Batman: Arkham Origins ReviewClayMeow - November 19, 2013
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Batman: Arkham Origins
As in the previous games, there are essentially two types of enemy encounters: Combat Encounters and Predator Arenas. Both are also available in a plethora of optional Challenge Maps, which extend replayability even further (more on that later). Combat Encounters are where you deal with enemies using brute force, mostly via melee attacks. On the surface, combat may look simplistic, but it's anything but. Using default keyboard and mouse controls (which I find extremely natural, fluid, and responsive), you left-click to punch, right-click to counter, middle-click to cape-stun, and double-tap spacebar to vault or dodge. The game also supports gamepads, if that's your preference.
Timing is absolutely critical, maybe even more so in Origins than the previous games. As I mentioned earlier, Origins seems to throw a lot more enemies at you, plus does a great job of mixing up enemy types. If you intend to get a good rating – or in some cases even survive – you need to be fully aware of everything around you, all cues, and be lightning quick to respond. When you successfully connect on three consecutive hits (counters count), you enter Free Flow Mode. While in Free Flow, you move quicker, cover more ground between attacks, and can eventually deploy special maneuvers to dispatch enemies even easier. It's basically the portion of the game that makes you feel like a complete badass – just as Batman should be portrayed.
Maintaining Free Flow is absolutely essential, especially if you want a good rating. Doing so is a lot easier than it sounds though, mainly because of the aforementioned smattering of different enemy types. Unless you have Shock Gloves deployed (charged up over time after you unlock them), attacking armored enemies without stunning them breaks your combo and ends Free Flow. Same goes with attacking an enemy carrying a shield, while a new enemy type, martial artists, can evade, block, and counter attack, seriously screwing up timing. The issues arise from the targeting system – or rather the lack thereof. The lack of an active targeting system is nothing new for the series – and I actually like that the game doesn't handhold you – but it does mean that you'll often think you're aiming toward one enemy and accidentally hit a different one. Or you're just moving so quickly between targets while in Free Flow that you fail to notice the enemy you just targeted was armored.
In the regular story mode, enemy attacks are cued: blue lightning bolts mean you need to counter (and if multiple occur at once, your right-clicking better match that number), yellow bolts mean it's a bladed attack and you have to do an evade-counter, and red bolts mean you better get out of the way, either via a roll or vault, because the attack cannot be countered. Blue is the most common, while red occurs by shielded enemies, venom-infused enemies (Bane's henchmen), and certain boss attacks. In New Game Plus, you'll be on your own to figure out when an enemy is attacking and what type of attack it is. Aside from punching, countering, and cape-stunning, you can also deploy gadgets in the middle of fights. While you can use gadgets manually, doing so will break your combo. Instead, all combat-capable gadgets can be quickly implemented by double-tapping their associated hot key. For example, double-tapping '2' throws out your bat-claw, which can pull enemies toward you for a devastating blow during Free Flow or, if unlocked and upgraded, can disarm enemy weapons. Gadgets deployed in this double-tapping manner are referred to as quick-fire gadgets.
Aside from a better rating and score, the reason maintaining Free Flow is so crucial during large scale battles is because reaching certain thresholds allows you to deploy special combo maneuvers. Initially the threshold is eight, while you can eventually upgrade to get that down to a five and also the ability to hold onto two at once. When you have a special combo to use, by default you can press 'E' to perform a single takedown of any non-boss, 'R' to perform a Bat Storm to stun most enemies around you, 'T' to perform a Multi Ground Takedown, or 'Y' to Disarm and Destroy. In addition, you can eventually unlock the ability to instead opt to use your special combo to deploy a super-powered quick-fire gadget.
One last major aspect of combat in Origins, which I briefly mentioned earlier, is the Shock Gloves – a new addition to the series. Once you acquire them from Electrocutioner during the course of the story, every hit you connect with charges them up, slowly draining in between. Once the charge is full, you can activate them by left-clicking and right-clicking simultaneously. While the Shock Gloves are activated, your punches and counters are more powerful and cannot be blocked. That last part is key because it means you can dispatch of armored, armed, and shielded enemies without any need to employ the tactics normally required. It's overpowered for sure, but considering combat's difficulty compared to the previous versions, I'm certainly not complaining. Besides, by the time you unlock them and fully upgrade them, you'll most likely be more than halfway through the game and thus you'll probably enjoy that you now have the ability to make combat encounters end a little sooner than usual. Regardless, it's not like you're forced to use them if you do feel they're overpowered, so you can take the proverbial high road if you so choose.