November 21, 2013

Backseat Gamer: Batman: Arkham Origins

I consider video games to be a very legitimate form of entertainment, and just like books, movies or music, some people are especially fond of them, and some just don't take. Video games are no different, and while I am absolutely a lover and player of them, some games just aren't for me. Fortunately, I've a few friends who feel differently towards these games. 'Backseat Gamer' will showcase the games that I was interested enough to watch, but just not cut out to play.
Case in point: Batman: Arkham Origins.

Let me start by explaining why I chose not play Arkham Origins, apart from having no time. I began this journey with my pal Brett (candidate for biggest Batman fanatic ever) who got the game the day it was released and brought it to a gathering for everyone to check out. We concluded that the game was reasonably similar to the previous 'Arkham' series Batman games. I should probably mention that I did play Arkham Asylum a few years back, and found it pretty difficult to stick to, but a decent game overall. Brett was with me for most of that playthrough as well and he really held my hand through it, and took over some of the bits that I was too fed up to continue through. This is what mainly fueled my declination of Arkham Origins. I find the controls are a bit too cumbersome, the mechanics a bit too dense, and I sometimes struggle to figure out what to do, as there is so much you can do. I'm sure, as with most games, you get used to it after a while, but with all the other games I have on my plate right now, AO just failed to present enough interest for me to insist on playing it myself. I'm glad I watched Brett play though! The game has a few neat features but the story only answers a handful of questions. I certainly found it enthralling enough to stick around for the day-and-a-half it took Brett to conquer it, but all in all, I'm not as enthused as some Batman fans.
warning: may contain spoilers

Arkham Origins takes place a few years prior to the events in Arkham Asylum, which is largely why I wanted to see it. I expected Origins to end, more or less, with the events that begin Asylum and thought that would be worth investing time into.
Obviously I can't tell you much about any new controls and gameplay mechanics, other than the fact that Batman really walks you through it. Brett is a pretty seasoned Batman gamer and yet our hero still found time to repeat himself and suggest what to do next.
And then there's glue grenades. What the hell.
Brett says gameplay is similar to the previous titles and that combat is a bit less exciting. I helped solve the puzzles.

The story in AO is so-so. I thought the setup was really cool, the way that they incorporated a bunch of Batman villains made it seem like the game was going to be a long hunt with a ton of boss battles. But sooner than later it's revealed that it's all the Joker's doing and the rest of the villains are kind of null and void. That's really the only "twist" in the game, which is really disappointing. The whole debacle with Alfred back at Wayne Manor was a close second, but the way it was handled sort of stunk. I felt the "younger Batman" approach wasn't terribly consistent. It suits the premise just fine, but with all the Batman knowledge I've got rolling around in my noggin, this Batman didn't seem terribly unrefined to me. The writing wavered between absolutely bloody hilarious to ridiculously cheesy.
In short: while still entertaining, I found the story lacked continuous excitement, and was really predictable. There was so much potential, as there always is with the caped crusader, and I'm pretty let down by the lack of creativity in Origins.

On twitter, TheTernes mentioned the fact that A LOT of Batman story lines are centered around the Joker, and he thought that it was getting kind of old. As much as I love the Joker (not only my favorite Batman villain, but one of the greatest in comic book history) - and I understand that he's considered Batman's archenemy - the more I think about this, the more I agree. It would be nice to see them really emphasize another Batman villain more, and leave the Joker out entirely. They still could have set up the AA story without depending on the Joker for the entirety of this game as well. I'll also mention that the way Bane is presented in this game makes me further appreciate Bane in the most recent Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. I was pretty impressed by that Bane to begin with, but the Bane in Arkham Origins just reminds me why I never gave a damn about Bane to begin with. Bane Bane Bane. Boring! I also dislike Alfred. In every Batman medium I have ever known, Alfred is always a very lovable character, but in AO he just pisses me off. He's not as wise or witty as he usually is. I'm not impressed by this portrayal.
I also noticed that there are a few new voice actors in AO - namely Batman - I honestly can't find fault in them though. I simply miss what I know. The new guys did a fine job, and taking over an icon like Batman is a tall order. I'm looking at you Affleck...

In the end, I have no desire the revisit this or really any of the Arkham games. They're just not for me, and if this is the level of creativity we can expect, I'm a hard pass.

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