Batman: Arkham Origins Review (PS3)

(image courtesy of thedailyzombies.com)

(image courtesy of thedailyzombies.com)

Developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal and released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment this is the first of the Arkham games that is not developed by Rocksteady Studios.  Rocksteady was kind enough though to practically hand over the engine to Warner Bros. in order for them to bring us this solid prequel.  It was written by Corey May (the same guy who was lead writer on Assassins Creed, Assassins Creed 2 and Assassins Creed 3) and Dooma Wendschuh.

Unfortunately Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill don’t return for this adventure but their replacements do just as well.  Troy Baker, most notable now for his work on the Last of Us as Joel voices the Joker and manages to grasp the “Hamill effect” so well, especially in the laughter.  There are a few moments where you can hear where it isn’t Mark Hamill but you really have to be listening for it then.  Following in the very big shadow of Kevin Conroy comes Roger Craig Smith, the most well known voice actor in the Assassins Creed series for his charismatic accent of Ezio Auditore Da Firenze.  Unfortunately for him, as good as he is, I don’t think anybody can match up to the voice of Kevin Conroy but he does good enough so kudos to you.

Batman:  Arkham Origins is set five years prior to the events of Arkham Asylum and two years into Bruce’s career as Batman.  He’s been fighting thugs, drug dealers and the occasional super villain but this is mainly about how he meets the people who have had a profound impact on his life and his career as Batman.  In origins, Batman is still new and everybody is trying to figure out what his motives are.  The cops don’t like him especially Gordon, and the bad guys feel that he is some form of supernatural force to be reckoned with.  Batman at this point is also used to being faster and stronger than his opponents so they really explore how he has to try and overcome an impossible situation for which he has never encountered.  Fighting eight of the worlds worst villains is no easy task.  A fight with Bane springs to mind but I’ll let you find that out for yourself.  It’s a really interesting take on the history of our hero, really putting into perspective why he does what he does on a much more profound level.    The first encounter between Batman and Joker is most enjoyable and for the first time I clearly see why the Joker is so obsessed with Batman.  There is a small mini mission where you get to play as Joker and it was excellent.  I actually started to empathize with him and thanks to that moment I understand clearly how and why the Joker is who he is.

First off the game play is just as it was in Arkham City BUT and this might just be me, something is different about the way the free flow combat works.  Either they’ve slowed Batman down which would make sense in a way considering this is a prequel (or maybe it wouldn’t because it’s a prequel) or the AI is much faster.  I found myself getting seriously stuffed up in some places by a bunch of petty thugs.  Questioning my own skill, I popped back into Arkham City and yup, somethings definitely changed in Origins.  Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just different.  It keeps you on your toes, and adds a nice level of pressure to the mix.  They’ve thrown in two new enemies as well which is quite welcome.  Ninjas have the ability to counter your moves which really is fun and you still feel like a bad ass when you counter a counter that’s been countered.  It’s not confusing, trust me.  The other is just a glorified armored henchman so no change there.  The AI in here is way more aggressive and has easier access to firearms as well.  Nearly every battle I was in, I had to dance around like a batty ballerina to take the guys with guns out.  Also, if you enjoyed gliding around in Arkham City, then Origins has got you covered.  The map in here is huge.  The northern part of the map is primarily Arkham City, but it’s now connected by Pioneers Bridge that runs from New Gotham City in the south.  It is enormous for this type of game but it can get tedious especially when you have to fly backwards and forwards over the bridge time and time again.  Luckily that’s where the new fast travel system comes into play.  All over the city there are fast travel points which need to be unlocked first before you can use them so you can get around the city much quicker.   As with every Arkham game it isn’t just the main story you will be sinking your teeth into but all the little side quests as well.  You have Engima Data Packs  to collect all over the city in order to stop The Riddler who is known in this game as Enigma as Batman had never heard of him before.  The one thing that did bother me with regards to the side quests is that they felt like secondary side quests when compared to Batman:  Arkham City.  In Batman:  AC the side quests were organically interwoven into the story but in Origins it’s just a second thought kind of thing.  There to keep you busy.

Challenge Maps make their return and with it , a whole new steep learning curve.  I couldn’t even complete the first combat map because I couldn’t get my points high enough due to the fact that I kept killing everyone way to quickly which is annoying and does not make me feel like Batman.

Visually, the game is Arkham City, no more no less really but unfortunately it’s not as good due to technical problems and here’s why:

Batman:  Arkham Origins is full of bugs.  It has a day one patch as most games now days do which is highly annoying but that’s a story for another day.  It also took forever to install the 57mb patch.  (Why would that take so long?) Some textures on buildings don’t fully render, NPC’s get stuck on objects when  you’re in combat and that becomes irritating when you can’t keep your combo going because some dumb ass henchman is stuck by a car.  (NOT COOL WARNER. BROS).  Sometimes, depending on where you are, NPC’s can’t attack you and you can’t attack them because their bodies get stuck between the earth and the eternal blackness under the earth which can cause a quest not to activate.

That's got to be seriously uncomfortable

That’s got to be seriously uncomfortable (FYI, they couldn’t attack me.  They just kept following me around)

Yeah, you might see half a henchman following you around.  The frame rates are terrible at times, sometimes game breaking especially after Fast Traveling.  My PS3 has crashed numerous times thanks to this so right now, don’t fast travel.  The longer I played as well the worse the frame rates got which truly ruined the experience.  At the time of writing though, Warner Bros. is working on these issues for all platforms and they are hoping to have a patch sometimes this week.  I wouldn’t hold my breath on the frame rate problem though.  My question on that particular point  is, how is a game released if it has these kinds of issues?  Surely there’s quality testing, stress testing, etc , etc.

