by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
New Features: Adding to the Arsenal
Leading up to these moments, players will take part in the same gameplay that propelled the series to stardom with some notable additions. Players can now use a fast travel system, for example, by unlocking guarded radio towers ala Assassinís Creed. Once a new map section is unlocked, they can call down the Batwing and travel freely. The Batcave also makes its first appearance, fully open and explorable and complete with a bat computer and training area to take part in challenge maps.
Origins also introduces a new investigation mini-game to mission solving. The Dark Knight has always had the ability to enter into detective mode to see through walls, view enemy vitals, and analyze the environment, but now he can take those abilities to a new level. Using scans of the environment, you can fast forward and rewind time to piece together sequences of events. This new system has a lot of promise and is at times genuinely neat but Warner Brothersí insistence upon highlighting key items undermines the actual investigation taking place.
Same Bat Game, Same Bat Channel
Combat is the same great system that formed the backbone of the first two games. Taking on hordes of enemies remains as simple as attacking, countering, and performing special attacks with simple button combinations, or as complex as somersaulting, lacing in gadget blasts, and countering without any need of a warning indicator. The free flow system returns and grants Batman extra speed as he grows his combo chain. The system is graceful, easy to get into and hard to master. Performing well earns a grade and experience points which can be used to purchase upgrades to Batmanís armor and abilities. Yet I could not shake the feeling that it just wasnít as reactive as it used to be. Enemies seemed to be landing hits even as I mashed the counter button.
The same familiarity is prominent in the gameís larger structure. At its core, Origins is a point-to-point mission game. Between going to this building or that outpost, you will encounter thugs in need of beating or police in need of rescuing, but the gameplay loop is the same: be handed a mission, infiltrate the hideout, sneak through using gadgets, and talk to someone in a cutscene. Then you fight and then you leave. This is oversimplifying it, of course, and Origins does a commendable job of keeping things consistently interesting with main quests, side quests, and wide array of characters, but it is a safe bet that if City or Asylum wasnít your cup of tea, Origins wonít be either.
Progressing from point A to point B is never as simple as just running. Batman is once again prepared with a wide array of expensive gadgets to help him survive the night. You will use your batclaw to to glide above rooftops, explosive gel to burst apart walls, and batarangs to trigger out-of-reach panels. Environmental puzzles break up the pace of combat and keep you feeling like the infiltrator you are. Most of these can also be used in combat providing you another option to increase your score and earn some extra experience.
What makes these games wonderful, though, is the stellar map design. Most encounters support multiple approaches once you have upgraded your character. I enjoyed playing sneakily and hiding from sight, picking off enemies one by one and watching those left behind begin to panic as I hide in the rafters. Like a bat, I would descend from above, take out a thug, and then retreat back to the highest shadows. Other times I would creep below the floor or through the ventilation system, popping up when least expected. In still others I would go loud, blowing out a wall with explosive gel before rushing in for the attack. Some encounters do force you to play more cautiously and rightfully so: Batman is only a man in an armored suit, not an alien from the planet Krypton. Against certain death, playing too bold earns you, well, certain death.
Same great combat and mission structure, larger world, well evolving story
Slightly less polish, can feel very familiar