Batman: Arkham Origins is Raw, Relentless, and Ruthless (Spoiler free review)
Bruce Wayne no longer exists. The person he would have been died along with his parents in that dark alley. Only rage is left. He feels no sympathy. He has become unstoppable and invincible vengeance. Criminals will not get away with the pain they inflict on others. Even the smallest crime is unforgivable as they will only lead to bigger crimes. You have no fear. You are the Batman and no one will escape your wrath.
This was the attitude I had throughout the entire game. And it wasn't because I chose to feel that way. The opening cinematic drove the attitude into me, and the rest of the game followed suit. I instantly became a feared vigilante and I didn't just seek justice, I would have it.
Batman has never been more brutal, reckless, and utterly fearless. The portrayal of the character, and the way the story flowed made me feel every impact. When I punched my enemies I wanted them to fear repercussions for their crimes, and they did. It certainly wasn't the law they feared, as every criminal in Gotham knows that if the cops aren't already corrupt, they are easily corrupted. There was never a time that I didn't feel like a complete bad-ass and that every single enemy in the game better fear me or else. The in-game sequences and battles backed the attitude up with ferocity.
Of course it wasn't just the story and combat that brought the attitude on. The music was the very first thing I even noticed upon starting the game. I immediately felt like there was some kind of impending danger - for my enemies. Every second of the opening cinematic was driven not only by the presence of Batman (even when he was off-screen), but music that made me feel like this Christmas Eve was going to be the end of crime altogether. Without the music I don't think I would have felt like I was to be both feared and respected.
There's almost nothing new about the gameplay which I think is both good and bad. It is an Arkham game after all so I suppose it should be familiar. My main issue is that there are almost zero new animations for Batman. I think I might have spotted two brand new animations during combat. It's possible there are more that I didn't catch onto but it's all so familiar that it was hard to recognize anything as new. Fortunately it still felt more epic than ever due to the general attitude of the game through the plot, voice-acting, and music.
The new shock gloves are totally bad-ass. They charge up during combat and when you activate them you can punch through riot shields and pummel enemies with knives head on. Electricity emanates with every impact.
The newest addition that was very special to me is the Case File System which adds extra depth to detective mode when scanning crime scenes. Someone has been shot for example. You scan for evidence to clue you in on who the killer was. The first piece of evidence leads you to deduct what the final action in the crime scene was. You upload the information to the Bat-computer to analyze the data and recreate the crime scene in front of your eyes in virtual reality. You control the time frame by fast-forwarding and rewinding the scene as it happened to reveal new evidence. Unfortunately it is over simplified. The evidence you are looking for is made very obvious. It's still a beautiful, fun, and totally cool addition to the original mechanic and I wish there were more crime scenes to do it with.
Even though the police are corrupt I didn't want to fight them. As much as the story tries to act like Batman is holding back on them, he doesn't. He's just as vicious with them as he is with the criminals. The combat is so much fun though that I ended up thinking, "Screw it" and picked fights with the corrupt police anyways. It would have been awesome if the developers had made separate animations for fighting the police and making Batman actually act less violent against them. (If they did, I'm sorry but I did not notice!)
The boss fights were epic because of the scene, and the combat itself was different than your regular fights. Although, I was disappointed that the boss phases barely changed at all. The whole rinse-and-repeat thing brought the epic feeling down a notch, a very small notch but it mattered. The upside is what Batman does to the regular criminals in the city is nothing compared to what he does to the even bigger and badder enemies he faces.
There are very cool scripted side missions you can do related to the assassin's hunting you, but what I really like are the random crime sprees being reported on Batman's police scanner. You can ignore them or go help out. Maybe small riots between Black Mask's thugs and other criminals break out, or maybe a small gang is attempting to rob a jewelry store. What you do is up to you. And of course there are a ridiculous amount of collectibles.
An upside to the bosses for me was their personality. I wasn't intimidated by them but I could tell they were just as fearless as Batman. As powerful as each assassin is, and as much damage as they do to Batman, he shrugs it off like it's nothing. It's not because Batman is invincible. It's because he doesn't know he isn't. His rage drives him through things that would normally kill a person, without even flinching.
The Joker's extreme insanity matches the raw brutality of Batman. Joker does not fear death at all. That said, Joker hasn't really changed apart from being more insane than usual. It would have been cool to see him act younger. The voice actor does a really great job at making Joker familiar, but I would have preferred them to just use a new voice and not impersonate Mark Hamill.
For me this is another one of those things where the good far outweighs the bad. So much so that I can shrug off the games bugs as easily as Batman can shrug off a life-threatening pummeling. Most campaign bugs that I encountered were fixed by a checkpoint restart. Fortunately most of those were not some big leap backwards in the game. There are some terrible bugs but I was able to enjoy the campaign straight through without too much frustration. There are very many issues that other players are having that I was fortunate enough not to encounter. I have submitted a few bugs and feedback on the Batman forums.
One down-side to the open world is the voices for the criminals and the police are exactly the same from group to group. And the cop says the exact same thing every time you rescue a different group of police.
Batman: Arkham Origins is my favorite Arkham game by far. And that's saying a lot because both Asylum and City were excellent. I did get a little frustrated at how similar this game was to the first two. I wondered how the developers could take credit for what I thought of as copy/pasting the game. They did offer a brand new story and landscapes and a few very minor gadget changes, but it weirded me out. Then in the credits I saw them give what looked like the full team of Rocksteady credit. That gained a huge boost of respect from me and I give them major props for that. Well done Warner Brothers Montreal. I do not mean to undermine what WB Montreal did at all. Origins truly stands out to me.
You can check out many more of my screenshots if you want. Spoiler screenshots are tagged for good reason and are ridiculously cool. I plan to do a separate "review" of the multiplayer in the future.