Manbat Escape From Fake New York or Batman Arkham Origins.
I have to admit, I am a bit flummoxed. For a vigilante whose whole schtick is to dress up as a bat furry, he certainly does have quite a legacy. Yes, bat made of man, the classic tale of a mama’s boy multimillionaire who parades around in black spandex and punches people because dead parents is a DC comic that somehow became a household name. Despite blowing hot raspberries on the stomach of ridiculous, Batman sometimes is portrayed in a gritty Frank Miller-esque light, which can be done to great effect. Though the titular hero is some kind of cartoon hero with perpetual constipation, many of his villains can be the stuff of nightmares, portrayed in the right styling. Arkham Origins follows the previous mentioned darker path, leaving the Adam West camp to the wayside. Being a man enamored with pretentious and ham-fisted melodrama, I decided to give the game the benefit of the doubt.
Batman: Arkham Origins, or Manbat Escape From Faux York, as I envisioned the grumbling hero as Snake Plisskin on a identity crisis induced bender, is a prequel to the Arkham series. Keeping my rightful position as the President of Being Under a Rock Association, Origins was played as a stand-alone experience, as I am without prior frame of reference. As a stand-alone experience, it is apparent that the Batworld has once again undergone a Marvel-style ret-con, as the questionable odd couple of Batman and Joker is portrayed in its beginning relationship stages once again. Though it is obvious that the storyline is meant to be a shotgun setup for the subsequent games in the series, the writers have been kind enough to touch upon things enough for even the most clueless individual to follow. The weaving distrustful relationship between Gordon and Batman is explored enough for the casual person to understand and is compelling enough to drive the rest of the events.
The confounding parts are the various tie-ins to the side villains. Apparently, felons can walk freely about town with little consequence, pyromaniacs in rocket suits show up for little reason, and apparently the criminal underbelly of Gotham has access to more assassins and trained killers than the entire Gaza strip. Seriously, how on earth are there so many nut-cases wandering about like free-range murder chickens? The hasty explanation is that the entire police department is full of corrupt officers taking hush money from wanted criminals, but even the most crooked of cops have to put some guys behind bars to show that they’re at least pretending to do their jobs. Walking about Gotham is like walking in a giant felonious Thunderdome, where haymakers are the only accepted currency. Which gets me to my next topic; the fighting engine.
A system mechanic should feel solid and empowering, which contributes to the player enjoyment. Thankfully, the fighting engine does feel solid. Attacks may have been mapped to a single button, but the transitions from punching one hood to another is seamless and satisfying, though the target locater should be tweaked a bit. While giving one man five pounds of steely knuckle justice, I moonwalked across the arena, back-flipping like some sort of martial art king of pop, drop-kicking a dude a mile away from my last victim. This wouldn’t be so disorienting if the enemies didn’t bunch up so much, but as it stands, every attempt to link strikes turns into a break-dancing fiasco of Saturday Night Fever mixed with Saturday Night Live. The counter options are nice, though also suffering from the same problems as the strike system. In one encounter, I smashed one guy with a knife in the chops, recovering in time for a dude to swing a bat at me from ten feet away. Of course, Bruce Wayne, teleporting lord of funk that he is, electric slid across the dance floor in time to disarm the perp with the power of telekinetic pantomime, air slamming the bat handle into a man subject to spontaneous acts of doing the Dougie. I’m sure there’s a good bat on bat action joke in there, but I will refrain.
Stealth is clunky and appears to have been an afterthought. The concept of subterfuge in Batman’s world seems to be little more than the art of flailing around on overhanging gargoyles with grappling hooks, until guards forget Bruce’s position due to ADHD. Sure, you can use your various assortment of tools, but spaz flying appears to be a more effective and less annoying route. The open world is welcome but not very well used, as the game becomes more interested in sewers than skylines, which leaves the whole sandbox a bit lacking in sand.
All in all, the Manbat is not a dissatisfying experience, but leaves me desiring a bit more. Perhaps in the other iterations I will have my fill, but as it stands now, Origins is a decent appetizer for a larger course to come.