Batman: Arkham Origins Review

ClayMeow - 2013-11-16 20:05:03 in Gaming
Category: Gaming
Reviewed by: ClayMeow   
Reviewed on: November 19, 2013
Price: $49.99

Batman: Arkham Origins

If you have never played the Batman Arkham games, you are missing out on one of modern gaming's greatest franchises. Batman: Arkham Origins is the third game in the series, but as the name implies, it's a prequel. As such, one can reasonably start with this new game and not be lost. That being said, the first two games are certainly worth playing and are cheaper starting points – especially if you happened to grab the recent Humble WB Games Bundle.

Origins takes place approximately five years prior to the first game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, but this is not the origin story of Batman as the name may lead you to believe. Origins is actually "Year Two" of the Batman universe, with the "origins" moniker referring to two things: the events that lead to the reopening of Arkham Asylum and ultimately the creation of Arkham City, and the first time Batman meets many of the key villains you're probably familiar with, such as The Joker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main story behind Origins is basically just an excuse to throw as many villains at Batman as possible, but it works. Batman is still a mystery – many people thinking he's just a myth – but he's slowly gaining notoriety as a vigilante, which puts him on the radar of Black Mask. Black Mask puts a $50 million bounty on Batman's head and invites eight of the world's best assassins to Gotham to compete for the bounty on one night – none other than Christmas Eve. Not only do you have eight assassins to compete with, but also a police force that wants to collect on the bounty as well and several other villains that want to take advantage of the situation, such as Enigma (aka. The Riddler).

 

 

Batman: Arkham City was a huge leap forward from Batman: Arkham Asylum, improving almost every facet of the first game – with the story being arguably the only thing better in the first game. It introduced a large, open world, several new gadgets, a slew of optional side missions, and more. If you were expecting another huge leap forward with Batman: Arkham Origins, you'll be sorely disappointed. Origins features a larger world than City, some new bosses and common enemy types, a couple new gadgets, an improved Detective Vision when it comes to reviewing case data, and the biggest addition of all, a multiplayer mode.

Aside from multiplayer, which I'll address later, most of these changes are rather minor – Origins still feels very much like City, but in a blizzard and not as run down. Whether that's a good thing or bad thing is obviously up for debate. For me, it's a good thing, especially considering that Origins was developed by WB Games Montreal instead of the developer of the first two games, Rocksteady. It is to WB Games Montreal's credit that the game feels like a Batman Arkham game should and if you went in not knowing development changed hands, you'd never realize it until the credits rolled.

 

 

 

I did find Origins to be a lot more difficult than the previous two games, but whether that's because I'm rusty or because the game is actually tougher, I cannot say. From what I recall of my play time in the previous two games, I seemed to struggle to maintain Free Flow Combos during combat and I died a lot more frequently. This may be because fights in Origins seem to feature more enemies than the previous two entries, plus tend to mix up the different enemy types quite well to really throw off your game. And this was while playing on Normal, not Hard. That being said, the death screens are pretty cool, so I guess there's a silver lining.

 

 

Batman: Arkham Origins, like Arkham City before it, is almost like a 3D, third-person Metroidvania game. It's an open-world game that rewards exploration. While the story missions are fairly linear and must be done sequentially, there are a plethora of side missions and challenges to keep you busy, which you can tackle at almost any time. The reason why I compare it to a Metroidvania game is because you'll have to defeat certain bosses or challenges to acquire the gadgets necessary to proceed and complete other tasks. All the essential gadgets will be acquired during the story missions, but there are some gadgets and upgrades that are unlocked by completing side missions or in-game challenges. For example, to unlock the Sonic Batarang, I had to complete any Predator challenge without being seen. That being said, unless you're going back for Enigma Data Packs (Origins' version of Riddler Trophies from the previous games), you won't be backtracking like you do in Metroidvania games. You theoretically never have to enter the same interior environment twice unless you want to, except one tiny section of sewer.

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.

