Batman Arkham Origins Alfred Argumentative Essay

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Batman: Arkham Origins, seen by some as the ugly stepchild that is undeserving to be a part of the Arkhamverse, seen by others as the under appreciated gem in the series.  Seeing as the game takes place during Christmas time, as well as Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City recently getting remastered and released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in the Batman: Return to Arkham Collection, I figured this would be a good time to tell you why Arkham Origins is worthy of your attention.

Keep in mind, not only am I a huge Batman fan, but I am no stranger to video games.  At the time of this posting, I am sitting at a Trophy Level 19 and 88% on the PlayStation Network with 45 Platinums, 3 of which are Arkham Asylum, City, and Knight.  More on why I don’t have the Origins one later.  Also of note, spoilers follow (but the game is 3 years old now so, whose fault is that?)

Arkham Origins was released on October 25th, 2013 on the PlayStaton 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U video game consoles, and was the third entry in the Batman: Arkham series.  The curious thing about this game, is that while the first two, critically acclaimed games were developed by the now famous Rocksteady, the prequel was being handled by the much lesser known WB Montreal.  We now know this was to give Rocksteady more time to continue their development on what is now known as Arkham Knight, but not having the Rocksteady branding made a lot of people write this off right away.

Let’s start with the great story of Arkham Origins.  The game takes place long before the events of Arkham Asylum, in Batman’s early years of crimefighting.  It is Christmas Eve, where the mob is still the biggest threat to Gotham and Batman is still seen as a vigilante in the eyes of GCPD.  The game starts with a jailbreak at Blackgate, orchestrated by Black Mask, who captures and kills Commissioner Loeb during the riot.  Batman confronts Black Mask’s hired muscle, Killer Croc, on the roof and upon defeating him learns that he is one of 8 assassins hired by Black Mask to kill the Batman.

The rest of the assassins include the Electrocutioner, Bane, Firefly, Copperhead, Deadshot, Lady Shiva, and Deathstroke.  Other character cameos in the story include Anarky, Edward Nigma, and the Penguin as well, though they aren’t considered assassins.  Some assassins were more prominent than others throughout the story, such as Bane, taking place in the main story of the game, which others were left for side missions.  Batman has to take down the assassins one by one, while he tries to locate and capture Black Mask.

This was a great way to introduce these characters into the Arkhamverse, as well as give us younger versions of Deadshot, Croc, and Bane, who we see later in Batman’s Arkham series career.  It also provided one of the great boss fights in not only Arkham, but possibly video game history with Deathstroke.  Both masters of martial arts, it was a chess match between Batman and Deathstroke to find a weakness in the others defenses to gain an advantage.  Another standout moment with the assassins is the battle with Copperhead, where she poisons Batman and he hallucinates fighting an army of her, putting your skills with the game’s free flow combat to the test.

Based on the trailers for Arkham Origins, the Joker was clearly going to be a key player in the story, but was also clearly not one of the hired assassins, so the big question going in was how does he play into the story?  In one of the great twists of the series, we learn that Joker kidnapped Black Mask and was posing as him the entire time in an attempt to take over Gotham’s underworld.  Joker’s reveal in the bank cutscene is my personal favorite part of the entire Arkham series and had me on the edge of my seat.  It was well written and was not something I saw coming, unlike the true identity of Arkham Knight, who I called on day one would be Jason Todd, despite Rocksteady’s insistence otherwise.

Other highlights of the story include the amazing scene where we go through Joker’s mind regarding his days as the Red Hood and his therapy sessions with Dr. Harleen Quinzel, learning that Bane figured out Batman’s identity and returning to a destroyed Batcave and a severely injured Alfred, the final fight with Bane where Joker forces you to either kill Bane or allow Bane’s heartbeat to power the electric chair rigged to kill Joker, the origins of Batman and Gordon’s alliance, and the final confrontation with the Joker where Batman shows restraint to not kill him.

Great moment after great moment, not only in the Batman: Arkham series, but in Batman history as well.  I would argue, this is one of the greatest initial meeting stories between Batman and Joker in history.  While, not as good as their first meeting in The Dark Knight, it shares many thematic similarities.  It starts out business as usual, with Joker trying to take over Gotham’s underworld, Joker has his first confrontation with Batman, and it turns in to a game to try and break Batman instead of kill him.

Another reason why I think this game was immediately written off as unworthy, is the voice casting.  The legendary Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy were replaced by Troy Baker and Roger Craig Smith respectively.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you Baker and Smith were better, because that would be wrong, but they did an extremely satisfying job of respecting the iconic work of Conroy and Hamill, while doing their own, younger spin.  And when Hamill and Conroy do eventually walk away from the roles of Joker and Batman, I would be happy if Baker and Smith were selected to be their predecessors.

In terms of gameplay, Arkham Origins kept to the same formula as the previous Arkham games.   In fact, it seems like WB Montreal were given the same engine as Arkham City, since if feels and looks almost exactly the same.  However, AO did give us one great addition, and that was the new Detective Mode, where you scan areas of interest and recreate a crime scene using the Batcomputer.  This allowed you to rewind and fast forward events to learn the next clue and continue the mission.  This was used to locate Deadshot as well as learn about Joker kidnapping Black Mask, and was later utilized in Arkham Knight.