You know when you lend something to a friend, like a video game, a DVD, hell, even a toasted sandwich maker. Your friends will keep it for a couple of months saying the game is fantastic, the film is awesome, it makes the best toasties ever! Then, you eventually get it back.  And you find that your item that you loaned, out of trust I might add has been soiled.  Your video game and DVD disc has a few light scratches now, maybe even a deep enough scratch that makes the film or game unwatchable or unplayable.  I personally believe that Rocksteady should never lend its toys out ever again.  That popular saying from the X-files comes to mind.  “Trust no one”  That’s how I felt when these annoying problems crept up.

Technical issues aside I would still buy this game because it’s a solid story and plays great when the frame rates and other little bugs don’t present themselves.  I’m sure most of these problems will be sorted out in the coming weeks. Maybe get the game after the patch but whatever you decide, Batman:  Arkham Origins is a fitting beginning story to the whole Arkham series and if you’re a fan, you won’t be disappointed by the story that it tells.

Batman:  Arkham City Review (PS3)

 

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Batman Arkham City: A Journey (Part 2) – Campaign Kitty

Catwoman main

Just over a week has gone by since my post about getting the platinum trophy and my desire to continue my quest for one hundred percent completion in Batman:  Arkham City.

As Batman, I was slightly slow but fierce with an arsenal of gadgets at my disposal.  My trusty utility belt has never come in handy quite so often as it did in the campaign modes.

But as Catwoman, geez…she is rather limited and exceptionally frustrating.  With only three gadgets tucked somewhere in her leather skin tighties this was a challenge that I am glad is over.

Only having three weapons from your inventory really raises the stakes.  You have caltrops, your whip and bolas (like Batmans batarangs only insignificant).  I’m not trying to sell her short in anyway….oh wait, no, yes I am.  Is she agile?  Sure.  Is she fast?  Definitely.  Then why the disdain for her?  Although she is quick and can run right up to enemies without them hearing, at the same time i found her to be extremely slow and stiff with regards to turning or changing direction.  Jumping from gargoyle to ledge was nearly impossible unless you are standing in the right spot and I’m pretty sure a water balloon could kick her ass.

Some of the more frustrating levels that i had experienced was End Of The Line (Extreme) and Top Of The World (Extreme).  

Catwoman end of the line

End Of the Line (Extreme) – In order to obtain these medals you’re timing is key.  The most challenging thing about this stage is that you have to do a double ledge take down.  So that means you have to try and get these armored guards to converge at one place.  “Well that’s easy”  It sure is.  Take down one…oh crap wait…yup there are snipers around!  So you need to take down two guys over a ledge whilst not being seen by the two, incredibly aware snipers that can easily take Catwoman apart.  “SIGH”

Here’s what you do.  First, from where you start turn left and run up the stairs.  To your right there are floor grates.  Get in one and travel under the boxes.  Take out the Armored Henchman with a take down from the floor grate for your first medal.   NOW BE QUICK!  Stylishly break through the “weak wooden wall” and run back down to where you start the level facing the end of the room.  START RUNNING!  Run through the train on the right hand side, and then carefully make your way up the stairs to the right.  Once you reach the top of the stairs, straight ahead is your sniper target.  Take him down with a silent take down.  Throw Caltrops all over his sniper ass and then crouch.  Wait until the other Armored Henchmen who have gathered at the first guard to register that a another guy is down.  As they start approaching, climb over the ledge and wait.  Once the guards get there they will trip on the caltrops.  Wait until there are two guys who are standing up again and then do your double ledge take down for your second medal.  GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!  Drop from the ledge and run your sexy legs off to the other snipers position (end of the room).  There is a square entrance right behind him that you can jump up to.  When you get up there “whip trip” the sniper and take him down for your third medal.  The rest take out at your pace.

Here is a guide on how to do it.  I did not make this video, I am not that good at these maps.

Exhausting isn’t it?

Yeah, all that there took a few tries.  🙂

catwoman top of the world

Top Of The World (Extreme) – This one can be a bitch, but with patience and timing you can pull it off.  The toughest part was getting an enemy to fall on caltrops.

The easiest method i found was this.  When you start, grapple up to the ledge.  Crouch and wait for the guard that is walking towards you to turn to the left.  As he’s walking away, quickly get a silent take down.  BE QUICK!  Throw two sets of caltrops, to your right hand side facing the open vent (Right next to the ladder that leads up to the upper platform).  Run to the vent and wait for two guards to drop down and fall on the caltrops.  With one of them down, perform a take down.  That’s your first medal.  If you’re quick enough you can perform a beat down on the second guard to receive your second medal and still have time to just make it out by going through the vent and back outside.  At this point i would suggest staying outside and using ledge take downs.  It might take longer but at least its safer.  Also be careful when trying to drop from a gargoyle to a ledge outside because occasionally Catwoman won’t register that there is a ledge to climb up to.  Safest bet is to jump from the gargoyle to the balcony and then climb over and hang.  To get your third medal take out the Armored Henchman with the jammer pack for last.

Here’s another instruction manual for you.

The rest of the challenge maps were for lack of a better word, challenging but I prevailed and why?  “Because I’m……..Catwoman?” 

Yeah, that didn’t sound right.

Check back next week for the newest installment in Batman Arkham City:  A Journey