1. Troy Baker as Joker
If you aren't an avid Batman fan, familiar with the amazing work Mark Hamill has done with The Joker you might not even notice it was someone else voicing The Clown Prince of Crime in Arkham Origins. Troy Baker, fresh of voicing Joel from The Last of Us and Booker from Bioshock Infinite (Arguably the best run for voice acting in recent memory. Move over Nolan North), did another marvelous job. He captured the essence of what made Mark Hamill's Joker so iconic. He mastered the twisted laugh, that’s key for any Joker, but something that few other voice actors did was Mark Hamill ability to take The Joker from comedian to homicidal maniac in the blink of an eye. Troy Baker really did an amazing job emulating this side of the Joker. It is, to me, really the depth that makes him such a perfect foe for Batman. But the reason Troy is at the top of this list is for one selfish reason; that we can still have a Mark Hamill Joker for years to come and that just makes me happy inside.
2. The Post Credits Scene
If you're really patient (I mean really patient, the credits scroll SUPER SLOW) you get a chance to see a Marvel-esq post credits scene. An unnamed woman in a pant-suit visits Slade Wilson/Deathstroke in Blackgate, she essentially blackmails him into working for her, offering him freedom for his services. Now, any good DC fan worth their salt knew instantly that this mystery woman was Amanda Waller, the Nick Fury of the DCU, offering Deathstroke a spot on the Suicide Squad. This final scene is exciting because for the first real time it opens up the Arkhamverse to more than just Batman. The Suicide Squad is made up of villains from all over the DCU and they definitely don't exclusively work out of Gotham. This means future Arkham games can be set all over the DCU, which in turn allows for the appearance of other heroes (cough* cough* Justice League game by Rocksteady)
3. Being the World’s Greatest Detective
Batman is more than just punching clowns in the face and for the first time you're actually solving real crimes. Yes, while exploring Gotham you will periodically be called to intervene in a ‘Crime in Progress’ which, granted, is nothing more than just punching clowns in the face. Luckily there are more thoughtful crimes to solve. During these sequences you use your ‘Detective Vision’ to reconstruct the events and eventually track down the criminal responsible. The most interesting one being the ‘murder’ of Black Mask and his girlfriend. Unraveling this mystery eventually leads to the introduction of The Joker, this scene in particular really opens the game up and it becomes infinitely more complex than just a few assassins out for Batman. Definitely one of the stand-out sections of Origins.
4. Boss Fights
To be completely honest, Arkham Origins doesn't really surpass Arkham City in many ways. It's very much just a bigger, less detailed version of a game we already played. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you can never go wrong with more Batman. But one of the few things it does do better than City is the boss fights. (It’s not that hard to beat a series of escalating henchmen brawls) The early showdown with Deathstroke is very cool, although a little more QTE than some might prefer. The rooftop fight with Bane also stands out; It's both engaging and a neat nod to what we see of Bane in the later games. That being said, not all the fights are quite as good as others. The Firefly showdown felt rushed and less interesting than the other big bads. Particularly when it comes immediately after a story beat that makes you want to just rush through the whole encounter.
5. Jokers Capture
I don’t want to give too much away in this. This sequence needs to be played spoiler free. Not that there are any major twists here, it’s more that it goes so deep into what makes the Batman vs. Joker relationship so timeless that it’s worth the price of admission alone. The whole thing starts with a free fall from a building and ends with an understanding about the dynamic of these 2 icons that, on the surface, is easy to understand but is explored in such a way that you might look at the sequels in slightly different light. Also, Harleen Quinzell!
Robert Costanzo as Bullock (where was he in the sequels)
Alfred’s heartfelt plea to Bruce
1. The Details
This game is definitely not the equivalent of what City was to Arkham. It’s a lateral step. But as I said before, this doesn't make it a bad game, far from it. Unfortunately you can't help but to notice the small things. The things that made Arkham City so amazing just aren't as tight here. This might have to do with the expanded city scape. It’s easier to pack in the content into what was half the size of this game (more on that later). On the surface it seems to check all the boxes; there are Riddler challenges, side missions, meta challenges and the like but all of it feels less polished. It’s hard to even articulate what that might even mean exactly but a good place to start looking is at the easter eggs. In the early games you couldn't turn a corner without seeing a nod to the comics. This game, being twice the size has maybe half those same nods. It feels like a missed opportunity.
2. A Broken Promise
Arkham Origins promised a full Gotham to explore. You could argue that this is probably less than half the size of what Gotham actually is. You can still look out over the bay and see a whole other section of the city. In fact, half of this games map is just a retextured version of Arkham City, albeit without the giant wall surrounding it. Instead that wall was traded out for water (I can honestly say I didn't think it was just more water on the other side of those walls, but maybe I would need to go replay City to know for sure).
On another note, WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE? I know they didn't promise a hustling bustling city. But literally the only people out in the streets are criminals and cops. Again, I know it’s Christmas Eve and there’s a snow storm (because that really keeps people away from last minute Christmas shopping) but you are constantly beaten over the head with Batman’s duty to the people of Gotham yet you almost never see those people.
3. Rehashed Gadgets
As you might have noticed, this game lives in the shadow of its superior predecessor. No more so is this apparent than in Batman’s tool belt. Arkham City brought new gadgets and interesting ways to use them; Origins is a different story. As you may remember from City Batman uses such gadgets as the Ice Blast and the Line Launcher. Well in Origins these gadgets have been replaced with the Glue Grenade (literally the exact same thing as the Ice Blast) and the Remote Claw (marginally different than the Line launcher). I understand that there are definitely challenges in making a prequel game. How can you enhance the gameplay without people asking why Batman didn't have these abilities or gadgets in the later games? If you look to the God of War series, they’ve been dealing with this for awhile and at some point they obviously forwent the continuity errors to allow for superior game play. Applying this thinking to Batman shouldn't be tough; continuity errors are nothing new to comics.
4. Shock Gloves
The combat in Arkham Origins is still hands down the best part of the game. Nothing is better than stringing together a combo and singlehandedly dismantling a group of thugs. That said however, one of the few new things they added to the game doesn't quite work. The Shock Gloves, which you unlock just over half way through the game are at first pretty awesome. They allow you to strike any opponent without being blocked; except half the fun of Batman combat has been the psychological side of it. It’s more than just hitting square triangle. The Shock Gloves reduce combat to just that; square and triangle. I don’t hate them, they can be helpful in getting out of a jam but I found myself making a conscious effort NOT to use them.
5. Roger Craig Smith as Batman
I put this last because it’s not really that bad. It’s on here because the whole game I just couldn't get over that it wasn't Kevin Conroy. As I said before, Troy Baker’s Joker is so close to Mark Hamill’s that it brought joy to my heart. Well, hearing people other than Kevin Conroy, no matter the medium, brings sadness to my heart. Read my editorial on Batman's voice to hear me wax poetic about his job in BTAS. But mostly I just didn't buy him as a younger Bruce Wayne. He didn't sound enough like Kevin Conroy for it to work for me. Given that this is purely subjective I can understand if people out there disagree. For me though, every Batman for the rest of time should be voiced by Mr. Conroy. It’ll probably take me awhile yet before I get over the fact that it isn't possible.
Unlocking finish moves wasn't connected to the right system
The Riddler challenges were hardly challenging