 

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

Predator Arenas are the second type of enemy encounters and the one that truly makes you feel like Batman. These are your multi-tiered stealth combat situations, typically featuring gargoyles high above the action to swing from, grates and vents to hide in, destructible walls, and of course enemies that need to be dispatched to proceed (even if you get to the exit, the game will inform you that you need to secure the area first before leaving). There are so many different ways to dispatch enemies that I'm not going to even attempt to mention them all. You have the option of using the environment, gadgets, or any combination thereof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Predator Arenas require you to carefully analyze the battlefield and think strategically. If you try to go balls out and deploy your typical combat techniques, you'll likely get killed rather quickly. Until enemies are spooked (either because they found a fallen comrade or worse, you've been spotted), enemies tend to have movement patterns, so studying them before attacking is wise. There's no time limit (unless you're competing on Predator Challenge Map leaderboards), so you can take your time and plan out your moves. You'll likely also want to activate your Detective Vision frequently by pressing 'X', as that allows you to see enemies through walls and obstacles, which is key to knowing whether an enemy will spot you if you take down another one. Inverted Takedowns from atop gargoyles are a great way to take out enemies stealthily, but do so with another enemy within the vicinity and you'll likely be seen.

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, you can also use your gadgets to perform a variety of takedowns or simply to distract enemies. The easiest way to distract enemies is with the aforementioned Sonic Batarang, which lures curious enemies to it. Place it well and you'll be able to sneak in behind and perform a Silent Takedown before he realizes it. Silent Takedowns are the basic way of killing unsuspected enemies by sneaking up behind them, holding CTRL to crouch, and then right-clicking when directly behind. Doing so does take time though, so you'll want to separate your target from his friends, which is where the Sonic Batarang comes in handy. In addition, while you're crouched, if you walk near some cover, you can snap to that cover by pressing SPACE and then move to the edge and perform a Corner Takedown on unsuspecting foes, as seen below.

 

 

The problem with Predator Arenas in Origins compared to the previous versions is that, as with the Shock Gloves during Combat Encounters, there is an easy-win button in the form of Origins' other new gadget, the Remote Claw. The Remote Claw allows you to connect two people or objects together. If you saw any gameplay trailers prior to release, you probably saw Batman shoot the Remote Claw at two enemies, pulling them together and knocking them to the ground. While that's arguably the most hilarious use of the device, it's also the weakest, as it merely stuns them. What makes the Remote Claw so overpowered is when you use it to connect an enemy to a gargoyle for a quick and easy takedown. You can also use it to connect an enemy to a propane tank, also taking them out very easily, but not every Predator Arena has those, while every arena does have gargoyles. It's like performing a hanging takedown, except you don't have to wait for them to be anywhere near you and you don't have to risk being seen. Initially you get two uses per Predator Arena, but that can eventually be upgraded to three.

 

Like the Shock Gloves, the Remote Claw essentially removes the need for advanced tactics. While every Predator Arena has more than three enemies, it certainly helps thin out the herd. In addition, when there is an enemy equipped with a jammer that makes it so your Detective Vision doesn't function, he can easily be dispatched with the Remote Claw, where as in Arkham City, you actually had to think strategically how you'd take him out without his comrades seeing you. Still, like the Shock Gloves, nobody is forcing you to use it during Predator Arenas, so it's only overpowered if you make it overpowered.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

While the enemy encounters are certainly enjoyable, it's the story that'll keep you coming back for more. Whereas I felt the story in Arkham City was slightly worse than the story in Arkham Asylum, I feel that Origins is the best one yet. While I stick by what I said earlier – that the main story is basically an excuse to throw a bunch of villains at Batman – WB surrounded it with a mostly cohesive and highly interesting tale with twists and turns and plenty of side stories. If you have any knowledge of the Batman universe at all, whether it be from comic books, movies, television, or the previous video games, seeing how Batman's relationships with both allies and adversaries develop for the first time is a real treat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't worry, unless you've completely avoided what characters are present in the game, I will keep this spoiler-free. Suffice it to say that there are many memorable moments and twists and turns I wish I could tell you about, but I won't!

One of Batman's most famous relationships is obviously The Joker, and that is portrayed to near perfection in Origins. Seeing Batman's first interaction with Joker and how the bond between the two materializes is certainly one of the highlights of the game. It's no doubt helped by a perfect voice acting job done by Troy Baker, despite the controversy that initially surrounded his casting. Troy Baker is a huge voice actor in the industry – with credits way too long to list here – but fans of the series were upset when it was announced he was to replace Mark Hamill as the voice of Joker. I'm here to tell you, there's nothing to worry about. In fact, I think Baker deserves an apology from everyone that bitched and moaned. Voice acting for all characters has always been a strength of the franchise, and it's no different here.