Origins also marked the first time we were able to walk around the Batcave in the Arkham series, not including the remote cave in Asylum.  If you walked around the cave and paid close attention to certain areas such as Bruce’s workshop, they were littered with some cool Easter Eggs, such as future gadgets we’ll see in the Arkhamverse and other DC Universe characters.

While I do love this game, I won’t sit here and tell you it’s not without its flaws.  As I explained earlier, I’m an avid gamer who has played a lot of games in my life.  As a fan of both single-player, story driven games and competitive multiplayer games, I find that they both have a time and a place.

A pet peeve of mine is when a single player driven game tries to shoehorn multiplayer into their game to extend its life cycle, which is exactly what WB Montreal did.  In addition to the campaign, there was a third-person shooter multiplayer component that allowed players to play as a member of either Joker or Bane’s gang.  In addition to the 3 versus 3 third person shooting battle between these two groups, two players would also be Batman and Robin trying to take out each gang.  Players could also unlock their respective bosses (Bane or Joker) and one person could play as that boss for the rest of the match.  On paper, this sounded great, but it just wasn’t fun.  It didn’t feel right, and rarely worked properly.  And this is why I never got the platinum trophy for AO, and as of December 4th, 2016 the servers for the multiplayer were shut down for good.

Another minor issue I have is as well written, and great of a twist it was to have the Joker posing as Black Mask the whole time, I really was looking forward to a Black Mask driven story.  Black Mask is an underrated Batman villain, and in a timeline where the mob ruled Gotham, Mask was a great fit to be the main antagonist of the story.  Instead, what we thought was Black Mask was actually the Joker, and the only time we saw the real Sionis was when he was beaten and tied up, which made him come off as weak and expendable.  Again, this is a minor complaint on the story, since it ended up giving us the great Joker payoff.

Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins is a highly underrated installment in the Batman: Arkham series, and in my opinion, has the best story of the four main games.  It’s a shame that it wasn’t included in the remaster of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City for current generation consoles and is almost ignored by Rocksteady Studios, minus a couple of Easter Eggs in Arkham Knight.  If you’re a fan of the Arkhamverse and have been ignoring this prequel installment, give it a shot.  You won’t be disappointed.

Despite its name, Arkham Origins isn’t so much Batman Begins as Batman Continues. A cynic might presume that the handing of the license to a new studio and rapid turn-around of the sequel suggests that Batman is mainly continuing because Pennyworth needs a new pair of shoes. But has the vigilante become a mercenary or is this another solid entry in the series? Here’s wot I think.

Rocksteady created a franchise within a franchise across their two Arkham games. The simple, tightly focused storyline that saw Batman trapped inside with all the other lunatics for a night used the DC license well, cramming secrets and references in the darkest corners of the titular facility. Popping the Arkham name in front of City, displacing Gotham in the process, just about worked in the context of the madly overblown Super Prison storyline of the second game, but Arkham Origins isn’t about the beginnings of the Asylum. It’s about the beginnings of the franchise, a prequel that returns to the well and finds it rather dry, but dips in and brings up a bucket of mud anyhow.

Batman still biffs thugs in the free-flow combat style that is as much rhythm action as beat ‘em up. He still stalks terrified mobsters and henchmen, dangling them from lampposts and gargoyles. There are gadgets to collect and upgrade, side missions to distract from the urgent business of assassination, and boss battles against villains, some of which are super, most of which are ordinary.

Origins plays out across the same beats that worked to good effect in its predecessors but Warner Bros Montreal hammer their instruments like a hastily assembled cover band. As a Batman game, Origins lacks the claustrophobia and fear of Asylum, and the hyper-exaggerated heroic spectacle of City, and as an Arkham game it’s a little like a collection of undesirable B-sides (not Sci-Fi Lullabies, the greatest B-side album).

The plot has some promise. Bruce Wayne is at the early stages of his career as a crime fighter, although he’s been operating for a couple of years rather than a couple of weeks, and many of Gotham’s great and grotesque still think The Bat is nothing more than a myth. They’re frightened of it – and many of them do think of Batman as monster rather than man – even if they’re not sure that it’s real. Makes sense. They are a cowardly and superstitious lot, after all.

Black Mask believes in the Bat though. As Gotham’s mobster king, he wants rid of the vigilante and decides to invite the world’s most accomplished assassins to Gotham, offering a humongous cash prize to the one who eliminates Batman. A vulnerable, beleaguered Wayne, hunted in his own city, could have been interesting, shifting the flow of the game from the increasingly typical Ubi-style experience of running from activity to activity on a cluttered map.

