From: Warner Bros.
Who it's for: Fans of the Dark Knight who don't mind playing more of the same
Console: PS3, Xbox 360
Before developer Rocksteady treated us to the "Batman Arkham" series, gamers wondered if it was even possible to create a good superhero game.
While both "Batman: Arkham Assylum" and "Batman: Arkham City" provided a blueprint for what a great comic-based game should be, the series' latest entry proves it takes more than a great blueprint to make a great game.
Handing off development duties to the Warner Bros. studio in Montreal, "Batman: Arkham Origins" shows the difference a developer can make to a game.
To be clear, "Origins" isn't a bad game. Were it the first game in the Arkham series, players would likely be over the moon with excitement. But as the third game, it's a step back in several ways.
Set on Christmas Eve, "Origins" serves as a prequel to the earlier games. As such, Batman is younger and not as experienced.
He is still established though, having earned the attention of Gotham's most notorious villains. One in particular -- The Black Mask -- wants him out of the way.
That's why the crime lord decided to sponsor a tournament, offering $50 million to anyone who can kill the Bat.
Nasty assassins come out of the woodwork for a chance at the fortune, and for one night, the hunter becomes the hunted.
It's a great story -- and the one part of "Origins" that really stands out. Unfortunately, the game stumbles when it comes to the fine details.
Even though you might expect Gotham to be quiet on Christmas Eve, the city feels too lifeless. The only characters you will stumble across are thugs and villains presumably waiting to get their holiday beat-down.
The city itself is fairly well crafted and fun to explore while searching for its hidden secrets, but it never comes to life, never feels quite right.
It doesn't help that the game (I reviewed it on Playstation 3) contains numerous bugs. None of them break the game, but they destroy the level of immersion fans are accustomed to.
Batman leaps from a building and freezes briefly in midair. He glides through the air, his cape passing through the corners of buildings. He speaks to a group of thugs, and the audio misaligns.
Dozens of little things add up and mar what should be a great experience.
There are also a few incongruities when it comes to equipment.
Later in the game, Batman receives a few pieces of equipment that make fighting evil a bit too easy. Furthermore, he never has this equipment in later games. These gadgets, as much fun as they are to use, just don't work within the game's story.
Fortunately the gameplay retains its polish and appeal from previous entries.
The fighting system is as much fun as ever, as is using all of Batman's wonderful toys throughout the adventure.
The boss fights, in particular, present a nice challenge and a great test to your fighting skills, particularly with the likes of Deathstroke.
The most disappointing aspect of the game is the throwaway multiplayer mode.
Completely unremarkable and unnecessary, the multiplayer supports up to eight players on three sides: three thugs vs. three thugs vs. Batman and Robin. The thugs fight each other while Batman and Robin try to take out everyone.
You might play this a time or two out of curiosity, but you'll surely leave it soon behind for the main story and usual challenge modes.
What's sad is that, had Warner forgotten about multiplayer and put those resources into the rest of the game, it might have resulted in a far more polished product.
Again, this is far from a bad game, and Bat-fans will find a lot to enjoy with the story, setting and challenge. But as we've already played two superior Batman games, we all know how much better it could have been.
As it stands, "Batman: Arkham Origins" will hold us over until the next Rocksteady installment. Let's just hope that one is well in the works.