 

 

While there are no boss battles that quite live up to the awesomeness of the Mr. Freeze boss battle in Arkham City (if you played it, you know what I'm talking about), overall the boss battles are a huge improvement over the previous games. Most of them are combat encounters with slight twists, but they're typically multi-tiered and truly test your skills. When I mentioned that the combat in Origins feels tougher than previous games, that extends to most of the boss battles as well, particularly the highly anticipated Deathstroke battle. I think I beat him on my third or fourth try. That's probably why there's an achievement for successfully countering all his attacks, which only 1.2% have achieved on Steam compared to 66.1% that have beat him, as of the time of this writing.

 

 

Bane, Copperhead, and Firefly are all standout battles as well, while the Deadshot boss battle is, smartly, a Predator Arena instead. Most of the boss encounters offer their own unique stories to go along with the overarching bounty plot and it's interesting seeing relationships develop between them and Batman, particularly with Bane, who has appeared in both of the previous games. There are also some appearances by other adversaries, like Penguin, Anarky, and even the Mad Hatter.

 

 

 

Aside from exploring these relationships, the game also makes you think about several underlying themes that have always been prevalent in the Batman universe. Is Gotham City truly better off with Batman there or is he the one attracting these psychos? Clearly the eight assassins came to Gotham to hunt Batman, so is he not putting the whole city at risk? The story even touches upon one of the aspects that makes Batman a so-called "good guy" – he never intentionally kills anyone. As in the previous games, every enemy Batman takes out is simply knocked unconscious. Is that one of Batman's strengths or his biggest weakness? Would Gotham not be better off if, for example, he killed The Joker? Clearly the events of the previous two games would have never taken place and many innocent lives would be spared.

Batman: Arkham Origins

One of the coolest changes to the franchise is the new way Detective Vision is used to solve criminal cases. When there's a case to solve, you're prompted to switch to Detective Vision and scan for evidence. Scanning simply involves finding the evidence and holding down SPACE, but it's how Batman reconstructs the crime that's the cool part. After you gather enough initial evidence, Batman's computer reconstructs the crime digitally right before your eyes. Then, taking a cue from Remember Me, a game I reviewed earlier in the year, you're tasked with rewinding and fast-forwarding the reconstruction to find where additional evidence ends up, such as a briefcase flying out of the victim's hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Remember Me's sequences actually involved a bit of puzzle solving, that's not the case with Origins. These cases are simplistic and involve little brain power to solve, but I still found this as a welcome addition to the series. Not only was it cool to see the crimes reconstructed, but it was also cool seeing Batman at work, gathering evidence with some obviously superior technology and communicating with Alfred back in the Bat Cave for additional information.

 

 

These case reconstructions could have easily just been done via cutscenes, but I'm glad WB Games opted for a little more interactivity. While the franchise has always done a great job at making you feel like Batman in combat – a complete badass – WB Games finally found a way to make you feel like the world class detective Batman's always been purported to be.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

Replayability has always been a big part of the franchise and Origins is no exception. As in the previous games, you once again have Riddler Trophies to find and acquire, this time called Enigma Data Packs. Yes, this is also the first time Batman and Enigma interact with each other, which as with The Joker, leads to some interesting and thought provoking conversations. As in Arkham City, you can beat up and interrogate Enigma's henchmen, scattered across the map, to unveil Enigma Data Pack locations on your map. And also like the previous game, certain Data Packs are only reachable after you acquire the necessary gadgets. In order to infiltrate Enigma's HQ, you'll not only have to find every data pack, but also destroy every Network Relay. There are ten relays within each of the seven districts for a total of 70, plus one GCR Comm Tower in each that needs to be hacked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restoring a Comm Tower also allows you to use your Batwing to fast-travel to and from that district, so even if you have no desire to find every collectible and enter Enigma's HQ, at least dealing with each Comm Tower should be on your list of things to do. The Batwing fast-travel system is a new addition to the series and a much needed one. The game world is essentially double the size of Arkham City, so it's nice to have the ability to go from one end of the map to the other (after you've unlocked the towers). You can only engage fast-travel if you're outdoors, not in combat, and in a district where you unlocked the tower (or in the Bat Cave); so it keeps the fast-travel system feeling natural rather than just a game system.

