5. All-New Crime File System a Highlight.
Remember earlier when I said we were playing as the world's greatest detective? One of the best moments comes when you investigate a crime scene at Lacey Towers. Batman has a newly tweaked Crime File System that not only allows you to focus (um, hit X) on a victim's fingerprints, but also create a virtual staging of the crime's timeline. It's a neat effect: you can go through the moment backwards and forwards until you find the clue you need.
The downside is that this new feature is barely used in the game, but when used at the apartment where a double murder took place, evokes chills. Especially when certain evidence pops up which has Batman thinking, "Who is the Joker?!" Woot!
4. Just Who Is the Joker, This Time?
Troy Baker is, that's who! Baker is one the best voice actors in the biz. This year, he's the voice of Joel in The Last of Us, Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite and now he's the Joker. Hamill is deservedly the fan favorite, but Baker does the Clown Prince justice. He's got the laugh down, which is no small feat, but more importantly, his take on this younger, still-forming criminal has a dizzying effect as the story delves deeper into just who just this madman is. It's fascinating to see Batman's nemesis coming into focus.
3. Illusion of Options Is Annoying.
In GTA or Skyrim, an open world doesn't just mean a large map to wander aimlessly. Well, it DOES mean that, but it usually also means giving the player several options to tackle a single problem. Arkham games are not that. That's not an issue for me per se, since pretty much all action games are like this: Tomb Raider, Dead Space, etc. About halfway through the main campaign Batman needs to get into Gotham Merchants Bank. The front door is locked. "It's locked, I'll have to find another way in," says the B man. Okay, but this is a huge building complex with many windows, doors and grates. In Skyrim, the challenge would be, "the front entrance is blocked so do you take your chances with A, B or C?" After looking up and down for ten minutes, I finally came across an entrance that needed to be hacked with my Bat-Crypto thingie.
I don't have a problem with the hacking. What I find annoying is that a game as linear this would rather have me be aimless than just have Batman say something like "Wait, the rooftop usually has a weak fence."
Consider that in The Last of Us there are plenty of times where Joel will come to a boarded up house or fence and need to get in. Wisely, Joel will say something like "that ridge is too to high to climb" so I don't waste time trying to scale it. Batman saying the door is locked is NOT that same thing. It should be about presenting the player with options, sure, but also about player economy.
2. Why Can't I Quit Side Missions? Well, I Can (Sort of).
One down, 199 pigeons to go! - GTA IV
I liked that the Riddler's tasks are a part of the main tale this time. You won't be just collecting Riddler Trophies. Known only as Enigma, the arch-villain-to-be has scrambled various radio towers in Gotham, hampering your ability to use the Batwing. Did I mention that this time Batman can use the Batwing for fast travel? The problem is that Enigma's scrambler means the Batwing can't be accessed until Batman finds those towers and hacks them, and at each tower there's a fun exchange between Batman and Enigma. Essentially these are mini-games, but it works.
There are side missions (real ones) that aren't connected to the main campaign at all, and I ended up doing one for the Mad Hatter. You're put in a Wonderland world that has you moving side-scroller-style. The visuals are great and Hatter is a hoot, but the gameplay is clunky. Yet, when I looked to quit, I couldn't. So I kept at it until I finished. Later, I realized that if I had quit the game entirely I would have been out of Mad's clutches. So technically, you can quit a side quest, but having to jump out of the game proper is ridiculous.
And yet with all these ups and downs the reason I really enjoyed my time in Gotham and look forward to going back...
1. This Origin Is Extremely Memorable.
On Christmas Eve, Batman must hunt down Black Mask, defeat the assassins and uncover the truth behind it all. Throughout, Batman is in constant communication with Alfred, who supplies a lot of the game's best humor and warmth. The previous titles have used the butler less with Oracle taking up a lot of the phone calls. Any fan of the Batman knows Alfred's promise to the Wayne's which is used really well here; there's a sense that Alfred is afraid of losing Bruce altogether to the night. We feel for the old (though not THAT old, he's got some brown hair still!) man.
In Arkham City, Batman and Joker were both on a mission to cure themselves of a deadly poison. That was pretty much the whole game and it didn't hold together. Too many times, Batman would simply get sidetracked to getting the cure. It felt like the game was giving us filler. Origins has a few filler moments too, but character-wise, I always felt like I wanted to do what he wanted.
Verdict: There's nothing like an "Ah, I get it" moment and Origins is filled with them. The highest praise I can give is that right after finishing, I drove to my local GameStop and re-purchased the previous titles. This Dark Knight has truly risen in my estimation.
NOTE: for this review I played on PS3. There were some frame-rate issues/glitches in the last few hours, but yesterday there was a patch, so fingers crossed those issues have been addressed.
Previously by Peter Paras: