Much like the meticulous and methodical (but never lethal!) brutality of a Batman take-down, the Arkham series swept down, laid down the gauntlet for every single superhero videogame franchise out there and took off into the night. Yet, I get the feeling that not everyone agrees with what I am about to say...
It has been five years (wow!) since the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum and the long nights we have spent BEING the caped crusader in the dark halls and premises of the DC villain purgatory. When I first got my hand on it it felt like a fresh experience. Something new and original.
I have enjoyed countless videogames involving superheroes so before diving into it let's just shoot some Bat-Clarity towards the fact that the 'Vs'. series and generally games that don't involve adventure (puzzle quest-types and other and the like) should not be involved in this discussion. Whether it's the Spider-man games or the 2D X-Men platformers ( oh those Megadrive days...), I always disliked the fact that the developers chose to limit you when it came to using any hero's ability. I dislike being limited in using something which, not only do I take for granted, I am ACHING to use. Using a power bar in order to extract Wolverine's claws? Or to teleport as Nightcrawler? Really?!
That's why I WANT to play as a superhero. To be that hero, to step in his or her shoes. To see things the way they do. In the same year that AA was released we also enjoyed a Marvel release with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I was beaming with joy upon realising that Raven Software weren't squeamish. AT ALL. They gave me the chance to BE Wolverine in his most primal and feral. Severed limbs, blood-bath, mayhem. Yes, yes, yes. Don't hold back when giving me the chance to be someone like Wolverine and most of all don't try to trick me (silly narrative choices to cover for production shortcomings, cutting short-cuts that hurt the gameplay etc). You will only look like an ass in the process. The only "problem" with the Wolverine release was the fact that it was an adventure that once finished you would have little to no reason at all to live it again. Enter Arkham Asylum...
I think I am in the right by saying that Rocksteady Studios made sure to study the Assassin's Creed fighting system extensively while creating this gem. I am sure they did and it shows because they delivered something that works better on so many levels! You WERE Batman. In a fight against unarmed opponents you weren't worried about get knocked the fuck out but instead you were in Bruce's head. Strike here, dodge, grapnel, pull him here, counter here, step here. The game gave you tens of ways of dominating every scenario you were facing, with all the gear and frightening precision that defines the 'Bat'!
Reeling from that majestic release I was taken by storm when I discovered that the next step (which in hindsight seems perfectly logical) was to take the story to the city itself with Arkham CIty.
It was practically the same gear, same enemies, same controls but we had the whole city to play with. I am unable to stress just how MUCH you can be Batman in these releases. No short-cuts, no tricks. You are Batman!
The reason this article came up was because I had completely brushed Arkham Origins aside when it was released from Warner Bros. Games Montreal. I thought "yeah It'll be the same toast with different butter. Still butter on toast". WRONG!
It seems that I wasn't the only one to think this seeing how a lot of people were indifferent with towards this product. Having played north of 8 hours of Origins already I came to the conclusion that not only is this not a rehash but it is a smoother, faster and sharper version of City. Also the story is seriously fantastic. The entire set-up oozes with style and I am seriously kicking myself that I did not purchase this in the 2013 Christmas season in order to get the full feel of the story (which takes place ON Christmas Eve).
The guys and gals over at Rocksteady caught whiff of that however. And Arkham Knight will be ready for us by October this year, set on Halloween night! I can bet a LOT of money on the fact that Rocksteady have cut through the very fabric of Arkham Origins and syphoned every last bit of code in their quest to make our next Batman outing even darker, even punchier and just as satisfying as the three releases that preceded it.
In closing, the Batman series that swept down on us five years ago are simply the best and most complete superhero videogames that have ever lit up screens in my opinion. If you are on the fence about Origins, stop and go purchase it right now.
It is unfair to compare it with titles of old so do you have any classic superhero games that stood YOUR test of time? I can certainly name a few myself! Tell us all about it in the comments section below.
Batman: Arkham Knight is scheduled for an October release (Xbox One, PS4 and PC) this year. The entire Arkham series can be purchased via Steam for the PC crowd!
- Frixos Masouras 2014