 

 

 

Aside from the Enigma Data Packs and Network Relays, there are also Anarky Tags scattered across the map that can only be seen via Detective Vision and Cyrus Pinkney Plaques that can be seen in both vision modes, but are small and hidden very well. Scanning either of them grants you a healthy dose of experience, with the latter unlocking some journal logs. Lastly, there is the Dark Knight System, which is a series of in-game challenges divided into four categories: Shadow Vigilante involves combat challenges; Gotham Protector is a random assortment of challenges, such as gliding a certain distance; Worst Nightmare involves Predator and stealth challenges; and World's Greatest Detective is completed by solving numerous murder mysteries. Each category has 15 ranks. Achieving Rank 15 in a category gets you an achievement, but there are also unlocks along the way – like the aforementioned Sonic Batarang. The only small issue I have with the system is that they can only be completed during the story modes – you cannot complete the Shadow Vigilante or Worst Nightmare challenges by completing Challenge Maps, which means you may run out of Predator Arenas if you're not careful and thus have to try again in New Game Plus. As you can see below, I have to do just that because I didn't pay attention to the Worst Nightmare challenges until it was too late.

 

 

In addition to the side missions and collectibles during the story mode and the aforementioned New Game Plus mode, which features new enemy configurations and the lack of cues, there is also I Am The Night. I Am The Night is New Game Plus mode with permadeath. You must complete every single story mission with just a single life, which includes defeating every boss on the first try. If you're looking for an extreme challenge, this is certainly it. If that's a little too much punishment, there are always the nearly 100 Challenge Maps, which you cannot only tackle as Batman, but Deathstroke as well. During combat, Deathstroke isn't that different than Batman since the keystrokes are the same, but he does have a few different tricks up his sleeve to make Predator Arenas feel quite different.

 

 

 

While it's been reported that you can complete the main campaign in as little as ten hours if you rush it, you'll more than likely spend double that, if not more. I already spent over 30 hours in single-player and barely touched the Challenge Maps. Even if you do not care for online leaderboards, there are of course achievements associated with the Challenge Maps to entice you to try them out. In addition, there's one minor side mission that only unlocks after you beat the game, which I won't spoil.

Batman: Arkham Origins

If all that single-player goodness wasn't enough, Origins is the first game in the series to add multiplayer. I was extremely disappointed when multiplayer was first announced because I didn't want them ruining one of my favorite single-player franchises. Luckily, as you've probably noticed if you didn't just skip to this page, the single-player game was largely unaffected by the inclusion of multiplayer. Indeed, multiplayer is a completely separate mode with little tie to the main game. But is it any good?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first impression of the multiplayer was not a good one. It took me awhile just to find a game. When I did and it launched into the match, my screen went black. I had to force-quite the game and try again – same result. After reading the Steam discussions, I saw someone suggest that it may be an issue with DX11 features, so I dropped all the "DX 11 Enhanced" settings to the best non-DX11 option and tried it again – it worked!

There is only one mode available in multiplayer and it's called Invisible Predator Online. Curiously, when you go to find a match, there is a mode selection option, despite that being the only one listed, so that may be indicative of WB Games' desire to add new modes over time. In any case, the way the game works is actually a 2v3v3 setup. Two players in the 8-man group are randomly selected to play as the heroes, Batman and Robin, while the other six are divided into two teams, the Joker Gang and the Bane Gang. Each gang has a set number of reinforcements available that are used up every time a gang member dies and respawns. A gang wins by eliminating all the opposing team's reinforcements. The heroes earn intimidation points every time they take down a gang member on either side and win the game by filling their intimidation meter.

 

 

 

At a specific point in the match, the server is notified that the gang bosses, Joker and Bane, are available to enter the fray and the first gang member there gets to become his or her respective boss. While gang members can regenerate health out of combat, Joker and Bane have no health regeneration. Instead, they have a lot more hit points and devastating abilities. Joker uses a super powerful pistol or machine gun with explosive rounds, while Bane is a beast in close combat, yet is also equipped with a rocket launcher for some ranged attacks. Whichever team acquires their boss usually comes out the victor unless Batman and Robin step in quickly.

