Warner Brothers announced today Batman Arkham Origins, the newest project in the highly successful Arkham series that has received rave reviews. The details on the project are here, but I have a few words to say as the
absentee resident Batman correspondent for this fabulous publication of Beta Fish.
First, Arkham Origins is the worst name for a game ever. Really? A prequel with origins in the title? Who would have ever thought of it?
Despite my cynicism toward prequels, the premise is solid. Batman has a price on his head and the many assassins from his rogues gallery are after him, led by the vastly underrated Black Mask. All of the famous rogues can take a backseat while other villains with richer untapped potential can take center stage. Now let’s see if they can do Lady Shiva and simultaneously subvert the male gaze.
Game designer Eric Holmes will helm the project. He is best known for some fairly cool games such as Prototype (well-rated despite the Infamous rip-off and semi-boring storytelling) and the successful 2005 Hulk game where you blow up everything with your 8th grade buddies.
Whether his games are derivative or not is not my concern: my big concern is the awesomeness of an open-world Arkham game. There are few issues in my mind with Arkham City, but one of the big ones is “street crimes,” in which you hear some dude screaming and have to go down and incapacitate one thug. If you pass them by, you can come back and the victim will still be screaming in what seems to be the longest mugging in recorded history. Talk about lowered stakes.
An open world Arkham game can bring something special into the world of superhero gaming that has not really been achieved in an innovative way since Spiderman 2. Batman is a champion of the people but lately, his big budget exploits are the only thing that anyone cares about. Batman stops crimes, but he also fails. Could an open world game accurately let Batman run around? Could there be actual consequences for the people of Gotham through his successes and failures instead of quarantining villains in a contrived and plot-convenient prison? Probably not: he’ll probably just fight a comically large Deathstroke, but I can dream.
Rocksteady, while not involved with the project, has contributed their technology in the form of an Unreal Engine designed to keep the game’s general look and feel. Rocksteady has also endorsed the game highly, saying it should be “fantastic.” I’m not so sure about that, but I am sure that a Batman game seeking to emulate Batman: Year One (my second favorite graphic novel) and Legends of the Dark Knight has the right idea.
Either way, this game keeps the Arkham series in the minds of gamers and also buys time for Rocksteady’s own project for a second prequel (lame) that features a Mark Hamill-less Joker, likely for the next generation of consoles (awesome.)
Closing thought: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST MAKE THE SEQUEL TO ARKHAM CITY THAT IS FREE-ROAM AND HAS ACTUAL STAKES THAT YOU TEASED US WITH IN THE EASTER EGGS OF ARKHAM CITY! IT’S TIME TO DO THAT! WHY WOULD YOU TOIL ON PREQUELS THAT WILL INEVITABLY BE LESS INTERESTING THAN THE STORY ALREADY MASTERFULLY CRAFTED BY PAUL DINI?! CALL PAUL DINI!
Ah, who am I kidding? I’m going to buy it.