What is it?
"Batman: Arkham Origins" is the latest installment in the "Batman: Arkham" franchise. Despite the name, WB Games (taking over for Rocksteady Studios, which developed the first two Arkham titles) has not crafted an origin story. Instead, "Origins" explores Batman's initial encounters with his biggest foes. The Dark Knight is two years into his career as a crime fighter. He's young, raw, impulsive and relatively unknown. Throughout the story of "Origins," Batman faces enemies he's never dealt with before and learns to lean on other well-known DC Comics characters for support.
A compelling story. "Origins" features a new single-player campaign written by video game vets Michael "Dooma" Wendschuh and Corey May ("Assassin's Creed," "Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones," "Army of Two") with Geoff Johns, DC Comics' chief creative officer and popular comic book writer, consulting. That impressive team has put together a stellar plot that, while fairly linear, has several twists and gives the game a detective movie feel. If you know your Batman history, you'll appreciate the use of beloved characters like Alfred, Barbara and Jim Gordon to show how the Dark Knight came to be the skilled vigilante many are familiar with today. For those who only know Batman from the films, the plot in "Origins" acts as a history lesson of sorts.
Diving deep into the Batman canon. Aside from getting to know the man in the cowl better, Batman aficionados are also treated to a much wider array of villains than before. Sure, you'll get great interactions with DC staples such as The Joker, but gamers will also get exposed to some of the lesser known Batman villains. Deathstroke, Copperhead, Firefly and Black Mask are just a few of the deeper cuts from Batman lore you can expect to see. Best of all, the interactions with these adversaries are unique, requiring players to truly figure out how to defeat them.
If it ain't broke. The newly formed WB Games had some huge shoes to fill creating a Batman game. Stepping in for Rocksteady Studios, which arguable made two of the greatest superhero games in video game history with "Arkham Asylum" and "Asylum City," would be a daunting task for anyone but WB handled it skillfully. Not only did they keep many things that already worked (hard to do with a prequel) but WB added new gadgets and enemy types while also enhancing several other features, most notably Batman's Detective Mode.
Not enough risk. At times I felt like I was playing "Arkham City 2.0." The game felt a little too familiar. Gamers are already accustomed to the "Arkham City" setting and while several mission experiences are improved, they don't feel much different than what gamers have dealt with in earlier Arkham releases.
It appears that Warner Bros. is going to be taking the "Call of Duty" approach with this series, alternating between two different studios (Warner recently purchased Rocksteady Studios) to provide yearly Batman releases. That's just fine with me. The more I can get of Bats the better. With this game, WB Games has proved they're more than up to the challenge of creating entertaining Batman titles.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.