You gain experience that levels up the faction you played as that round, but you also gain an overall level. As you level up, you unlock new weapons or upgrade existing ones, as well as unlock appearance items, like a new shirt. You also earn credits that can be spent in Penguin's Black Market on crates and satchels that grant random items, like even more appearance items, or one-time use consumables, like boosting experience in your next match. While most appearance items are merely cosmetic, some do confer bonuses, such as the two shown below.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

My first multiplayer match was coincidentally as Batman. Batman, like Robin, is equipped with a slew of gadgets to aid you in taking out gang members. Aside from the standard ones players are familiar with from the single-player experience, like the Batarang and explosive gel, multiplayer also introduces a couple new ones: the Explosive Batarang and the Cluster Batarang. The former explodes after a couple seconds of priming, while the latter locks onto an enemy and then strikes him and nearby comrades. I ended the match with four kills to two deaths, which happened to be the same stats as my Robin teammate. The Joker Gang won the match with four reinforcements remaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a match ends, a new Batman and Robin is randomly selected from the gang members of the previous match. Gang members do have the option of opting out of the selection process though. This was a great way of handling things, assuring that no one person kept on hogging the heroes if others wanted to play as them. In addition, when you're in the lobby, players can vote on which of the four available maps they want to play.

 

 

My second match was as a Bane gang member. Both gangs play the same, though they have different secondary gadgets they can deploy. For example, Joker gang members can deploy a blimp that is flown kamikaze-style to blow up on contact, while Bane gang members have an AR Drone that flies similarly, but fires rockets instead. To level the playing field against the Heroes, gang members can activate Enhanced Vision, but unlike Heroes, it drains a battery and so you can't simply run around with it active the whole time. It also shows a blue cone coming off anyone using it, so you know if your teammates are using it or even the opposing team.

 

 

For the most part, control of the gang members is as you'd expect for a third-person cover shooter. You aim by holding down right-click and shoot with left-click either while aiming or off-the-hip when not. Holding down SPACE causes you to sprint, but of course you have a stamina bar. The only jarring thing for me was that CTRL doesn't let you crouch in the open – you can only press CTRL while near cover, which then causes you to duck behind it. Thankfully though, as you'd expect from a cover shooter, you can then hold down right-click to aim around or over cover. I would have preferred a true crouching system though, but I guess you can chalk this up as catering toward the aim-assisted console crowd.

 

 

In my six or so matches I played, I never did get to the boss door in time to try out Joker or Bane, but if I do, I'll be sure to update my experience. Finding multiplayer games takes some patience, but that could be because I'm used to only playing highly populated online games like Counter-Strike. It did seem easier on the weekend than a night during the week. I should also note that I didn't try multiplayer until after I beat the campaign (though single-player and multiplayer have little to do with each other), but I did hear there were some issues at launch, including multiplayer experience getting wiped, so that may have turned some people off.

 

While multiplayer was fun and should definitely be tried if you get the game, it is certainly not a reason to justify a purchase if you're on the fence. Despite the inclusion of multiplayer, Origins is still very much a single-player game first and foremost like its predecessors. Still, I did enjoy it and will certainly be going back for more. I did want to mention one last thing though – I love the Killed By screens, which display a plethora of information, as you can see below.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

From a technical standpoint, Origins is a marvel on the PC, especially if you're sporting a somewhat recent NVIDIA graphics card. The Batman Arkham games have always been shining examples of what developers could accomplish with NVIDIA PhysX and Origins is no different. When PhysX is set to Normal, you get the cloth simulation you may be familiar with from the previous games, which includes Batman's cape. When set to High that's when it really kicks into high gear, not only adding the cloth simulation, but also APEX Turbulence effects, which enhances the appearance of particle effects like smoke, steam, fog, and of course, snow. Seeing the smoke come off Batman's hands when Shock Gloves are activated is simply awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often hear the argument that PhysX doesn't matter because it doesn't affect gameplay, so who cares? While it certainly does not affect gameplay directly, what it does do is substantially increase immersion. Since immersion is a very important part of most 3D games, PhysX does in turn improve one's gameplay experience. Immersion in Origins is further increased by setting Geometry Detail to "DX11 Enhanced" (if your card supports it). By doing so, you'll get variable depths of snow prints when you or enemy walk through deep snow (as opposed to simple, uniform snow prints with it off), which is pretty cool to see in action – especially when you slam an enemy to the ground and he leaves a nice human-shaped snow imprint. Whether you walk, crawl, sprint, slide, or roll, the snow disperses accordingly (and enemies leave footprints as well). Sadly, guards do not investigate suspicious footprints, which does indeed slightly break immersion, but I guess if they did, that would make the game significantly more difficult for anyone who turns it on. To illustrate how this works, check out the before and after shots below from the Killer Croc battle that opens the game. As you can see, it goes from pristine, untouched snow to a complete mess. Yes, that's the same area.

