+A really good story
+Strong voice acting brings it to life
+Familiar free flowing combat is still satisfying
+Lots of side missions to keep you busy
+A strong multiplayer component
-Gotham City feels strangely lifeless
-Some of it is just a little too familiar. There's nothing here that builds upon what Arkham City established before it. This isn't necessarily "bad" but the experience feels far too similar
When Batman Arkham Asylum came out, it was a burst of fresh air and a relief. For the first time in a very long time the Batman license was put to good use. Arkham City then turned out to be a really good sequel in its own right with a fantastic story and a fantastic open world, building up on what Arkham Asylum established and managing to feel different just the same. Now we have Batman Arkham Origins. A prequel that is set in Gotham just two years after Wayne has dawned the cape and cowl. It's a good game in its own right, and is really only hindered by the fact that it does little (if anything) to set itself apart from the game that came before it. But then again... Arkham City is a hard act to follow.
The criminal Black Mask has put a 50 million dollar bounty on Batman's head. As such, assassins from all over are coming to Gotham to take that bounty on. In conjunction with that, the police aren't sure if Batman is helping to escalate crime or if he's actually stopping them. Origins actually has a really good story. It doesn't reach the heights of Arkham City, but it's good nonetheless, establishing the relationships that Batman has with some criminals and with some of the characters we've come to know and love. The production values are as top notch as you'd expect. The voice acting, despite a different cast of voice actors for Batman and The Joker, is quite good in its own right. The game also has a good graphical presentation, making for a good looking game. Although the one problem I have with it is that the game gives a pitiful excuse as to why there are no citizens wandering the city--a curfew. In a way it sort of drains Gotham of life and more or less just makes Gotham seem like a bigger Arkham City. There are side missions but none of them ever really involve saving citizens. Usually just going around beating up criminals.
Speaking of that, the free-flowing combat is exactly the same as you remember. This isn't such a bad thing. You'll be beating up thugs and have a chance to counter them just as you always have. You get weapons that help you in your beat downs, but aside from that this is the same familiar combat system you've always known. Which is fine and dandy, although this doesn't make boss fights exciting on any level. In the previous games some bosses there were very specific tasks that had to be done. The fight with characters like Mr. Freeze in Arkham City come to mind. But here it's mostly just like fighting another thug. The boss fights here just aren't that exciting to play.
Like in previous games you'll find lots of gadgets for Batman to use. However, just like the combat, there's not really anything new here. At some point a lot of ground just feels too familiar. The new studio behind Batman Arkham Origins seems to have gotten caught in the trap that many developers get caught in. Certainly you don't need to fix what isn't broken, but there are times when Batman Arkham Origins feels like it's lifting far too much from the previous game without laying down any new track. It's not really building on the foundation set before it, This isn't quite as bothersome in many regards, but it makes the game feel like baby steps from the previous game as opposed to great strides. Many of the side missions you'll come to expect such as the Riddler trophies or just running around the city to beat up thugs. But there are some pretty cool side missions that actually do add to the story and give you the sense of the relationship that Batman has with his adversaries. That's not to say there is nothing new. You can actually access the Batcave here. You can get some advice from Alfred and you can change your suit and go train. It's nice to have a bit of a hub area this time around.
What actually works out surprisingly well is the multiplayer. I never pictured the Arkham games as needing a multiplayer. And a lot of the times when there's a multiplayer component added to a game that was clearly not built up for one it's usually pretty poor (Tomb Raider comes to mind). Here it actually works. You play as either Batman and Robin or as thugs trying to take them down. It's actually really intense and quite fun. Batman and Robin employ various takedowns while thugs have guns at their disposal. It's surprisingly fun to play.
Arkham Origins exceeds on a technical level, having some really good looking character models and good looking environments. As mentioned it doesn't feel as alive as it could be, but it's not a bad looking game by any means. The soundtrack is one of the biggest rewards here. It's a really good one. About what you'd expect from an Arkham game. The only thing that keeps Arkham Origins down is that so much of it feels like a retread of familiar territory. There's nothing here that really tries to build on the foundation of what was already established in the game before it. Arkham City did a good job of building up on what was established in Asylum despite having a lot of familiar gameplay. It feels like the developers here were playing it safe. The good news is that Origins isn't a step back. It's just not a big step forward. It does have it where it counts, though. A strong story and a good narrative to accompany it. If you liked the previous Arkham games then Origins is worth your time.