybe one that’s a little too safe.

Contrary to what you might think, Batman: Arkham Origins is not an origin story per se. You don’t get to follow Bruce Wayne’s transformation from a lonely little boy to the world’s greatest detective. No, the Batman in Arkam Origins is already a fully-fledged justice machine, with all the moves, gadgets and know-how of the Batman from the last two Arkham games. True, he is a little rougher around the edges and doesn’t have as strong a sense of purpose – and that could be said about the entire game in general.

Instead of re-telling the story about the rising of the Dark Knight, Origins focuses on a young Batman, one that is still learning what it means to deliver justice and not vengeance. It seems like he’s been doing a pretty good job at it, since he has managed to piss off almost every crime boss in Gotham City, enough for one them – Black Mask – to put a price of $5 million on his head. This bounty has attracted the attention of some of the most iconic villains in the DC universe: Deathstroke, Bane, Deadshot, Killer Croc and others. Now all Batman has to do is survive Christmas Eve and save the city from the clutches of a new criminal mastermind we are all too familiar with.

To do so, the Bat has to use every trick he knows, like gliding and zipping around the city, punching dudes in the face, investigating crime scenes, collecting doodads and delivering swift justice with assorted gadgets. We’ve seen (most of) it before in Arkham City, so if you played that game you know exactly what to expect. Everything that was good is there: Batman is still a very capable fighter, so the hand-to-hand combat (which Origins seems to have a lot of) is still as fluid and fun to execute, and the stealth segments are as exhilarating and intense as you remember them. Alas, everything that wasn’t so fun, like the finicky controls and the spastic camera in combat, makes an unwelcome return as well. The gadgets are the same (for the most part), and so are the combat moves and the enemies; even most of the villains Batman encounters through the main and side missions have graced the series with their presence before. There’s almost nothing that sets Arkham Origins’ single-player campaign apart from the previous games in the franchise, and what does is only skin-deep.

But since I’m not writing a review of Batman: Arkham City, let’s talk about the new features in Batman: Arkham Origins. We do have some new variation of gadgets, like the Glue Grenade that replaces the Freeze Grenade from the last two games, or the Remote Grapple, which is a better (and way more fun) version of the Line Launcher. However, the highlights of the gadget department are the new Shock Gloves. Not only can Batman use them to power generators around the game’s open world, but they are also very effective in combat – allowing him to chain together critical strikes, hit damage armored enemies and, of course, boost the multiplier considerably.

Speaking of which, another thing that got the “bigger and better” treatment is the game’s map. It now consists of more of Gotham City for Batman to explore, including the iconic Batcave, though for some obscure reason, it doesn’t really feel bigger; it is probably thanks to the new fast travel system that lets you use the Batwing to get around quickly and avoid the riff-raff on the ground. You’ll be thankful for the added mobility, since you’ll be racing around the place trying to complete every activity and encounter all the villains. There are a lot more side-missions in Arkham Origins, with new bad guys to take down or crimes to solve. A lot of them utilize the new crime scene investigation feature: Gone are the days of simply wondering around the crime scene and scanning blood stains and bullet holes (though you still do that) – now Batman has to actually recreate the timeline of events in order to figure out what went down and who’s to blame. It’s probably the best new idea in the game, and it really makes you feel like the world’s best detective instead of the world’s best conclusion-jumper.

But the most obvious addition to the Arkham universe is the multiplayer mode, developed by Splash Damage (Brink, Enemy Territory). Six players take the role of two rival gangs, one headed by Bane and the other by Joker, fighting over territory in a third-person shooter kind of gameplay, while an additional duo play as Batman and Robin as they try to stealthily pick off the gang members. On paper, this asymmetric mode sounds great. Gangbangers need to constantly worry about both bullets and batarangs, while the silent predators must bide their time and swoop in to pick off the baddies one by one. In reality, neither the shooting nor the swooping offer much satisfaction. Batman and Robin feel more like environmental hazards that need to be taken into account than a real and present danger, and the stealth element is done better in the single-player campaign.

After reading all this you might think Batman: Arkham Origins is less than perfect, and you’d be right; we’ve seen, and will probably continue to see, better Batman games. But when it comes right down to it, Arkham Origins is definitely a good game. Everything that’s new (including the great job done by the two main voice actors Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker) is just enough to make the game worthwhile. Its problem is that it isn’t as good as we came to expect from the Arkham series. Instead of exploring a younger, less experienced Dark Knight, this Batman is paradoxically already set in his old ways. It just feels way too safe – and therefore a little boring. In the end, Batman: Arkham Origins doesn’t live up to its name: it doesn’t tell an origin story, nor is it very original.

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