 

 

Other NVIDIA technology used in the game includes contact-hardening shadows, improved depth of field, HBAO+, and TXAA. I won't go into detail on each of these, but suffice it to say, if you have a high-end gaming PC equipped with a 700 series NVIDIA card, you'll put the console versions to shame. Though I couldn't personally test it, the game also has enhanced 4K support, so if you have an SLI setup with a nice 4K monitor, prepare to be amazed.

From a bug standpoint, I only experienced two bugs during my time other than the aforementioned issue getting multiplayer to work. The first was known as the "Burnley Tower Bug" where there was a bug with a vent, trapping you in the building and forcing you to restart (see the image below). There was a glitch-workaround that I used, but the problem has since been patched so it should no longer be an issue. The second bug was when I fell through the map in one of the Predator Arenas when I went exploring what I thought was a little alcove. There have been several other reported issues in the Steam discussion board that I thankfully haven't experienced, but WB Games has also been pretty good with issuing patches from what I've seen, with the PC patching often coming before the console patching.

 

My only other issue with the game that I can recall was not being able to perform a glide kick while in the middle of a glide. By that I mean, when I was gliding along the sky, if I got near a group of enemies and the Bat Symbol glide kick notification appeared, left-clicking didn't do anything. I finally found the solution online – you have to hold down right-click first, then left-click – but of course that was after I already beat the campaign and almost all the side missions. But hey, at least I now know for New Game Plus!

Batman: Arkham Origins

Around the time of Origins' release, NVIDIA launched ShadowPlay, an easy way to record gameplay through GeForce Experience without the CPU overhead typically associated with such a task. The reason NVIDIA was able to accomplish this low CPU overhead is because it leveraged one of the lesser talked about features of the Kepler core: a built-in H.264 encoder. As such, to use ShadowPlay you'll need a Kepler GPU-based video card from NVIDIA. Since I'm sporting a GTX 770, I figured what better way to test out ShadowPlay for the first time than recording some Origins gameplay? To ensure absolutely NO SPOILERS, I decided to record Challenge Maps, particularly the two bonus maps that were included with the game. The game was maxed, while ShadowPlay was set to High, recording 1080p at 60FPS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My very first ShadowPlay recording was of my first attempt at the 100 to 1 Challenge Map as Batman. As the name implies, this is Batman vs. 100 enemies.

 

Here is my first attempt at the same 100 to 1 Challenge Map as Deathstroke. Unfortunately, ShadowPlay stops recording when the file size reaches 4GB on Windows 7, so the recording cut off before the end. I was so focused on the battle, I didn't notice the recording indicator had turned off, otherwise I would have restarted it. It figures, since I actually wound up beating it, which you can see in the screenshot below the video.

 

 

Here is a video of the No Money Down Predator Challenge Map as Batman, as I attempt to attain the three trophies.

 

My attempt at No Money Down as Deathstroke didn't go as well. As I said earlier in the review, he plays a lot different in the Predator Arenas and clearly I wasn't prepared.

Batman: Arkham Origins

Whether you like Origins totally depends on your feelings going into the game. I am very glad we at OCC do not give out number ratings because your stance on Origins will be highly dependent on what you want out of the experience. While that argument can certainly be made for any game, it's especially true here, as potential Origins players essentially fall into two camps: those that want more of the same from Arkham City and those that want an entirely new experience.

If you fall into the former camp, which I mostly do, you'll be extremely pleased. It's not completely fair to refer to the game as Arkham City 2.0, but that's mostly what it is. While there are a few new tricks up Batman's sleeves, the gameplay is largely the same and even half the environment is the same, albeit pre-destruction, covered in snow, and decorated with Christmas lights (I guess there are no Jews in Gotham, since I don't recall seeing any menorahs).

The thing is, I'm glad it feels like the previous game. The old adage applies here – if it's not broke, don't fix it. I very much prefer this situation here with Origins than when Bioware and EA changed up the near-perfect formula of Dragon Age: Origins in the sequel. While Dragon Age 2 is not necessarily a bad game, the first game was clearly superior. With Batman: Arkham Origins, we have a case where I can honestly declare this the best Batman Arkham game yet. It has everything Arkham City had with consistently better boss battles and a story that arguably rivals Arkham Asylum. But if you weren't hoping for more of the same, you may not see it that way. If you were hoping for the leap forward to be as grand as the one from Asylum to City, I don't blame you for being disappointed, I simply hold a different opinion.

Word of advice if you do play: watch the credits! Taking a cue from superhero movies, there's a bonus scene at the very end, not to mention some dialog during the credits.