As in Arkham City, Batman has the freedom of Gotham but it’s still an empty place, the streets harbouring an occasional pocket of perps but devoid of ordinary civilians. The previous game explained its empty streets by altering the structure and purpose of Gotham. Origins’ reasoning is far more flimsy and unconvincing. It’s Christmas Eve and there’s a heavy snowstorm so people have been instructed to stay indoors. There are no last minute Christmas shoppers nipping to Argos to buy a novelty pepper mill, no crowds of carollers or carousers. If it weren’t for the gangs of thugs, Gotham would be quiet as a mouse.

It feels like a ghost town, with nobody to protect and nobody to serve. That would be fine if Batman felt like a target but he continues to be the instigator, spending the first couple of hours collecting SIM cards from criminals in order to trace signals back to Penguin’s location. It’s important to find Penguin because he knows where Black Mask is and because he’s one of the few members of the rogue’s gallery included here that a casual fan might recognise.

I actually read Batman comics, even now, after the whimpering New 52 launch. In fact, the Court of Owls storyline that kicked off the relaunched Batman provided a decent template for a storyline that wasn’t reliant on recognisable villains and had Batman reeling and defeated, at war with the essence of Gotham rather than a man in a costume. The villains in Origins are weak, particularly the assassins themselves, and it’s telling that some of the game’s strongest moments arrive when it leans back on the safety of everybody’s favourite clown.

It’s not that the likes of Deadshot, Deathstroke and Copperhead are inherently dull, but they’re given short shrift, barely established before they are reduced to boss fight purgatory. At their least inspiring, the villain confrontations tweak the free-flow combat system slightly, as with Bane. His encounters aren’t new, being variations on those in Arkham Asylum, and they add little more to the flurry of punches and counters than an extra-large lump to evade until the time is right to chip away at its health bar.

The brawling itself, more dance than devastation, is almost as effective as it was in the previous two games. It suffers from repetition. There are various types of basic thug – armoured, knife-wielding etc. – but there are hundreds of them between Batman and whatever objective he’s chasing at any given time. Even the physicality of the fights feels undersold in comparison to the chunky impact of Arkhams past. The environments don’t help – despite the open world hub, many missions feel more corridor-bound than the Asylum did.

Predator sections, wherein the player uses a combination of stealth and gadgetry to take down a group of enemies, are the other punctuation mark in the rambling winter’s tale. Little has been added and, again, something has been lost. Partly, every problem can be traced back to the fact that what was fresh in Arkham Asylum has become formulaic, The sprawl and silliness of the second game strained the core of the game, adding spectacle and scale at the cost of focus, but Rocksteady’s craft and muscular polish carried the weight of the game’s immense absurdities. Origins is drab in comparison.

Improved crime scene investigations are one of the few additions that Warner Montreal have added to the formula, permitting the player to rewind a holographic re-enactment of events to discover evidence. It’s an enjoyable diversion but there aren’t nearly enough scenes to allow for more than a basic exploration of the idea. Until the last couple of scenes, investigations feel like a tutorial for a part of the game that never really arrives.

I’ve read about enough bugs to give an entomologist a wet dream and I’ve encountered a couple myself. Most irritating was a door that refused to open, leaving me to explore every corner of a large room in search of another way out. Turns out I just had to reload my autosave to unjam the door, which occasionally becomes inexplicably broken. There are glitches – enemies freezing in place, animations twitching – and noticing how much they annoyed me brought me to a realisation.

The Arkham games have been among the few honest-to-goodness blockbuster releases that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in recent times. Rocksteady backed up solid design with strong tech, and a high degree of polish. Take away the latter and even with the license still in place and the basics of the mechanics carried across, Origins is lacking. It feels uninspired, like filler between main courses, and highlights how important the shininess of previous Arkham games was. That’s not an insult, it’s a recognition of the kind of games they are. Big, daft and brash.

Origins isn’t big, daft or brash enough. It makes the missteps of Arkham City seem less clumsy and makes me hope that Rocksteady really are working on a sequel of their own or the rumoured Silver Age Batman game. They have used the license well, to tell preposterous but entertaining stories, and they are the definite masters of the mechanics they created. Origins is confused and hollow in comparison, taking place in a city full of enemies and encounters, but lacking purpose. In this incarnation, Gotham doesn’t deserve to be saved.

The side missions don’t help matters, feeling like distractions and, on the whole, offering less variety and challenge than in the previous games. One Riddler objective was behind a locked door but a nearby building provided access via a balcony. I could grapple to any other rooftop or ledge in the area but that one was locked off, even though it looked identical. I had to go through the door. There’s a lack of logic, and Batman’s freedom and toolset don’t always work as they should.

If you need more Batman and another Arkham game, Origins just about fits the bill. The dish is recognisable but it’s fast food rather than gourmet. Add a sprinkle of glitches and upcoming DLC that will continue the story, which feels incomplete, and you’re left with the sort of meal that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Batman: Arkham Origins is available now. I’ve barely touched the multiplayer, developed by Splash Damage, but it pits two sets of crooks against each other, with Batman and Robin as a third team in the middle. It might well be the best part of the game, although it’s probably best to judge it when player numbers remain steady/dwindle.

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